Arata wants a SLO County judge to rule on systemic racism

December 7, 2020

Photo by Richard Bastian

By KAREN VELIE

In the latest attempt to have charges against Black Lives Matter protester Tianna Arata dropped without a trial in San Luis Obispo County, her attorneys filed a motion asking the court to determine if systemic racism exists.

In their motions, Arata’s attorneys Patrick Fisher and Curtis Briggs argue that law enforcement officers targeted Arata because she is black and that prosecutors have demonstrated a racially discriminatory application of the law. They have filed motions to dismiss, for a gag order, to disqualify the district attorney’s office and a motion for discovery.

“The charges against Ms. Arata illustrate systemic racism and arise from a pattern and practice of SLO law enforcement targeting black people for prosecution under the law in a racially biased and disproportionate manner,” according to Fisher and Briggs’ motion.

“Further, although the defense does not concede that it is beyond the scope of a demurrer hearing to address whether systemic racism exists, a hearing in regard to this motion is exactly where systemic racism in the application of the law in San Luis Obispo will begin be ferreted out and become dispositive,” according to a motion by Fisher and Briggs.

The SLO County District Attorney’s Office opposed the motion to dismiss because “it is beyond the scope of this hearing to address whether there is or is not systemic racism, and where it resides or to what extent.”

Arata’s attorneys also question why the arrests were not proportionate to race, and that because most of the protesters were white, most of the arrestees should also be white.

In their opposition, prosecutors note that it is ironic that Fisher and Briggs demand proportionality in charges against protesters based on their race while accusing officers and prosecutors of racism because of perceived disproportionality.

“First, the law, and moral conviction demand that we do not consider perceived race of a suspect in the filing of charges,” prosecutors wrote. “Second, to achieve proportionality in charging, we would have to violate the law and engage in just the sort of invidious discrimination that the defendant accuses us of.”

Arata is currently facing 13 misdemeanor charges related to a July 21 protest, when she led approximately 300 protesters onto Highway 101, blocking all lanes in both directions for nearly an hour. While marching through SLO, Arata detained motorists, chased cars attempting to drive away, and hit a car with a stick.

Prosecutors charged Arata with one count of unlawful assembly, one count of disturbing the peace, six counts of obstruction of a thoroughfare and five counts of false imprisonment.

A month after charges were filed against Arata, on Oct. 15, prosecutors filed charges against three additional suspects related to Arata’s alleged criminal activity. Within hours of the filing, the Tribune reported on the arrests of “three black men.”

On Oct. 16, prosecutors filed charges against three white men for crimes they committed during the July 21 march that were unrelated to Arata’s alleged criminal acts, and a separate case.

On Oct. 17, San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon accused the county’s top prosecutor of voter suppression based on her belief SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow filed charges against one of the black protesters, not because he violated the law, but because he supported her campaign, in an open letter to Dow.

Heidi Harmon marching in a Black Lives Matter protest

In her letter, Harmon accuses Dow of singling out “three black men—leaders in our communities—from the mostly white crowd,” while failing to mention the three white men who were charged 26 hours later. Harmon also does not mention her participation and promotion of the Black Lives Matter protests alongside Arata.

As evidence of the alleged discrimination, Fisher and Briggs claim prosecutors only filed charges against the three white men because of pressure from the mayor and the Tribune, also failing to mention Harmon’s letter was posted a day after the three white men were charged.

“The District Attorney then failed to charge a single white protestor until the media and mayor pointed how glaringly discriminatory the lack of charges was,” Fisher and Briggs wrote in their motion. “Only after this backlash did the District Attorney announce he would also be filing charges against some white protestors. This illustrates a racially discriminatory application of the law.”

There have been multiple charges filed against people during Black Lives Matter protests in SLO, the majority of whom are white, according to prosecutors.

Following a march on June 1 in which bottles were thrown at officers, seven protesters were cited and five were charged, all of whom appear white, according to court records.

On three separate dates, prosecutors charged eight people involved in the July 21 march — four white and four black protesters.

On Sept. 2,  a motorcycle turning left from Los Osos Street into a lane on Higuera Street, where protesters were standing outside the crosswalk blocking traffic, struck a protester who suffered minor injuries. Two black protesters were cited for obstructing traffic and the white motorcyclist was charged with reckless driving.

“Counsel for defendant Arata asserts in his moving paper, ‘The failure to charge a single white protester until pressured by the media and a letter from the mayor illustrates a racially discriminatory application of the law,’ ” according to prosecutors. “The defendant’s allegation is factually false and without merit.”

