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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oldcayucan

Cal Poly Boosters. Stop all donations until Cal Poly stands up for the small business owners downtown. STOP ALL FUNDS TO THE STAMPEDE CLUB!


WhatNext

Done.


oldcayucan

Great Job!


Gordo

California Penal Code section 518.

(a) Extortion is the obtaining of property or other consideration from another, with his or her consent, or the obtaining of an official act of a public officer, induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.

(b) For purposes of this chapter, “consideration” means anything of value, including sexual conduct as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 311.3, or an image of an intimate body part as defined in subparagraph (C) of paragraph (4) of subdivision (j) of Section 647.

(c) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), this section does not apply to a person under 18 years of age who has obtained consideration consisting of sexual

conduct or an image of an intimate body part.


“Hello I am from RACE matters SLO and we notice you got a nice little business here, it would be a shame if something happened to it. You know know we could help keep that from happening, we like to support our friends. Do you want to demonstrate your friendship with a donation?”


Now I see why they really want to defund the police in SLO; it makes it so much easier to extort money from people when they have nobody to protect them.


derasmus

Dan Dow, how about a public statement on this stuff.


TKG

What a service CCN has performed with this piece. Utterly objective backed by great documentation and videos. Can’t even imagine the Tribune or KSBY coming up with great investigative journalism like this. The organizer’s own words, egged on by Heidi “The Scourge of Downtown” Harmon, have undone them. Nothing like telling the unvarnished truth to expose them for what and who they are…


ActaNonVerba

Absolutely. I wonder if the Trib will 100% ignore this matter, or will they try to explain it away?


The crazy thing is that some still try to attack CCN’s reputation, while trying to defend the Tribune.


kayaknut

Couldn’t help but notice on the photo from June 4th no masks were being worn by Mayor Harmon, or the Cal Poly extortionist.


EyesOpen

The threat to businesses by protesters was in withholding their patronage, right? There were no threats to damage the premises, or persons. Calls for boycotts are as old as the hills.


EyesOpen

I wish you had made it clear that the “group of teens” had no connection with the #BLM protests.


Smith

Yup, terrorism and extortion are still illegal in SLO a far as I know. Where’s the Sheriff?


RalphKane

I like that scene from Tombstone where newly minted U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp meets Ike Clanton at the train station…


Ted R

Terrorist- a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.


Domestic terrorism: Violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.


Extortion- the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats.


Ted R

BLM is apparently a terrorist organization which is now extorting money? Remember, Harmon learned from Adam Hill. I don’t know why the sheriff isn’t going after these thugs and Harmon. Protesters tried to mess around in Rapid City, SD, and got their butts arrested. The Sheriff needs to handle this mess.