Civil rights attorney threatens SLO County district attorney

August 12, 2020

Tianna Arata, in the center, stomping on a burnt flag

By KAREN VELIE

A civil rights attorney out of Philadelphia threatened yesterday to bombard San Luis Obispo with protesters if District Attorney Dan Dow does not drop charges against Black Lives Matter organizer Tianna Arata, 20.

Attorney Lee Merritt joins protesters who have demanded the district attorney drop charges against Arata. Merritt asserts Arata’s arrest is an example of issues with the justice system in the United States.

“Tianna Arata was arrested for being a protest leader in San Luis Obispo— the most recent example of America’s justice system demonstrating its ability to arrest everyone but the men who murdered Breonna Taylor in her bed,” Merritt posted on Instagram on March 11. “Dan Dow, district attorney, you have a very small window of time to drop these charges before your county, city and home are bombarded by activist from all over the country. Find out if this is an idle threat if you want to.”

For three weeks, protesters have marched almost daily in downtown San Luis Obispo demanding Arata be set free, that charges are dropped, and that businesses that do not show support for their movement are shut down. In addition, Arata’s supporters have bombarded local goverment agencies with emails, calls, and public meeting comments demanding Arata be set free from prison and that the charges are dropped.

However, Arata was booked into jail and released without bail the same evening. In addition, charges have not been filed against her. Merritt has not returned requests for comment.

It appears Merritt and the protesters are unaware that Arata is not in jail and that charges have not been filed. The district attorney’s office is reviewing the evidence before making a determination on charging Arata.

“We are required to investigate, review the recommendations,” said Deputy District Attorney Eric Dobroth. “It is our duty and obligation to engage in the process.”

On July 21, after congregating at Mitchell Park, Arata led approximately 300 protesters onto Highway 101 from both Osos Street and California Boulevard, blocking all lanes in both directions for nearly an hour. While on the highway, protesters ran after vehicles attempting to drive off the freeway and blocked vehicles.

In one incident, a protester threw a skateboard at the back window of a car. The window shattered, with pieces landing on a 4-year-old boy, who was unharmed. In another altercation, protesters refused to let a pregnant woman’s parents drive her to the hospital.

Officers arrested Arata following the protest, and released her shortly afterwards without bail.

SLO police officers then reviewed evidence, which includes hours of videos, before last week recommending prosecutors file five felony charges against Arata: four felony counts of false imprisonment and a felony count of conspiracy. In addition, investigators are seeking three misdemeanor charges: resisting or obstructing a peace officer, inciting a riot, and unlawful assembly.

On Aug. 10. the district attorney began reviewing the police department’s charging recommendations.

“Recent social media posts and other media reports state that Ms. Arata faces 15 years in prison for her conduct. This is patently incorrect and a reckless statement.” according to the SLO District Attorney’s Office. “All individuals charged with a crime are legally presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law. Therefore, it is premature to speculate or discuss what possible sentence would be appropriate or warranted.”

Arata’s arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 3. The district attorney’s office anticipates prosecutors will make a decision on whether to file charges by that time.

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mazin

Those, hoping for prosecutions, this is what you are wishing on your County. 1) Negative national attention to a County dependent on tourism and wine sales goodwill; 2) the making of Tianna Arata into a starlet; 3) possible violent protests lead by out of towners; 4) the Mayor on the national news, selecting national prominence over local interests. These prosecutions could make the Mardi Gras and the Poly Royal disturbances look like a picnic. We don’t need any part of this action.

Arata’s F bomb verbiage during the demonstration, and the demonstration’s closing of the freeway, won’t be cured by prosecutions that ‘will be made to appear’ as full of racial hate. The DA should make a call for moderation, forgiveness, and drop the prosecutions. We need to be the adults in the room.


chrisinpaso

That’s right. Let’s only enforce the law when it’s easy. Reminds me of the countless westerns in which the gutless citizens let the hero sheriff save the town all alone (e.g. High Noon). Portland and Seattle as well as Minneapolis are prime examples of of what happens when the local politicians don’t have the courage to enforce the law.


