Folks Are Rallying Around A BLM Organizer Arrested And Blamed After Her Protest Turned Violent
Tianna Arata could be facing up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
August 10, 2020 at 8:33 pm
According to the petition calling for her release — which has garnered more than 115,000 signatures — Tianna Arata was arrested on July 21 while she was loading up a car with other demonstrators at the end of a protest. Witnesses said at least four police officers in riot gear ran up to the activist and pulled her into a police car without making any announcement, The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported.
stop being quiet. share a link, tweet the hashtag, sign the petition. tianna is a 20yr old activist. someone we KNOW. now facing FIFTEEN YEAR in prison for a peaceful protest, it could be anyone we know next. #FreeTiannaNow https://t.co/WBbz80gOBB pic.twitter.com/gq2lheqVeE— elijah daniel (@elijahdaniel) August 10, 2020
Police said the activist was suspected of participating in a riot, unlawful assembly, conspiracy, unlawful imprisonment and resisting arrest. Although charges haven't been filed, Arata is scheduled for an arraignment in September. Newsweek reports police are asking she be charged with three misdemeanors, one count of felony conspiracy and four felony counts of false imprisonment. If convicted, Arata could face up to 15 years in prison. She was released from the local county jail without bail shortly after the incident, The Tribune reported.San Luis Obispo Police Capt. Jeff Smith said Arata’s arrest was executed after the demonstration in order to avoid a confrontation with protesters. The captain said Arata and the other demonstrators blocked the highway during the protest, making them guilty of false imprisonment of drivers.
He added that “any use of force or violence, disturbing the public peace, or any threat to use force or violence, if accompanied by immediate power of execution, by two or more persons acting together, and without authority of law, is a riot.”
“The protest march entering the freeway created an immediate threat to public safety for both motorists and marchers,” Smith said, describing Arata ”as the organizer and march leader of last night’s protest.”
According to the police statement, the protesters “damaged the hood of a passenger vehicle and smashed the rear window where a 4-year-old child was in the back seat and had glass shattered on him.”
Arata is also accused of hitting a driver with a flagpole during a march near downtown.
Shalini Sasha Quattlebaum, who set up a GoFundMe campaign to help Arata cover her legal fees, refuted the accusations from police.
"During the protest, a car ambushed Tianna's body, almost hitting her," Quattlebaum wrote. "She was terrified and used whatever was in her hands to hit the car and protect herself. Instead of finding the person who tried to hit her, the San Luis Obispo police department arrested Tianna."
Quattlebaum said there was no child in the car that was police said was damaged and "no indicator that the people protesting broke the windshield."
According to The Tribune, drone footage shows the car stopping at an intersection and then turning into the protesters and striking them. One demonstrator was briefly dragged on the hood of the vehicle.
Police also seemed to blame Arata for the protest turning violent, according to Newsweek.
Eric Dobroth, assistant deputy district attorney, said investigators haven't proven that a crime was committed.
“At this point we have not received a referral from the Police Department, so it would be premature for our office to provide an opinion on what laws were broken (if any) or how Ms. Arata might be charged,” Dobroth told The Tribune.
Jeff Stein, a criminal defense attorney, said Arata's arrest was designed to send a message.
“It seems like it’s primarily a political message,” Stein told The Tribune. “As in, if you do this activity, there will be grief associated with it.”
According to KSBY, protesters came together outside of the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse on Friday to demand justice for Arata. The demonstrators displayed signs, saying "Drop the charges," "Black lives matter" and "Do the right thing."
You can sign the petition for Arata here.