Hundreds gathered Tuesday at the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse for a Free Tianna Arata rally. Across the street, a group of counter-protesters formed in support of District Attorney Dan Dow, and whatever charges he may decide to pursue against Arata.
Twenty-year-old Arata was arrested on July 21 after the San Luis Obispo Police Department said the Black Lives Matter protest she organized turned violent. The Free Tianna Coalition is urging District Attorney Dan Dow not to pursue the five felony and three misdemeanor charges police are recommending he file against Arata, including charges of false imprisonment, participation in a riot, unlawful assembly, and resisting arrest.
One of Arata’s lawyers, Curtis Briggs, is also calling for the immediate termination of SLOPD Chief Dianna Cantrell. “Chief Cantrell's blunder amplified demonstrations and protests," Briggs said. "The reason we are here today is because she retaliated against Tianna Arata.”
In response, at a press conference following the rally, Chief Cantrell said that, even in light of thousands of people urging Dan Dow not to pursue the charges, she stands by her department's decision to recommend the charges. Cantrell says the charges were legal and warranted based on Arata’s actions.
“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 the crimes.”
Founding Director of the Diversity Coalition, Michael Boyer, said SLOPD’s actions the night of the protest was a display of racism. “For targeting and arresting the high profile black woman without arresting any of the hundreds of white people," Boyer said, "the SLOPD has proven its role in local systemic racism.”
Tianna Arata addressed her supporters, in her first public demonstration since the day of her arrest. “I hope to be a role model and to speak for those who don’t have a voice,” Arata said.
Across the street from the rally, counter-protesters waving American flags were shouting things like “Shame,” “Lock her up” and “All Lives Matter,” while speakers from the Arata rally were at the podium.
In a public statement, Dow wrote asking the public for patience as his office investigates the evidence before determining what charges, if any, Arata will face. Arata is scheduled to be in court on September 3 and the DA will decide whether to file criminal charges before that date.