Gordo

“The DA should make a call for moderation, forgiveness, and drop the prosecutions. We need to be the adults in the room.“


This only works if the protestors embrace the calls for moderation and forgiveness.


I don’t see that happening nationally because if it did, all of the air escapes the BLM movement in the blink of an eye and it folds like the Occupy Wall Street movement did. (The markets were up again today, BTW)


Here in SLO, since Tianna’s arrest, the protestors have behaved like little ladies and gentlemen. I wonder why?


I would like to think moderation might have permeated the thinking of our local protestors, but I fear outside agitators will spin them up again.


If the DA files charges the outsiders will descend on us, if he doesn’t the protestors claim victory and may be emboldened to act up without any outside help or encouragement.


From the DA’s perspective he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.


The DA should review the evidence, file any appropriate charges and let the chips fall where they may. He shouldn’t bow to intimidation tactics in making his decision because if he does where will he draw the line?


Will every criminal prosecution have to pass a racial or political ideology litmus test?


fat chance

I’m going to make it simple…F.. that dude. Mind your own business.


Rambunctious

Thank you for saying that…because if I had the mods would not post it…..


Cmonnow

People of SLO…do NOT let this continue…. Flood the lawyers office with emails, calls, letters….any of all of the above. Threatening people because this spoiled person finds herself being held accountable for her actions is beyond deplorable. Its madness. Fight fire with fire. Stand for what’s right.


isoslo

Lee Merritt is a bully attempting to bully Dan Dow. We all need to stand up to bullies to defeat them. Go to the PA bar and file complaints against his law license.


slophocles

Don’t you mean “keep him in his place”?


TiaMiaOhMy

WHAT is your problem slohocles, you cannot stand to do things “civilly”? Good gosh,so you’re ok with holding people hostage, using verbal and physical intimidation ?? Diplomacy is a way to handle things! People DO NEED TO CALL and contact the Bar Assn. and report this Bullying Attorney! Your sarcasm is pathetic.


slophocles

Would you say the same thing if it was Atticus Finch or Perry Mason or Matlock?


derasmus

Yup


mazin

I remember a national advocate for the homeless, Mitch Snyder director of the Community for Creative Nonviolence, a group whose tactics included civil disobedience and mass demonstrations. Snyder threatened in August 1986 to inundate Santa Barbara, with thousands of homeless people, if Santa Barbara did not change its homeless laws. Santa Barbara changed its homeless laws.

Dow should drop the charges. Don’t think he would get a conviction anyway.


sbjcl

Just what this coward wants with his idle threats.


horse_soldier

And just look how well that turned out for Santa Barbara. Homeless encampments line the railroad tracks heading into town. Downtown is a mess.

Yeah, that’s just what Santa Barbara needed, good thing he showed them!


Cindy

Why I support civil lawsuits for the wrongful killing of anyone by law enforcement, attorney Lee Merritt appears not to know process or he is attempting to manipulate and cause anger.


To threaten more damage to our community while people are attempting to keep their shops open and have money to feed their families, is despicable. We need to work together and support each other during the pandemic.


slophocles

You don’t seem to complain when Fresnoids and Bakersfieldians come here and destroy our utopia every weekend.


nunsense

Voters of SLO – please remember this when casting your vote for mayor.


Mark

…and for president (and I can’t even stand our prez either). We don’t need “woke” people in Washington.


mazin

Actually, we need “woke” leaders. Leaders who understand what it is to be Black in this society, particularly east of the Rockies. And leaders who understand how difficult it is to be a law enforcement officer in this society. Leaders that unite rather than divide.


Vic Lamborghini

A pathetic, small, lawyer seeking attention. Whip up that racism as if it was OK, simply because you yourself are black. Absolute crap! Nothing new here, folks.


slophocles

You’re just saying that because you’re white.


Rambunctious

What made you so race conscious?….isn’t it better for us to be united than divided?…United we stand divided we all fall….


shelworth

So somebody has the loot to send all these people from Philadelphia to SLO? I wonder who that could be?….


slophocles

It’s only about $500 round trip on a plane. That’s still a lot. So maybe he’ll call in people from nearby big cities. Good thing we’re not close to anyplace like L.A. or Oakland or Fresno or Las Vegas or Portland or ….