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Activists involved in Lopez protests claim they're intimidated, harassed

  • Community Task Force members Cora Guy, left, Sylvia Lemus, Francisco Vasquez, and staffer Jennifer Murray listen as community members express concerns about the task force charter during the task force's first meeting at the Sonoma County Human Services Department in Santa Rosa, Calif., on January 13, 2014. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Activists involved in ongoing protests over last year's shooting death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez say they've become the targets of police intimidation and harassment.

Two of the activists, 15-year-old and 13-year-old girls, aired their complaints Monday evening during the first meeting of a community task force aimed at recommending changes to law enforcement oversight, including the establishment of a civilian review board for officer-involved shootings.

Lisbet Mendoza, 15, related a story that other activists circulated in printed format to participants at the meeting: That dozens of units from the Sheriff's Office and Santa Rosa Police Department went into the Moorland Avenue neighborhood where she lived last Thursday and, at gunpoint, detained her and several teenage activists and arrested youth leader Jose Godoy.

Community Task Force Members

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Police said Monday they were investigating a report that Godoy had brandished a firearm to the driver of another vehicle while the two vehicles were stopped in traffic.

But Mendoza, who said she was with Godoy in the car, said there was no gun, only a stapler, and that Godoy never pointed it at anyone. She added that she and the other youths were simply walking from one of the girls' homes to the other, on their way to make posters, when officials detained them.

"We just want you guys to look into this more thoroughly," said Nicole Guerra, another young woman who stood with the girls as they spoke. "They are harassing Andy's Youth."

The task force listened attentively but did not discuss the matter in depth at the advice of a county attorney that the matter should be saved for another meeting, when it can be placed on the agenda.

Sheriff Steve Freitas did not attend the meeting and County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Rabbitt left after giving opening remarks where he thanked the task force and charged the it with creating "good policy based on data and facts. What can we do better and how?"

Sheriff's Lt. Mark Essick, a task force member who spent several years working in the Roseland area where Andy Lopez was killed, said later, "I felt my role tonight was just to listen, keep an open mind and carry the message back to the command staff."

But one task force member, Caroline Ba?elos, said after the girls spoke that the matter concerned her, as she was there with the goal of addressing the interaction between law enforcement and "communities of color."


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