Mendonca, who identifies as a queer woman of color, is also founder of United Against Police Terror San Diego (UAPTSD). She says she came to anti-brutality activism after having been the victim of a sexual assault at the hands of a police officer in Los Angeles.
“That experience changed my life forever,” she tells LGBT Weekly. “The way to end victimization by the state and by police is to take action and to give voice to victims.”
According to UAPTSD, there have been 593 deaths caused by police in San Diego County in the past three-and-a-half decades. Mendonca and many in the Black Lives Matter movement are dubious about police descriptions of the circumstances surrounding officer-involved shootings and other types of suspect-deaths.
Case in point, the July 8 shooting of Jose Armando Garcia (47) of Fallbrook. Mendonca points to the fact that the sheriff’s report acknowledges that Garcia was likely suicidal. Activists like Mendonca protest against what they see as a de facto position among law enforcement officials that gunning down mental health patients is a legitimate way to deal with suicidal behavior.
“How is filling someone with bullets acceptable as a way of dealing with a mental health issue?” Mendonca asks.
She, like many in the local civil liberties community, was particularly troubled by the fact that District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis vowed to keep secret police body camera footage of the police shooting-death — as many as 40 shots may have been fired — of Thongsoune Vilaysane in May of this year.
“In fall of last year, three black men were murdered [by law enforcement officers] in San Diego in one month,” says Mendonca, referring to the October, 2015 killings of Lamontez Jones (39), Anthony Ashford (29) and Rayshaun Cole (30). To be clear, none of those deaths have officially been deemed murders.
Mendonca was not at the All Star Game protest, but organized another demonstration the following Friday under the auspices of a project called Overpass Light Brigade. As the name implies, OLB uses southern California’s ubiquitous and high-traffic freeways — or, more accurately overpasses above them — as communication platforms aimed squarely at the region’s commuters and at ending what activists call police brutality.