The idea originated on a closed Facebook group for Lutheran clergy, where pastors were discussing how North Miami Beach’s police department had been caught using mugshots of actual people for target practice. Let’s send in our own photos for target practice, the pastors decided.
The target-practice story had come to light after National Guard Sgt. Valerie Deant saw bullet-riddled mugshots of black men at a police gun range. One photo was of Deant’s brother. Outrage followed in North Miami Beach and beyond as critics called for the police chief’s resignation.
The chief defended the department but denied racial profiling and said officers used images of people of all races. The city council banned the practice.
Rev. Joy M. Gonnerman and other pastors chatted about the story on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Facebook group and discussed how to respond to something that was emblematic of a deeper, systematic problem.
“Maybe we ought it make it harder to pull the trigger, and volunteer to put pictures of their family up,” Gonnerman said. Another poster said she would send a photo of herself to the North Miami Beach Police Department.
So Rev. Lura N. Groen of Houston created aFacebook event, and, along with Gonnerman and others, invited friends to post pictures of themselves in their clerical clothing. Soon, people — many, but not all of them, clergy — began tweeting images using the hashtag #UseMeInstead.