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SLO activist Tiana Arrata enters no plea, hundreds gather at courthouse in support

Angel Russell
Hundreds of people gathered outside the SLO County Courthouse to support Tianna Arata and Elias Bautista on Thursday.

San Luis Obispo activist and organizer Tianna Arata did not enter a plea during her court appearance Thursday for the criminal charges she is facing, stemming from a July 21 protest that San Luis Obispo police say turned violent.

Outside the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse, hundreds showed up to give their support to Tianna Arata and Elias Bautista, who are facing charges connected to a Black Lives Matter demonstration in July.

Bautista pleaded not guilty to one felony count of resisting a peace officer and two misdemeanor counts, and Arata did not enter a plea for the 13 misdemeanors she is faced with.

She addressed her supporters outside the courthouse following the hearing.

“I never thought that I was going to be in this situation," Arata said. "I don’t wish a court case on anybody."

The arraignment was streamed live outside the courthouse, where speakers addressed the crowd.

One speaker, LeiYahna Jefferson, described what happened when she says was struck by a motorcyclist this week during a protest when she and others tried to give district attorney Dan Dow boxes filled with more than 500,000 signatures urging him to drop the charges.

The district attorney's office declined to take the delivery. Jefferson said the motorcyclist hit her and another protestor intentionally when they were in the crosswalk.

“You can tell he was irritated about our movement and what we stand for," Jefferson said. "You can tell he was racist. Period.”

The motorcyclist reported the incident to the San Luis Obispo police department. Jefferson said she and the other protester were not injured, but they feel the act was intentional, and they plan to press charges.

Although Arata is not facing any felonies, which the SLOPD and outgoing police chief Deanna Cantrell recommended.

Supporters are urging for all charges to be dropped. A friend of Arata, Marcus Montgomery, said Arata is overwhelmed with the process which has now changed her life.

“Even though she is a strong woman, she is still feeling it, like any other human," Montgomery said. " ut like any other human, she knows how to stay positive. That’s all you can really have—just having faith and staying positive.”

Arata’s arraignment was continued to Sept 17, granting the defense more time to file motions.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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