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08/31/2018 | Racial Justice

Make the Road PA Mobilizes Support & Justice for Joseph Santos

Last month, once again, a local community was shattered by the news that an unarmed person had been summarily killed by police. This time, the shooting occurred in Allentown, PA, one of several cities where CPD affiliate Make the Road Pennsylvania organizes. Immediately after the shooting, Make the Road PA jumped into action in an effort to mobilize support for the victim’s family and to help demand accountability for the officer and the police department.

Joseph Santos was shot by police at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, July 28, after attending a birthday party for his fiancee's kids at a local amusement park. Multiple videos of the incident show clearly that Santos had his hands in the air and said the words "Don't do it," right before an officer shot him five times, ending his life.

Make the Road PA held a vigil at the site where Santos was murdered and brought his family and the rest of the community together to condemn police brutality and fight for justice. During the action, armed white supremacists gathered across the street shouting at the family as they grieved.  Shouts of "White Power" and "Go back home" came from cars driving by.

Less than a week after that vigil, District Attorney Jim Martin announced charges of voluntary manslaughter against the officer, Jonathan Roselle, a former National Guardsman. Roselle is still on paid administrative leave. This same D.A. usually takes up to seven weeks to make a ruling on police-involved shootings, but in large part due to the community organizing from Make the Road PA and other leaders, a decision was made more quickly. Organizers and family members held a press conference to stand by the D.A.'s decision and demand a swift conviction for the officer. 

Soon after that press conference, thousands of police supporters flooded Make the Road PA’s social media feeds with hate and threats and scheduled their own rally to support the police officer on the site where Santos was murdered. That same day, Make the Road PA held an interfaith service for the community and the family to gather and mourn

Joseph was a strong member of his community, and many kids called him their stepdad, because he was the one that stepped up to help them when they didn't have anybody. He was working on gaining certification in construction and tirelessly signed up for classes to improve his education. He started a clothing line called "D.R.E.A.M. Drugs Ruin Everything Around Me." He encouraged his community to stay drug-free and lead healthy and happy lives.

Make the Road PA and the community of the Lehigh Valley continue to work with Joseph Santos’ family to bring an end to police brutality, and to ensure that this type of police violence never happens again.