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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Uncle Jack

Finney’s seriously! What were you thinking?


You know me as a regular. I know you quite well. Unfortunately I will now never be back. Not even once.


ByteMaker

I will never go there again!


ActaNonVerba

***Shrugs*** You’re absolutely right. When people give in to thugs (sorry, Congalton!), a type of “social cancer” takes hold. If left untreated, it can (and has) ruined entire communities.


obispan

And keep to it! Cancel culture works both ways. Maybe not the way small businesses paying BLM extortion want it.


Gramelin

How is it EXTORTION will Gain support for the BLM movement?

So far from what I’ve seen/heard, from filming her F”U” to Cantrel on the freeway, to threatening Dan Dow, lying to the nation about Arata’s status. Threatening local businesses. All of it diminishes the true purpose, for All People to be treated equally. I just don’t get it, how do they think this has not all done more harm than good?


Mark

And yet the idiots in this no doubt town will reelect Harmon.


ActaNonVerba

Worse than the “idiots” are the apathetic whiners who are unwilling to do the work necessary to elect GOOD candidates and yes, we do have enough this time around.


Such people who rather simply whine online. Shame on you.


Eyes Everywhere

I hope someone, anyone, on that city council will have the guts to confront Harmon at tonight’s meeting and demand answers in her involvement.


And if this Cal Poly quarterback is involved, he should be sacked and kicked off the team.


WhatNext

This is sickening. You can do good and get your message out without breaking the law, inciting violence and extorting businesses.


FoxtrotYankee

The local BLM-movement leader(s?) need to denounce these tactics as they distract from the message. Forcing businesses who are fearful of vandalism to pay reparations doesn’t actually change their viewpoint and only drives further divisiveness — completely straying from a message of unity.


Boarding up windows is defense against agent-provocateurs whether the business owner or protester realizes it. Much of the vandalism/violence at protests is created by outside agitators. Google the likes of Mitchell Carlson, Steven Carrillo, Stephen Parshall, Garrick Fernbaugh, etc… the list grows by the day.


If a BLM leader doesn’t step up locally to; promote a respectful message of unity, denounce demands for reparations and keep the movement aligned with a common goal it will just lead to more of this divisive fear-mongering journalism being the leading message.


Is there nobody acting as the spokesperson for BLM locally who can be interviewed about these types of concerns — or is CCN ignoring them?


derasmus

Good question


shishkabob141

The next kick in the teeth to businesses will come in November when they stand a good chance of having the protection of Prop 13 repealed on commercial property. Calling it Education and Government funding is akin to these thugs calling extortion reparations.


chrisinpaso

Looks like the District Attorney has another situation to investigate. Extortion is not the easiest crime to prosecute, but there is at least reasonable cause to look into the situation.


Uncle Jack

Tax evasion, money laundering, fraud…


kevin rise

He is soon to be investigated for failing separation of church vs state publicly and infringing our rights of separation of such. If only more fake religious zealots actually followed the scripture, we wouldn’t have such economic inequality. Ie, 2000 people own more wealth than 6 billion; a fact. Jesus would have supported BLM and antifa, the real antifacists whom also denounce Isreals military industrial complex, not mentioning our old Iranian partnership and the Saudis. Who gave Iran a military. America did, and it bit us in the rear.


oldcayucan

Would Jesus support Portland’s BLM ? Enough said.


FoxtrotYankee

Jesus was a man of color who was arrested, tried and executed by the state.


Doesn’t take a religious scholar to connect the dots on where Jesus would stand…


oldcayucan

Seems like its the blind leading the blind..


Cmonnow

Wait…. Why can’t I, my business, or anyone elses business, support BLM without paying money?