BLM protesters file claims against SLO County District Attorney

January 31, 2021

District Attorney Dan Dow

By KAREN VELIE

Three BLM protesters have filed claims against San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow alleging discrimination, bias and malicious prosecution over charges related to a July 21 rally in which property was damaged and vehicles blocked. The protesters are seeking damages in excess of $10,000 each.

Lawyers for Tianna Arata, Sam Grocott and Robert Lastra claim their civil rights were violated when they were charged with multiple misdemeanors and, in Lastra’s case, a felony charge.

They cite a SLO County Superior Court Judge’s decision to disqualify Dow and his office from prosecutions in connection with the protest as evidence showing that Dow engaged in discrimination against them.

Judge Matt Guerrero concluded that a fundraising email from Dow and his wife demonstrated a clear conflict of interest between his reelection bid and his role as the district attorney prosecuting the protesters.

The email asked for support for Dow as he leads a fight against the “wacky defund the police movement and anarchist groups that are trying to undermine the rule of law and public safety in our community.”

Arata and Grocott say that the conflict of interest demonstrates that Dow acted with prejudice against them. Two of the claimants are white and one is black.

“Superior Court Judge Matt Guerrero found unparalleled bias and discrimination in the DA’s office and the prosecution of Arata,” according to Arata’s Jan. 21 claim filed with the county. “Violations of her civil rights under federal and state laws is alleged. DA Dow has defamed Arata, prosecuted her in an unlawful manner.”

The allegations in Arata and Grocott’s claims are identical. The third claim, filed for Lastra, accuses Dow of trying to coverup an attempted murder.

Arata, Grocott and Lastra describe damages from defamation, lost wages and emotional distress in the civil complaint filed by the San Fransisco office of Seville Briggs attorneys.

Tianna Arata standing on a highway barrier

Last July, Arata is alleged to have 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, blocked vehicles, and yelled profanities at some of the drivers, videos of the protest showed.

Grocott and Lastra were among protesters who encircled a car driven by motorist who was attempting to drive around the protesters.

“One suspect jumped on the hood of the victim’s vehicle and an additional suspect broke the rear window out of the vehicle with a skateboard as the vehicle was leaving the area,” according to the CHP.

Robert Lastra dancing during the protest

Glass shattered on a 4-year-old boy who was sitting in the back seat. The boy was not physically harmed.

The defendants claim the driver hit Grocott as he attempted to drive away, tossing Grocott on the hood of the car and prompting Lastra to throw a skateboard at the back window. Grocott alleges he was assaulted. Lastra claims it was attempted murder.

Prosecutors charged Arata with 13 misdemeanor counts in September: one count of unlawful assembly, one count of disturbing the peace, six counts of obstruction of a thoroughfare and five counts of false imprisonment. Officers, who arrested Arata on the night of the protest, had asked prosecutors to file five felony and three misdemeanor charges.

In October, prosecutors filed three misdemeanor charges of false imprisonment against Grocott, and a felony charge of vandalism and a misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment against Lastra.

In response to Judge Guerrero’s ruling disqualifying the entire SLO County District Attorney’s Office, the California Attorney General’s Office and Dow filed appeals. It will likely be at least three months before the court rules on the appeal.

If SLO County rejects the protesters’ claims, they can then file lawsuits.

Even though the claims name Dow and Does 1 through 10, prosecutors are immune from liability, which means that they cannot be sued for their decisions as prosecutors. However, if lawsuits are successful, the county could face liability.

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giblets56

I can’t wait to break the law!! All I have to do is cry injustice, racism, and discrimination and I’m

FREE!! Our country is going to hell in a handbasket.


Cmonnow

Part of the problem is, as so many others spoke, its a frenzy about everything except the laws the mob broke (along with other stuff like windows). Misdirection. Though much smaller in scope, this is similar to the, dare i say, O.J. legal playbook…end-around play. Of course Fuhrman was an idiot, but really had nothing to do with the ugly deaths of Nicole and Ron. Its a fact that claiming racism tips the scales. Threats didn’t work. If you simply keep the mobs actions at the forefront there’s NO question laws were broken and those involved have to be held accountable and responsibile. Why is that wrong? Anyone? (Hint: its not).


