Rallies continue for Tianna Arata and other protesters charged by DA

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Several hundred people stood outside the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse on Oct. 22 to support local activists charged in relation to a July 21 Black Lives Matter protest, continuing their demand that SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow “drop all charges.”

Past courthouse protests focused on Dow and former SLO Police Chief Dianna Cantrell, who called for Tianna Arata’s arrest and recommended the district attorney’s office press charges against the local activist. Cantrell left the SLO Police Department on Sept. 30 for the city of Fairfield, and activist anger has shifted solely to Dow, who recently charged six more individuals for allegedly clashing with motorists on Highway 101—where protestors blocked traffic on July 21—and near downtown.

'DROP ALL CHARGES' Hundreds gathered in front of the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse on Oct. 22 to support local activists Tianna Arata, Marcus Montgomery, Amman Asfaw, and Joshua Powell. - PHOTO BY KAREN GARCIA
  • PHOTO BY KAREN GARCIA
  • 'DROP ALL CHARGES' Hundreds gathered in front of the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse on Oct. 22 to support local activists Tianna Arata, Marcus Montgomery, Amman Asfaw, and Joshua Powell.
Inside the courthouse on Oct. 22, Arata and Joshua Powell appeared in person for a case hearing, while Marcus Montgomery and Amman Asfaw appeared via Zoom.



The three men—Powell, Montgomery, and Asfaw—were in court to enter pleas on their misdemeanor charges. Oct. 22 was Arata’s third court appearance. She’s facing 13 misdemeanor charges.

Superior Court Judge Matthew Guerrero delayed making a decision on a demurrer request, which asks to dismiss the case on First Amendment grounds, and gag order against the San Luis Obispo Police Department and California Highway Patrol filed by Arata’s attorneys. Guerrero said because Powell, Montgomery, and Asfaw had recently acquired counsel, he wanted to give them sufficient time to decide whether to join in Arata’s demurrer and gag order.

They’re set to appear back in court on Dec. 3. The remaining individuals charged in the case, Robert Lastra Jr., Sam Grocott, and Jerad Hill, are scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 16.

Supporters stood outside the courthouse for nearly three hours on Oct. 22, listening to speakers who included the three local activists and one of Arata’s attorneys, Curtis Briggs.

Briggs told the crowd that when the activists and their legal counsel walked into the courthouse they were winners, because of all the people who showed up to cheer them on. The biggest thanks, he said, goes to DA Dow.

“Dan Dow wants to send all of these young men and women who he’s charged with crimes to law school, grad school, or anywhere they want on free rides. That’s how people like this— they’re persecuted wrongly in pursuit of civil rights—that’s how they’re rewarded by higher institutions. Dan Dow doesn’t know that,” Briggs said. “He’s playing checkers, and we’re playing chess.”

As the crowd cheered, Briggs said his job as an attorney is to advance the civil rights movement and make sure the men and women in this case “are in a better place than when this case started.”

“Our job is to completely derail Dan Dow’s political career,” he said.

Briggs also called Dow after an Oct. 21 SLO Tribune article alleged that district attorney’s investigators tried to cajole one of the drivers listed in the complaint against Arata into indicating that he felt threatened by the July 21 marchers. The article states that the driver didn’t want to be involved with the case and wrote a letter to the DA’s Office demanding that it cease communication with him.



The DA’s Office did not respond to multiple requests for comment from New Times.

“Now we’re learning in the evidence as it’s turned over that district attorney investigators are lying or committing perjury,” Briggs said. “Dan Dow is a felon.” ∆

—Karen Garcia

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