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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fat chance

Pretty sure I won’t ever be eating at Finney’s Crafthouse. Why would anybody pay blackmail knowing the money is going straight to the DNC. Believe me will just be the first installment.


WhatNext

Never hear of them, and won’t be going there.


slotruth67

Thank you CCN for reporting on this extortion. Both KSBY and the Tribune have both known about this and refuse to report on what these “rioters” are doing to downtown businesses. I have heard first hand that Tianna, her mother, and Jalen have personally met with and extorted downtown businesses. It was anything but peaceful, but very intimidating to these business owners. Remember, Tianna is the same person seen carrying a burnt American flag, than spitting on the flag and dancing on it as she yells “f@ck America and f@ck the flag”. I have heard through numerous people that not only is Tianna collecting money for “bail” but also asking her supporters to Venmo her directly. But, what should we expect from these young people who feel that the mayor of SLO, Hiedi Harmon supports their action, as she marched with them toward Highway 101. That is where Tianna blocked cars as they tried to leave this “riot” on the highway, hitting cars with the flag pole she was carrying and running and leading the group to block cars as they tried to “get away”. Also the same 101 where Jalen is on video asking a pregnant woman to “prove her water broke” before he would let her go. Why is he not charged, that is definitely a crime that is on video. After the havoc on the 101 they turn their attention to the private businesses who have been struggling for months and are finally finding ways to do some business outside on the streets. They decide to march as families are eating with children, chanting “f@ck your comfort” and again blocking traffic downtown. I am for peaceful and positive protesting, not the continued law breaking and intimidation. And as SLO downtown continues to struggle, where is Hiedi Harmon, I heard she went up to Portland to join the “riots” up north. Definitely not the person who should be leading San Luis Obispo. I appreciate SLOPD recommending some charges, I wish they would have done more since they have video of many crimes committed, I hope Dan Dow does the right thing and charges these criminals. There must be consequences for these actions.


DWebster50

This is not ok! Who do they think they are? Go away people, get jobs and take the Mayor with you. Enough with all the threats.


laftch

“make reparations in financial donations” You mean pay extortion so your business won’t be burned down. I hope you’re happy CA, you’re getting what you wanted.


LeroyMoo

Apply the substitution test. If white supremacists or a biker club approached business owners for protection money Cantrell would be arresting the ring leader and the DA would be filling charges. Sorry Tianna your Instagram post is extortion, not reparations. If you want to orchestrate boycotts on businesses for installing plywood to protect their livelihood, then expect some return Karma. These business owners work 60 to 100+ hours a week to feed their families, while you sit with your conniving mom getting your hair and nails done. Ask yourself if you’ve learned more about leaching off men from your flirty mother (take a fish versus learn how to fish) or if she’s taught you a marketable self-sufficient skill?


ActaNonVerba

The FBI really needs to be called in on this matter. This is serious stuff. People go to prison for extortion.


RalphKane

They’re so deluded in their hubris, next they’ll try to extort the 1% motorcycle clubs for daring to stand in their way…


pnishaven

would love to see that!


ActaNonVerba

It would be great if the one percenters got the hell out of SLO County as well!


Murderous/drug-pushing individuals who take part in annual toy runs for kids are still murderous/drug-pushing individuals.


ActaNonVerba

Extortion! THIS is the sort of story that needs national attention, and not Arata’s little sob story. People get indicted and go to prison for this sort of thing!


Stand up people of San Luis Obispo! REJECT Heidi Harmon and Andrea Pease on November 3rd!


Kalifornia_Bud

Isn’t that extortion? Demanding protection money or we’ll close your business down. Are you f-ing kidding me…LOL


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