People held hostage in SLO were the victims, not the protesters

February 25, 2021

Tianna Arata standing on a highway barrier

OPINION by GORDON MULLIN

Regarding the Feb. 19 Tribune editorial, “Video shows irate driver hitting SLO protesters,” but is it the driver who’s the victim?”

The Tribune’s editorial is about the events of last July when a group of Black Lives Matter protesters decided it would be a good idea to take their demonstration off the streets of SLO and onto Highway 101 and block traffic in both directions.

First, a little background. There had been several prior demonstrations in downtown SLO and of course anyone who followed the news at the time knew of the multiple protests across America. Many were peaceful. Many were violent. The marches in SLO were peaceful for the most part up to July aside from a June 1 demonstration when the police used tear gas to break up the crowd.

To my knowledge, subsequent protests, several of which I saw personally, had the sanction of the city’s cops who would ride ahead of the marchers, close off side streets to through traffic, await till the marchers went by and then open up the roads. I’ve seen it many times at other demonstrations in our downtown, both as a bystander and a participant over the years. It all works smoothly when there are no surprises. No one gets hurt; the inconveniences are small.

But then something different occurred on July 21. The marchers, on their own, without consulting the city cops or the CHP, headed to a highway 101 onramp, poured out onto the freeway and completely blocked traffic in both directions.

Is this still a peaceful march? I guess it would depend on one’s definition of “peaceful.” I say no.

Now, I imagine myself in my car, with my family inside, exiting onto the freeway and into the hands and whims of the protesters. What do I think and what would I do in those circumstances?

First, I note that no one is handing out any leaflets. Obviously, they’re not interested in engagement, discussion nor the exchange of views. But they have lots of signs. From my point of view, they are here to accomplish one thing: to stop me from proceeding on with my day as planned. The people who surround me now control the actions of myself and my family for some indeterminate time.

Am I happy to be captured by these people? No. Am I irate? Yes, and I have every justification to see these events similarly to the driver of the BMW that forced a protester, Sam Grocott, to move aside.

What we have here is a tension between “rights.” The driver’s rights verses Mr. Grocott’s and the other demonstrator’s rights.

Mr. Grocott has the Constitutional right to protest, undeniably. But that right also has limitations in law. No one can or should claim that Mr. Grocott cannot protest peacefully in support of BLM. Indeed, let’s remember, there were several prior marches in the city that largely went off without significant problems. They knew how to protest legally and without detrimental impact on the community.

But, on this day, they decided to ignore the past protocols agreed in discussion with the SLO cops and head out to the freeway to, with intent, stop all traffic on Highway 101.

In my view, that they cannot legally and should not, morally, be able to do.

There’s an old adage that rattles around in my head from time to time. “All dysfunctional behavior that is tolerated, is encouraged” and this is an excellent example.

We, as a society, cannot nor should not allow groups, any groups, no matter how noble they think is their cause, to be able to capture citizens and hold them against their will. This is after all, kidnapping, albeit short term. There are no excuses nor exceptions I can think of.

So, back to the rights of the driver of the van in question. Does a kidnap victim have the right to escape their capture along with their family and positions intact? I say yes, they do. They have every right. The driver has no idea as to how long they will be held captive nor does he know if they will suffer damage to their car or person.

Note they did discover that damage was willingly inflicted by another protester when he hurled his skateboard into the van’s rear window, shattering the window. The van driver’s crime- attempting to break capture.

If you disagree with me, please tell me the limiting factor. Why does the driver not have the right, the agency, to extract himself from a situation where they have been captured against their will?

To understand this principle, imagine you are exiting your home and you find me standing in the middle of your driveway and I say to you “you can’t leave, at least for now, with your car. You can leave it and walk away but you can’t take your family and leave in your car.” Are you OK with that? Do you think that should be allowed? Do you, should you, have the right to get to drive right up to me and continue to drive?  Shove me out of the way? I can voluntarily latch on to your car’s hood and go for a ride but I expect my good sense will kick in shortly and I’ll move aside.

Have I somehow wronged you? Or have you wronged me?

We have here the same circumstance of competing rights. In the case where I am blocking your exit from your driveway, I am probably claiming that my reason, whatever it may be, for blocking your exit is sufficient to negate your right to freely move about in society.

