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News & Media

For Immediate Release: August 24, 2020

Contact: Heather Cabral | 202-550-6880 | heather@westendstrategy.com

Erin Williams | 202-748-0699 | ewilliams@faithinaction.org

ORLANDO — Following the shootings of Salaythis Melvin and Jacob Blake, both at the hands of law enforcement, leaders, who are partnered with Faith in Action’s LIVE FREE campaign, condemned a policing system that deprioritizes and dehumanizes Black lives. Melvin was shot and killed by police in Orlando earlier this month after officers approached him under suspicion that he had a stolen handgun, and he tried to run away. As leaders grieved his death, Blake was shot in the back multiple times in front of his children by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Blake was trailed by police after being seen trying to diffuse a fight, and is being treated for his injuries.

Both shootings have camera footage depicting what happened, but in Melvin’s case, the camera footage was obtained from other officers on the scene and not by the officer who killed Melvin. The officer either did not have his body camera on his person or did not have it in operation.

Orlando-area leaders, Pastor Rhonda Thomas, executive director of Faith in Florida; Miles Mulrain, Jr., executive director of Let Your Voice Be Heard; LaWanda Thompson, CEO of the Equity Council Corporation; and Bre Jones, organizer for The People 4Oh7, issued the following statements:

“This disrespect and indignity of these situations is despicable,” said Pastor Rhonda Thomas, executive director of Faith in Florida. “Black lives have such little value in the eyes of law enforcement; how can we expect the world to follow suit if our leaders won’t take the first step? When you are confronted by an entity as scary and bewildering as the police, it is a natural instinct to get away, and because policemen go on such ego trips with their weapons behind them they lose the ability to exercise humanity. We are not turning the other cheek on this — our voices will get louder and louder until justice is served, until we know the full truth about what happened and until we exercise better ways to work with one another.”

“Salaythis Melvin’s and Jacob Blake’s cases are another brutal reminder that Black lives do not matter to the law enforcement,” said Miles Mulrain, Jr., executive director of Let Your Voice Be Heard. “In Florida, isn’t the first time we’ve had a police shoot an innocent black person that ran, but it is the first time the city has viewed it on body cam footage, which would’ve never been released if not for multiple protests. Why does it take public outrage for us to get public accountability? And if the system isn’t broken, why does it take so long to charge bad police?”

“I’m protesting for my inalienable rights and the inalienable rights of others to be respected as human beings, saidLaWanda Thompson, CEO of the Equity Council Corporation. “Meaning I’m not just a human without an identity, I’m a BLACK human being that has been unfairly treated since the foundation of this country was laid on the backs of my ancestors. Since that is my truth and the truth of this country, forget the opposition and all the rah-rah of we are all one. Show me we are “one” by respecting my rights! Run this country and it’s institutions with equality and EQUITY! If oppression is allowed to run rampant and institutional and systemic racism is allowed to go unchecked you will see me protesting in these streets until you do right by me and respect the blood and sweat of my ancestors’ contribution to America.” –

“I’m protesting today and any other day, simply because why not? What else am I to do while Black people are still being murdered by the people who are supposed to be sworn to protect us, the community,” said Bre Jones, organizer for The People 4Oh7. “I’m glad that these stories are making national news because they are highlighting the true injustices in Orlando and Wisconsin. They don’t care about us. Sheriff Mina is on vacation right now – this lack of attention is uncomfortable. Until they really feel the heat like we do, I’m not stopping – and even then I won’t stop.”

LIVE FREE’s efforts to reduce violence have gotten attention across the country because of the direct focus on empowering individuals and educating community members on de-escalation tactics that limit police presence. This summer, LIVE FREE is working to elevate Bring the HEAT, a program focused on reimagining public safety across the country.

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The LIVE FREE Campaign is a campaign of Faith in Action, the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the United States. LIVE FREE is committed to ending structural discrimination and the mass criminalization of people of color by mobilizing the faith community to reduce the number of gun-related shootings and homicides, decrease the number of individuals incarcerated and increase opportunity for those caught in these deadly cycles.

Faith in Action, formerly known as PICO National Network, is the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the United States. The nonpartisan organization works with 1,000 religious congregations in more than 200 cities and towns through its 46 local and state federations. For more information, visit www.faithinaction.org.

Faith in Action is a 501c(3). Faith in Action and its affiliates are non-partisan and are not aligned explicitly or implicitly with any candidate or party. We do not endorse or support candidates for office.

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