By Julietta Bisharyan
After reviewing investigative reports and evidence submitted by the San Luis Obispo Police Department, District Attorney Dan Dow announced that he has filed 13 misdemeanor charges against Black Lives Matter protest organizer Tianna Arata and three charges against protestor Elias Bautista.
The charges concern their alleged conduct on Jul. 21, 2020, in which police say Arata was responsible for leading a protest march that blocked Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo and resulted in acts of vandalism at the hands of protestors.
Arata’s charges include six counts of obstruction of a thoroughfare, five counts of false imprisonment, one count of unlawful assembly and one count of disturbing the peace by loud noise.
San Luis Obispo Police Department requested that the District Attorney’s Office file multiple charges against Arata.
“I think what they’ve done here is followed up a bad arrest with a bad filing and I think this is a desperate attempt to cover up the mistakes of a police chief that is outgoing and obviously had no loyalty to this community,” said Arata’s attorney, Patrick Fisher. “We know that just as recently as yesterday the DA’s office was scrambling to find witnesses to support their case. We’re prepared to defend her all the way. She’s prepared to defend herself all the way on these charges.”
Last week, on Aug. 25, hundreds of people gathered in front of the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse for a press conference and rally, chanting “Free Tianna,” in support of Arata.
One of Arata’s attorneys, Curtis Briggs, said the #FreeTianna movement had three goals—to ask San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow to reject the charges against Arata, to call for the immediate termination of San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deanna Cantrell, and to ask the citizens of SLO County to keep an open mind if called for jury duty on this case.
“You’re going to need to hear the real facts, not what Deanna Cantrell put out in the media,” Briggs said. “We’re going to need you to serve on this jury.”
Cantrell, who says she believes herself to be a progressive police chief when it comes to change and reform, says she stands by the recommended charges.
“The facts are Tianna Arata was arrested for her own actions, for her own behavior, for her own decisions,” Cantrell said. “She broke several laws. She committed several crimes. She recorded herself committing those crimes. And the police department’s job, in part, is to be a victim advocate and to not only uphold the First Amendment rights of peaceful protesters but the rights of everybody else in the community, as well.”
Another protester, Bautista, is charged with one felony count of resisting an executive officer by force or violence and two misdemeanor counts of resisting, obstructing, or delaying a peace officer for his acts committed against three individual peace officers.
“The filing of these charges is solidly based on the duty of the District Attorney to hold individuals accountable for their actions when their conduct exceeds the bounds of the law,” said District Attorney Dan Dow in a statement. “Ms. Arata’s and Mr. Bautista’s conduct in this instance was not peaceful, but instead it violated the law by depriving other individuals in our community of their right to enjoy liberty.”
Arata and Bautista are scheduled to be arraigned in the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020.
The District Attorney’s Office says additional people could face charges after further investigation into the events of Jul. 21, 2020, is conducted.
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