You would perhaps claim I do not have the right to infringe on your right of free movement and you may say that you can exercise agency to reclaim that right I am attempting to take away.

In this imaginary instance, I assert that your rights trump my rights regardless of the reason of my protest.

And in the case of the unnamed driver of the van and Mr. Grocott, in my book the van’s driver’s right to extract himself and his family from the grip of the demonstrators supersedes any claimed rights lost by Mr. Grocott.

On July 21, when the BLM protesters went onto the highway, they gave up many of the civil rights they had just minutes earlier. That’s what happens when you commit a crime.

The driver of the van, especially as the protector of his family, did not lose any rights of action and he, in my view, exercised his rights in a responsible manor regardless of his verbal outrage. He took such action as needed to extract himself and his family from the situation.

Frankly, the only thing that surprises me is there weren’t more drivers exercising those rights as well.

Gordon Mullin is a San Luis Obispo High School graduate who has lived in SLO for 40 years.


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isoslo

We are either a society of laws that are enforced or we aren’t. If we aren’t then good luck collecting taxes.


ridefence123

I can’t believe we are even having this conversation


aye-caramba

The dialogue expresses itself as fighting for social justice, in this case about police brutality…BUT it is much more simple that that..IT IS ABOUT MONEY…raising “awareness” and raising funds

( millions and millions) from those to fuel the circus, line the advocates pockets, create the “civil commissions” and SOLVE NOTHING. It’s an age-old racket. Re-directing “victimhood” for financial gain. The more attention we give this, the more money they can raise. In this instance, Mullen is right, but really, let’s call out what this is, Shaming for Dollars.


shelworth

Breaking the law to promote justice? Almost as stupid as thinking the police are targeting you because of your Race rather than because you are committing a crime.


copperhead

Much more brief to say “your right to flail your arms wildly about ends with my right to not have my nose be punched”.


derasmus

“Willfully obstructing the free movement of a person(s)” , that is the charge in this issue of CCN regarding a SB County construction project. Eight protesters were arrested, cuffed, brought to the County jail then released. Apparently the SB County law enforcement and judicial system handed down a misdemeanor for the action.


Anyway, take a look at the article.


charles805

I have to ask, do you know the difference between a protest and a cause support walk? You walk for breast cancer awarness or autism. You protest nuclear proliferation, equal rights, or police brutality. Protests are not meant to accomodate others or end punctually- as a rule. It’s meant to disrupt and make others uncomfortable. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., two people renown for their peaceful protest, didn’t abide by authorities. They just chose a different method to cause awareness and creat turmoil. The protest of the 60s and 70s weren’t all that peaceful, and they damn sure didn’t end on time. I’m not sure what a male high school graduate version of a Karen is, but you fit that description.


Messkit

Gandhi and Dr. King protested against government laws that were not established to promote peaceful society, but to singularly force minorities to conform under oppression.


No such laws exist in America today, and India threw off the crushing British Crown rule. Your argument is moot.


Also, Gandhi was murdered by his own socialist followers, and Dr. King was murdered by a hard core leftist pornographer who admired and worked for democrat segregationist George Wallace. Democratic Socialism has killed 100 million people in the last 100 years.


Learn history. It won’t hurt as much.


Adam Trask

Seems like you left out nearly 70 years of history—you know, the part where the Democratic Party desegregates the military, passes the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, all of which were endorsed by leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. It also ran the first black American for president and today more than 80% of blacks consider themselves Democrats—what, none of them know history?


You also fail to recognize that as soon as Democrats moved to a progressive position on race, the Republicans (Nixon’s southern strategy) moved away and many former Democrats like Strom Thurmond, an unabashed segregationist, switched parties. It’s no coincidence that what was once the Democratic south is now firmly Republican (or at least for a few more years as cracks are growing such as in Georgia).


Messkit

You seem to throw out 400 years of democrat ideals establishing, promoting, and defending slavery in America. Not to mention, 100 years of denying equality to blacks, after being freed by a Republican, and the institution of slavery destroyed by Republicans in a Civil War, and the establishment of decades of Jim Crow laws by democrats, the KKK founded by democrats, segregation founded by democrats, Planned Parenthood established by a racist eugenicist. And Harry Truman was forced to desegregate the armed forces, in order to push through his massive socialism package of economic and government reforms, because he would have lost much of the Northeast vote had he not.


