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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ml1999

Sounds like extortion to me. The new Mafia?


SloHeadInTheSand

So if you boarded up your business that was barely hanging on by a thread this was seen as an insult to the SLO BLM movement and you were then REQUIRED to make a donation “that you couldn’t refuse” or else…


EXTORTION PLAIN AND SIMPLE!


Myself

Pay money to who, for what,I think the business owners need to send hiedo ho and her band of nitwits a bill for boarding up their business, just replacing windows alone would have been a small fortune not counting the loss of revenue if they had been looted and time to rebuild, boarding up was cheap against any problems that could have arisen from these future jail birds, we don’t need these people in our county telling us what to do, if our city and county leaders had any balls this crap would stop, Utah is bringing charges against these rioters, Idaho people got together and ran busloads of this trash out of the area, its starting to happen in other places, we need leadership that nips this in the ass before the people start to take care of this problem, our gutless wonders of leaders let this trash out on the freeway and then don’t jail them all, this mess isn’t going to end well.

Maybe some good citizens of SLO need to protest and picket hiedo ho’s house and see how she likes it.


oldcayucan

Let’s do it!


WeThePeople

We are to somehow believe that boarding up your business to protect your property & livelihood is offensive and/or racist? I’m glad SLO did not end up like Portland, Minneapolis, or many other cities…BUT, vandalism did occur (broken windows downtown). After seeing what people are capable of when they don’t get their way (not receiving their “fair share,” agreement on all issues, etc.), how can you blame these businesses for taking action to secure their means of income? Oh wait, that may be the problem…they shouldn’t have the ability to make an income, it’s not fair!


MysticOne

I have a hard time believing that a bunch of businesses are being extorted but not one has a single piece of security camera footage showing the people extorting the business. That is a pretty serious crime and if someone came to my business and tried that BS I would instantly be posting it on every social media platform possible.


I agree there are some major issues in our society that need correcting, I just don’t agree with the methods being used by the protestors to accomplish the change that is needed. Seems to me a 5 year old could come up with 100 better ideas on ways to accomplish positive change vs all these current protestors combined. Building a giant BLM out of Legos would be more productive than anything the protestors have accomplished.


Scott

What you do not know, is there is a evidence of a “Shake Down” and some of the businesses have called the FBI, who are now involved as well as the DA’s Office and SLOPD.


Not only were State Crimes committed but Federal Crimes, my bet is the DA will empanel a Criminal Grand Jury to indict, as well as the ongoing other investigations and Civil suits possible. This is the greatest Nation in the World, hundreds of thousands are fleeing there own countries to come here. If you do NOT like it hear vote, move or get a job and pay your fair share of taxes.


Obey the laws, in any other Nation if you tired what this group has done you would be incarcerated and dealt harshly. Like BLM Foundation Founder Robert Ray Barnes is also under a probe for his antics of theft of donations and filing false IRS forms and filing a fake IRS form 990.


So several of us investors where present when two of the shake downs occurred so let the Courts do their business without interference and stop sending us the hundreds of Post Cards, unsigned letters with no return addresses to DROP THE CHARGES” that is not how the USA works.


As for burning the US Flag that is Arson, you can not start a fire in public and stop traffic. Stopping businesses from doing business is something you must not comprehend , many staff are now being laid off, others fired, some never to be re-hired and many businesses closing for ever. Get a clue if you do not like America then vote if is still do not like it your are Free to Leave it.


mytwopointfivesense

You have a tough time believing it? It’s happening all over the country, but if you had video surveillance of people walking into the store, you would believe it? It’s not like you’re likely to get recorded audio or anything. I have talked to two three owners downtown where this happened. I talked to the owners themselves. These were phone calls, that evolved later to visits. If one pays attention, these people are out there and sharing what happened. Abrianna Torres running for city council sat in one of these discussions and she said publicly she was told she herself wasn’t black enough by one of the African American men in this group mentioned in this article. These people need to be stopped. This shake down type shit can’t be allowed to happen. It’s tough and sad when people are afraid of being ostracized and threatened to be called a racist in their own community. Especially when these businesses juuuuust got their feet under them (kinda) after being shut down for the pandemic. It sucks. If we all say we won’t accept it and speak up, we can say ‘no more’.


Funny these people won’t put their shake down money where their mouth is and put a smart and articulate woman who is African American on city council cause she’s not black enough??? Horrible. I want Abrianna Torres to win this seat so bad. I want Heidi out and common sense in SO BAD.


America. What a horrible country, right? Only in this great county, can you shit on everything it’s about , then go make $40k on a go fund me supported by sheeple who are misguided idiots or don’t know better (at best).


Also Race Matters Slo did the same thing BLM National did. They are not 501c3. They run through another. Pretty shady. BLM runs through something I think called ActBlue , and race matters slo also is not a 501c3. It runs though a local legit 501c3 called Ecologistics. They specialize in environmental stuff for ppl who want to raise money for the environment or have projects that desire a philanthropic angle but are not their own non profit. Id be curious to dig into these as well. What does ecologistics get from this?? Do they believe what is happening is ok? Are they being shaken down? Are they making money from this? I have no idea but it’s worth a look when you consider they are in the background pulling the strings for all this money going to racematters slo and the shakedown machine.


ActaNonVerba

if someone came to my business and tried that BS I would instantly be posting it on every social media platform possible.


Don’t be so sure. If you’re afraid enough to board-up your storefront, you might well be afraid enough to keep your mouth shut, or at least be very discreet.


slocalgal

Ambiance, a clothing store downtown SLO, did post on their Instagram page as this was happening to them. Tianna tagged them and said she was exploited by modeling for them without compensation and called for a boycott of their business. She also called out the store for boarding up their windows during the BLM protest.


The owner of Ambiance replied that her clothing shop never pays models because they can’t afford to do so, but give the models the photos to use for their portfolio. This is understood before the photoshoot. She defended boarding up because it was recommended by the Downtown Association.


Ambiance then posted on Instagram one word: LISTENING, and the owner wrote that she was listening and learning about BLM and said she supported diversity. She probably made a donation.


After Tianna was arrested, she deleted the Instagram posts and Ambiance’s posts were deleted, too. Perhaps the owner is afraid of losing more business.


shelworth

“A few friends and I”…. not “me and a few friends”. Just sayin’…


aye-caramba

This is sad . It needs to be projected because beyond CCN, we do not have representative , fair media any longer . Even New Times now stands above the tools at the Tribune. WE NEED NEW LEADERS .


SLOGROWN

Haha,

You all get what/who you cast your vote for. Remember that the next time you vote. Will the trash be thrown out?, or kept in he house to continue to rot.


WhatNext

I didn’t vote for that garbage. It’s not fair.


Godless Heathen

You can’t force people to agree with you. It would be nice if some of

the protesters started to realize that but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.