Within days after it was revealed that North Miami Beach police officers were using mugshots of black suspects for target practice, a group of Lutheran pastors were discussing it on a private Facebook page before coming up with a unique plan.
Offering photos of themselves for police to shoot at.
According to the Washington Post, the Rev. Lura N. Groen of Houston created a Facebook event and — with the assistance of the Rev. Joy M. Gonnermann of Pocahontas, Iowa — invited friends and fellow pastors to submit pictures of themselves in their clerical clothing.
As word got out, many others — not all of them clergy — joined in on Twitter, posting photos of themselves accompanied by the hashtag #UseMeInstead.
The idea began with Goonnereman who suggested, “Maybe we ought it make it harder to pull the trigger, and volunteer to put pictures of their family up,” prompting another Facebook poster to suggest sending a photo of herself to the North Miami Beach Police Department for them to use.
According to Gonnerman, the response was “motivated by our service to Christ and his call to love our neighbors.”
City officials were alerted to the practice of using mugshots last week when a Florida National Guardswoman discovered her brother’s picture riddled with bullet holes at a shooting range where the police officers had been taking target practice.
The North Miami Beach City Council has since banned the practice, with Mayor George Vallejo saying, “We need to make a statement at this level, as the elected representatives of this city, that that practice is unacceptable.”
According to the Rev. Kris Totzke, a pastor in Texas, he and his fellow pastors felt the act of submitting the photos to the police would “make a really powerful statement.”
“We initially started thinking if a whole lot of us, in our clergy collar and worship attire, sent our photos to them, it would make a really powerful statement,” he explained. “Then, it really snowballed, and we got people all over the country and of all different faiths.”
A sampling of #UseMeInstead tweets below:
— PrJGonnerman (@JoyGonnerman) January 17, 2015
— Margaret Cox (@margaretocox) January 25, 2015
— Ruben Austria (@rubenaustria) January 25, 2015
— Anne Lane Witt (@VaPriestess) January 18, 2015
— Jason Chesnut (@crazypastor) January 18, 2015