kevin rise

Agreed with most points, especially holding those accountable who commit crimes. Everyone here knows where the DA stands as a person, and as elected to be unBias, he IS NOT, and has taken many Fringe Positions near Radical as a person, ie; religious, political, scientific etc, DA Dow has Radical Ideologies and ARE a conflict of interest. Our local Police community is Also in scandal; Sherriff under Fed investigation, Cantrell, Former Atown police chief family linked to White Supremacy and National Terrorism during the Charlotsville KKK march and murder, Drunk Coroner, DUI good ol boy evasions. All under WHOS WATCH???? THE DA. If he has no guilt, let Democracy run its course and quit taking sides. Yes. Our local BLM civil rights protestors broke a few, very few laws, while cursing chants, this is also a continuation of Rodney and police beating the crap out of unarmed peoples, mainly colored, or the other way around at the Capitol Terrorist Insurgency. Casting stones is dangerous in glass houses. Were all neighbors, if one hurts, we all hurt, unless you’re the Resnicks or Firestones or other local Richies profiting off of Covid.


commonsenseguy

Wow! I hope you fill better now. You might want to practice what you preach about casting stones.


Jorge Estrada

I believe the trendy word today is insurrection. Busting the glass of an occupied vehicle and using a human barricade to prevent the vehicular use of a high speed highway doesn’t have anything to do with an elected officials campaign source. The defense has nothing but a desperate and meritless excuse to defame the public’s will for justice.


Cmonnow

Yep.


Rambunctious

Why do we still refer to them as protestors?….how many laws must be broken before they become rioters?….


Cmonnow

Well put.


hotdog

And what do you say to the centuries of illegal oppression minorities have suffered? What do you say about police brutality against peaceful protestors? What do you say about murdering unarmed black men? Probably nothing,..


hotdog

Speaking up for BLM here. Reading the comments so far I see this article has gathered mostly negative attention. I have followed this case since its inception, and I had marched previously.

Most of the comments before mine are simply people lamenting the fact that defendants have the right to show discrimination against them and employ every legal action to promote their position.


In fact discrimination has brought us to this point, endless constant discrimination against a large segment of our population. Systemic and vicious, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, this imbedded aspect of our society means some of our neighbors across this vast nation have had their rights subdued for centuries.

This current claim by the defense in this case is a simple concept: the prosecution is compromised when its attitudes are affected by discrimination agains this group. If their claim is without merit it will fail.

The DA has slavishly prostrated himself before the church and conservative forces, reducing his reputation and credibility. He should have stayed in a central or neutral political/religious position so all of us could have respect for the office. He has damaged that by his actions, and now he may have dragged the county into the mess he created.


Gramelin

I don’t think anyone can deny that there has been discrimination against people of color. Horrific discrimination, unacceptable and Evil. But in this the question is, did Tiana and her friends, crowding the freeway as they did, break the law?


Because the DA is a Christian makes him less likely to be racist. I just don’t see how the DA discriminated against them based on the issue of racism. More that he called it based on whether or not they were breaking the law? For Tiana to use her racist card to get her out of trouble from breaking the law, demeans her Grand cause of Black Lives Matter! Don’t demean their serious and Important Cause by crying Wolf! This was NOT a racist call on the DA’s part! The problem is more of those trying to “prove” they are not racist by standing with Tiana. Do you think that just because you are white you are a racist? ( I actually heard that reiterated by some (idiot) lady on the Dave C show a few weeks ago! I had never heard a more RACIST comment in my life!)


And Besides, the Christians I know are far from Racist. In fact, they truly believe we all have the same DNA! We all came from 1 Family! Do you remember Noah? Only concentrations of one gene over the other show actual race. Racism in any form is Evil and against their belief! So anyone who depicts the Church” as discriminating is just ill informed. Christ certainly would not preach racism as acceptable. So consider the truth that the idea that one race is “Better” than another is a form of evil, not acceptable of Christian believers.


So explain, how you think they were discriminated against again? Do you think it’s ok to break the law?


Adam Trask

“And Besides, the Christians I know are far from Racist.”


That might be your experience, but I grew up in the church in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Those people were far from tolerant (I remember the congregation being up in arms because one of the families let their boys grow long hair) and while I realize many sects and individual churches have progressed past misogynistic, racist, homophobic and xenophobic attitudes, the Christian church overall, especially in the South, is still filthy with those attitudes.


mazin

We have the appearance of a politically biased DA’s office that limits our ability to successfully prosecute. Gee, maybe justice should be blind. What a concept.