Under an unusually stormy summer sky, community members gathered on Aug. 13 outside of Santa Maria City Hall to protest the arrest and recommended charges against Tianna Arata and Elias Bautisa
Arata, a prominent Black youth organizer in San Luis Obispo, and Bautista, a member of the Santa Maria Youth Abolitionist group, were both arrested after a July 21 protest in SLO. Although the SLO Police Department has recommended that five felony and three misdemeanors charges get filed against Arata
, SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow hasn't announced any formal charges yet. The arrests have garnered national news and social media attention
PHOTO BY MALEA MARTIN
DROP THE CHARGES Santa Maria protesters held signs demanding that SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow drop charges against Tianna Arata and Elias Bautista, activists who were arrested after a July 21 protest in SLO. The SLO Police Department recommended that eight charges get filed against Arata, but Dow hasn’t announced any formal charges yet.
The Aug. 13 rally, organized by The Central Coast Organization on Racial Injustice, brought around 50 community members to the city hall’s front lawn.
A group of about 10 individuals who appeared to be counter-protesting the rally were also present as well as a few people who were protesting against the statewide closure of salons and other personal care businesses.
The stone path leading up to city hall physically divided the two groups. Racial justice rally organizers on the right side of the lawn led chants such as, “When Black lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” The smaller group of counter-protesters on the other side of the path huddled around the city hall flagpole that flies an American flag.
Shortly after 4:30 p.m., people involved with organizing the rally took to a microphone to speak.
“We were founded in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement on the basis of providing the youth racial justice, cultural celebration, and a way to educate the community,” a speaker said on behalf of The Central Coast Organization. “No one is ever too young to fight for human rights.”
Will Smith, a Santa Maria resident who lost a run for mayor in 2016 and served on the Santa Maria-Bonita School District board for years, was also present at the protest. He said he’s making another run for mayor this year.
“I believe that it’s time to make a platform available to the young people to voice their concerns, because the young people’s concerns are growing,” Smith told the Sun as music resumed over the speakers. “For a long time, especially in Santa Maria, there’s been a lot said about what the city’s going to do, but they haven’t really done anything. I think young people are getting tired of this.”
On the other side of the lawn, Sabrina Green, owner of Smooth Criminal Speed Waxing, told the Sun about why she came out to protest.
“After Newsom decided yesterday that he was going to extend [salon] closures to Sept. 10, we decided to come to city hall today and just try to get some community awareness on what’s going on,” she said. “We’re the only state that we can’t work.”
Kate Adams, a Santa Maria resident and educator at Allan Hancock College, came for the racial justice rally.
“I want to give props to the Santa Maria Police Department. I’ve been on this street corner multiple times over the last month, and their measured response to free speech protests has been wonderful, particularly in comparison to what’s been going on in San Luis, which is why we’re out here today,” Adams said. “I also want to say, voting matters. The DA [district attorney] is an elected official. The sheriff is an elected official. The folks in SLO County are unfortunately suffering under some elected officials who don’t represent their values.” ∆