In his opposition, Dow accuses Fisher and Briggs of making claims of prosecutorial misconduct without any evidence, and that false and baseless allegations of misconduct violate the California Business and Professional Code 6068(d) and Rule 5-200 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

At a Dec. 10 hearing, Arata’s attorneys plan to seek a ruling on the existence of systemic racism in local law enforcement and the district attorney’s office.

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Kalifornia_Bud

I’m being discriminated against because I follow the law and pay my driving while on a cell phone ticket and she thinks she can do what she wants and not have to pay any consequences.


Uncle Jack

See how much of a coward Arata is?


She are her accomplice, the Cal Poly QB, sure shut up when the law rightfully comes after them.


LeroyMoo

She got a pitiful defense team if they only have classic deflection in their arsenal. When someone willfully disregards a law or rule, they look to show shortcomings of others to minimize their actions and possibly take others down with them. It almost never works to deflect. In moving papers it’s what isn’t addressed that the judge sifts out immediately. Like the missing rationalization for breaking the specific law or at a minimum addressing if she broke a law. If the defense doesn’t address the specific law broken contained in the DA’s complaint, then the defense accepts without contesting or surrenders to the fact that the law was broken.


msains

What a joke!! These people who blocked traffic, and terrorize the civilians on the road NEED to get locked up. Period.. And all that nonsense they were saying that any biz owner that boarded up their windows should be fined?!?!?!? SLO has become such a shitshow on every level..Lock up Harmon too! She is most definitely part of the problem


info

Perhaps Arata attorneys can first answer why blacks represent 6% of population while representing 70% of NFL teams? Shouldn’t this be proportionate as well?


Perhaps because certain groups think it’s ok to act like a complete ass to designated officials is why it’s not proportionate.


MrYan

Can we all agree that making false claims in court that are—unsubstantiated by evidence, baseless, self serving, and ask for unreasonable remedies —that they should be frowned upon? This is not how our system should be used. Correct?


Cmonnow

Yes correct. Its the giant smoke screen that leads to a convoluted, baseless, accusatory pile of smelly stuff-anything but why she’s in court. I’d be embarrassed but she’s a product of her entitled generation. She may really believe she shouldn’t have to be responsible for her actions.


MrYan

Can you draw any parallels to other court cases in the news? ;-)


Cmonnow

For what? In sure there are many examples or “parallels” but sho cares? This article and subsequent replies are about this particular case.


MrYan

Introspection and consistency of thought can be tough.


blackjack

Suing Mickey D’s for spilling hot coffee on yourself ?


kevin rise

Glad you see the irony.


Rouse

Spot on, she has lived off the taxpayers for years, from when she was a baby her mother got welfare from day one and scammed hundreds of Public Welfare systems, Food Stamps, Courts, Banks, Check Cashing companies and markets with bounced checks the list is endless.


The DA’s Office has a great case against all those thus far arrested, CHP did a Great Job as did the SLOSO’s did a great Job with all the others. Stop hidding behind your lawyers that YOU are not even paying for, your phony defense raising money after they lied to the public that they are doing the case for Free ? that was a big lie.


Rouse

These two ignorant Lawyers have committed Perjury in there Filing and false Motions delaying this case, stop your sniveling and prove in a public court of law you did not do everything we saw you do ?


Where did all the “Funds” raised under false pretenses go ? on a shopping Spree, New I phone, cloths, shoes, or did you finally decide to pay the many past due bills you and your mother owe to hundreds of people, business, Banks, Credit Card Companies, Cal Poly Parking tickets that are still unpaid and others. Your Uncle Chris says he donated $350 to your alleged Legal Defense funds where did that go ? the your other Uncle Steve Arata a teacher at SLO High Schools does not want a thing to do with any of you ? wonder why ?


Jorge Estrada

I am developing a systemic apathy to this chanting. Let’s chant “you don’t always get what you want and if you try, sometimes you get what you need.” Mick Jagger. “Tire tracks across your back, I can see you’ve had your fun” Jimmy Hendrix.(Cross Town Traffic)


shelworth

All you have to do is ask yourself “would she deserve these charges if she were White?”. The answer is yes, yes she would. So, no racism.


JThomas

Why the heck did I start to read this before lunch. Dah moment.


Cmonnow

Exactly…. If the article starts with ‘Arata’ or ‘Mayor Heidi….’ You know you’re in for indigestion.


ghostpepper

I keep reading them because I keep hoping that one of these days I’ll read an article covering how she is finally called to account for her role in this mess.


Just have to be patient I suppose. Though this thing feels like it has been getting far more public attention than it deserves. (However, if they back off and drop the charges, then that would be an injustice deserving of attention!)


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