Protesters demand money from San Luis Obispo business owners

August 18, 2020

Protest Organizer Tianna Arata, Mayor Heidi Harmon, Cal Poly quarterback Jalen Hamler, and another protester

Clarification: Courtney Haile, a co-founder of R.A.C.E. Matters SLO, did not personally ask SLO business owners for money for reparations for boarding up their businesses. Business owners said they met Haile and Michelle and Tianna Arata downtown, and not inside their businesses, and that Haile remained primarily silent.

Editors Note: An Instagram demand from Tianna Arata’s mother Michelle Arata to businesses, an interview with SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon, a video of a protester discussing shutting down businesses and a letter that accompanied a payment are at the end of this article.

By KAREN VELIE and JOSH FRIEDMAN

A group of protesters affiliated with Mayor Heidi Harmon organized Black Lives Matter demonstrations in San Luis Obispo and demanded that downtown businesses pay reparations for boarding up their windows after local activists took to the streets.

Some businesses have paid, writing checks to R.A.C.E. Matters SLO. Others which refused were called racist and demeaned on social media.

The demands for money are made in writing and through personal visits from locals claiming ties to Black Lives Matter. The protesters direct the businesses to either pay R.A.C.E. Matters SLO, which is not a federally recognized charity and uses a post office box as its address, or to Black Lives Matter.

Following the May 25 death of George Floyd, Harmon met with a group of young African Americans, including Tianna Arata and Cal Poly quarterback Jalen Hamler.

Then on June 1, Arata and Hamler participated in a march that turned violent, with protesters throwing rocks and water bottles at officers. SLO police then used pepper spray and tear gas to dispel protesters. Later in the evening, several local businesses were vandalized by a group of teens.

While Harmon and her former campaign manager Quinn Brady posted requests for the community to join in upcoming protests, local police officers warned businesses of the possibility of protester violence.

Many local businesses responded by boarding up their windows. Meanwhile, Harmon and Councilwoman Andy Pease attended the protests, which occurred almost daily.

“I am in full support of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Harmon told CalCoastNews on June 4. “I collaborated with the leaders of this march to write a statement. We worked together on it. The number one thing for them is declaring racism a public health emergency.”

Tianna Arata’s mother Michelle Arata then posted a demand for money on Instagram that she also sent to select local businesses. The Instagram post describes boarding up windows as perpetuating fear and hate, and demands businesses pay reparations through financial donations to BLM.

“This money shall be equivalent to the amount of money and time they spent upholding fear in investing boarding up shops, and using their visibility in our community to undermine true progress,” Michelle Arata posted on Instagram. “This is grossly irresponsible.”

A handful of business owners, many afraid to have their names disclosed because of fears of retaliation, said the message was followed by a phone call that included name calling, another request for money and a personal visit.

Several business owners said Tianna Arata, Michelle Arata, Courtney Haile, Cal Poly quarterback Jalen Hamler, and another Cal Poly student were present when demands were made. Others said two unidentified white women dropped by their businesses to demand money for Black Lives Matter or R.A.C.E. Matters SLO.

Haile is a close friend of Michelle Arata and also a co-founder of R.A.C.E. Matters SLO. Haile never personally asked them for money, though she appeared to be there in support of Michelle and Tianna Arata, according to multiple people present during a meeting with several business owners that included berating a black woman for not to be black enough and an Asian woman accused of supporting white supremacy.

On June 13, “some friends and I met with R.A.C.E Matters SLO affiliates Tianna Arata, Michelle Arata, Xavier Moore and Jalen Hamler,” Tricia Hamachai wrote in a statement to the SLO City Council that was read at a June 16 meeting. “Tianna Arata told me that, ‘Asians uphold white supremacy.’ Cal Poly football players, Xavier Moore and Jalen Hamler aggressively verbally attacked Abrianna Torres, a young black woman, telling her that ‘some black people aren’t black’ and that ‘black is not the color of your skin, it’s a culture.’

“These hate-filled, overtly racist comments have no place in San Luis Obispo and will not be tolerated,” Hamachai added. “R.A.C.E. Matters SLO founder, Courtney Hailey was present but did not speak or intervene. She sat by idly while these young black men marginalized a strong, young black woman. It is obvious that R.A.C.E. Matters SLO believes that only some black lives matter.”

Hamachai owned a Thai restaurant in Pismo Beach for 12 years. She has lived in SLO since 2005.

Haile said she never stopped by businesses to demand money.

“Businesses that have donated to R.A.C.E. Matters have done so of their own
volition,” Haile wrote. “This includes the donation mentioned in your story, from Finney’s Crafthouse. I did not ‘drop by’ any businesses and ‘demand money’ for any individual or group, or for R.A.C.E. Matters.

The protesters have regularly referred to their targets as racists who had benefited from white privilege.

Cal Poly quarterback Jalen Hamler, Mayor Heidi Harmon with her arm around Hamler and Quinn Brady

During a June 4 protest, Hamler told reporter Josh Friedman he was unsure what their demands were. Hamler then talked with Harmon, before continuing with the video interview.

“I couldn’t tell you all of the demands,” Hamler told CalCoastNews on June 4. “The mayor put together some for a press conference, for a statement that they’ll release soon about what we’re trying to do and the cause we’re trying to change. It’s a lot of stuff.”

Many of the businesses that refused to pay received dozens of angry posts on Yelp, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, at a time they were using social media to increase sales during the pandemic.

Tianna Arata’s attorney Patrick Fisher said “the money thing is outrageous,” when asked if his client had asked businesses for money.