Also, your poli-sci professor is wrong about the so-called “southern strategy”.


Did I mention that democrats (mostly by Al Gore Sr, Robert Byrd, and Strom Thurmond) filibustered every civil rights act from 1955 to 1965? Strom Thurmond also ran for office as a 3rd party candidate of the “States Rights Democratic Party”. That party should sound familiar, as they were the same mindset of southern democrats that approved seceding from the USA in 1860, in order to maintain and promote slavery. He changed to the Republican party, because he thought the democrats had become less effective as progressives. BTW, not his first party change…


Your arguments, lack any basis of actual fact.


Adam Trask

Um, the “democrat” party was founded in 1828. The rest of your screed is simply nonsense. I mean, what you really want to say is that all those African Americans who consider themselves proud Democrats and have been voting that way since LBJ ran on a platform of civil rights are really ignorant and probably shouldn’t even have the right to vote.


derasmus

Well friend, this “male high school graduate version of a Karen” that you accuse me of being obtained a graduate degree after serving his country as a US soldier, then became a parent, and volunteers in his community. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. But based only on your verbal attack I’d say you seem pretty bitter and perhaps a little ignorant.


mkaney

You know to all the people hating on my comments here.. LISTEN UP.

Here’s what I’m asking you.. I’m asking you do NOT BE DICKS. Seriously. I’m not asking you to support BLM. I am not asking you to vote Democrat (I don’t either). I am not asking you support Socialism (I’m a free market capitalist).

I’m asking you to not be dicks. It’s not that hard. These kids felt like no one is listening, so they blocked a freeway for 20 minutes. ITS NOT THAT BIG OF A DEAL! They don’t pull out guns and hold someone hostage. They didn’t burn down your buildings. They got upset, and they blocked traffic.

Was it smart? No. Was it annoying? Probably. Was it illegal? Sure, it’s not lawful.. So charge them with some misdemeanors. But FELONIES? Ruin these kids’ for THIS?! Is that REALLY what kind of people you are? That’s sick. What is wrong with you?! Just get over it, LET IT GO!


incompingov

There are felony charges now? I thought it was like 11 misdemeanors. But felonies are even better. I hope they’re all convicted and jailed or worse. If they ever try to block my car, I’ll give them the attention you say they’re after and they’ll regret doing it for the rest of their lives.


Cindy

They are charged with misdemeanors, except for the guy who kicked an officer and the guy who broke a car window. They did not block traffic for 20 minutes, they harassed people and blocked traffic almost nightly for three months. They destroyed small businesses, when the owners did not kiss their butts. They purposely targeted small biz owners, ruining their lives work. I blame law enforcement who should have arrested them as soon as they surrounded cars on the highway.


obispan

You try to take me hostage, especially with my wife in labor needing to go to the hospital and you telling me she needs to suffer I’m going to try to get free, by any means necessary. THIS IS TIANA ARATA. The BLM protester hostage takers should consider themselves lucky that the REAL VICTIM did not defend himself with a gun.


womanwhohasbeenthere

I thought these were misdemeanor charges, which is a good move: it’s hard to raise buckets of money to fight misdemeanor charges.


There was a nurse trying to get to work on time, and a woman in labor, who were held captive by these protesters, The nurse probably lost an hour’s pay and has to live with a black mark in her personnel file for being late. I can only imagine the terrifying thoughts going through the pregnant woman’s mind with every contraction.

There was also a little boy in the back seat of the car who had glass shatter all over him. Were I his mother I might have attacked the protesters myself as a raging Mama Bear! They got off lucky!


I would love to see each protester be required to pay reimbursement to the nurse and/ or her employer (hospital?) to show contrition for making her late and the same amount extra for endangering the lives of patients; pay a fine to the charity of choice of the pregnant woman; and reimburse the cost of the shattered back window and that same amount for the pain and suffering for this little boy and his parents. That might be a few thousand dollars each but I think it would be fair to the victims.


slo_full_of_slow_learners

this is both CCN and The Tribunes click bait cash cow at this point. How many times can the same thing be said by the same outlets. It’s just for comments and clicks at this point folks.