“She has heard these rumors,” Fisher said. “It is outrageous. She has never done anything.”

However, on her Instagram account, Tianna Arata personally demeaned a local business that refused to pay, claiming a “flagrant display of privilege.”

On July 21, donning a shirt that said “riot” on the front, 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 for allegedly participating in a riot and unlawful imprisonment. She was released shortly afterwards without bail. Police recommended charges, which the SLO County District Attorney’s Office are reviewing.

Arata and some of her supporters appear to be conducting a misinformation campaign. They have implied she is in jail, that she is facing 15 years in prison and that the district attorney has already filed charges against her. Meanwhile, Arata and her supporters raised more than $40,000 through several online fundraisers.

During an Aug. 5 march, in which protesters targeted specific businesses while asking prosecutors to drop all charges against Arata, local BLM organizers voiced plans to shut down businesses that do not show them support.

“We need to stop shopping at businesses that do not support Black Lives Matter,” one speaker said. “We do not need to support them. We need to shut them down.”

The almost daily protests are having a negative impact on businesses, as people avoid the downtown area because of traffic issues and closures of Highway 101 onramps and offramps.

While many businesses have refused to pay reparations, other businesses have donated money to Haile’s R.A.C.E. Matters SLO. Finney’s Crafthouse on Monterey Street donated $1,000 on July 27, according to a letter that accompanied the donation.

 

Michelle Arata’s Instagram post

 

July 4 interview with SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon

 

SLO protester calls for shutting down businesses

 

Letter from Finney’s  Crafthouse

 


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Scott

Where is the big SMILE of Tianna now that she is charged ? why didn’t she yell on Zoom at the Judge, Prosecutor, Police or her anti government antics. F??? the Justice System, F??? the Police, ACAB, on zoom she appears to be dressed down, not smiling while stomping the US Flag and smiling anymore.


Where are all the smiles, expenses cloths, your rants and rave at the system you had the perfect time ob Zoom to voice your Hatred and disdain for the USA. Not so happy when you are held accountable and then since your on welfare and do not work you ask everyone who does work and pay taxes to pay your Lawyer a double standard.


15 years of living off the public, the tax payers, using the WELFARE SYSTEM TO LIVE IS SHAMEFUL


obispan

Never, ever, spend single a penny at Finney’s. I sure as hell won’t. I want to see them go out of business ASAP. They can give Courtney Haile the money from selling their fixtures and equipment.


obispan

I have been an officer of a 501(c)(3). You cannot establish a bank account without either a business license or as an IRS recognized non-profit entity. Very curious as to how the extortion payments were processed.


Daryl

Sad to see this happening to my home town.


There is an old saying; “If you want more of something; fund it” Those of you who pay the extortion are only asking for more of it as well as increasing the pressure for your neighbors to pay the extortion. The Mafia has a word for this called “protection money”


If the Mayor is standing by these extortion groups, get a new Mayor; many in Portland are re-thinking their last election.


Niles Q

Since I came here in 1985 to return to Cuesta, there have been three riots in SLO — the Dead Kennedys concert riot, the Poly Royal Riots and the Madi Gras Riot. Granted college students and alcohol played major roles in those, but riots they indeed were.

Law Enforcement in this county is prepared for this. They have plans and contingencies, and backup plans, etc… for dealing with rioting.

It would be a big mistake if these people push it to a riot, or if that lawyer from back east that threatened to bring the rioters here unless Arata has all charges dropped follows through.

He will not find SLO County law enforcement either unprepared nor under gunned or under manned, either.

Because of this County’s rioting past, I can’t really blame the Sheriff for being leery of this movement. After all, he was SLOPD during all three riots. So he knows firsthand what it’s like and I’d bet that those plans have all been updated recently.

As for Arata, she should stand trial for what she did. As divided as this country is, she’s got a good chance at a hung jury or maybe outright acquittal. She’s certainly got plenty of available cash for a lawyer.

I have a feeling that this veiled-extortion that’s being perpetrated against downtown businesses, is being investigated by someone, perhaps several agencies. Just because you haven’t seen any surveillance footage of this happening, doesn’t mean the detectives haven’t uncovered any. You likely won’t hear about it until charges are filed.

And Mayor Harmon is doing her citizens a real disservice with her support of these activities. She’s making friends but not the kind of friends a politician running for re-election should be making.

Cal Poly students won’t be here to re-elect her, perhaps that’ll be something good to come out of COVID.

As for the nationwide rioting, it’s times like this that reinforces the importance of the Second Amendment. Because when First Amendment-Free Speech activism goes out of control, and the police can no longer protect you, you can protect yourself.

Let’s face it, there’s a run on guns and ammo right now that is nationwide. People who’ve never owned a gun are buying them like crazy.

If a sheet of plywood protecting a big picture window is fear mongering and racist, what is it that these people are doing with their threats?


QUESTIONitALL

I’VE HAD ENOUGH!!!!!

All so pathetic. Grow up and appreciate the great life you have in this area. This is a gorgeous amazing place we all live in and respect each other. WE HAVE ALL BEEN BLESSED. I grew up in A very ran down LA area and went through the riots there and this is just so uncalled for. We all need to help our community not hurt it especially in the middle of a world pandemic our business were just able to open these are working men and women supporting themselves and their families. The fact that people/protesters/BLMs feel entitled to harass our small businesses AND the community and that they can be as racist as they want but no one else is allowed to say a damn thing makes me sick. Maybe get a grip on life before you go making ridiculous demands.


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