SLO County judge denies gag order in Black Lives Matter cases

June 27, 2021

Tianna Arata, in the center, stomping on a burnt flag

By KAREN VELIE

A San Luis Obispo County judge on Friday denied a request by prosecutors to put a lid on the outspoken defendants and their attorneys in the case against a group of Black Lives Matter protesters who blocked traffic on Highway 101 last summer, held people against their will and allegedly damaged property.

SLO County prosecutors requested the gag order in March, arguing that some of the defendants and their attorneys had sought to use media coverage as a way to reach potential jurors. Since then, defendants Tianna Arata, Robert Lastra, Sam Grocott, Jerad Hill, Marcus Montgomery, Joshua Powell, Amman Asfaw and their attorneys have primarily been out of the spotlight.

Judge Roger Picquet denied the motion for a gag order without prejudice, noting that if circumstances change the court could revisit the gag order request.

“The Court is unable to find at the present time and under the current circumstances that there is a clear and present danger or serious and imminent threat to the right of a fair trial, or any other legitimate interest sought to be protected by the issuance of a Protective Order,” Judge Picquet wrote.

On July 21, 2020, Arata allegedly led approximately 300 protesters onto Highway 101, 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 yelled profanities at some of the drivers, according to videos of the protest.

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 — all misdemeanors.

The district attorney also filed two misdemeanor charges against Hill, three misdemeanor charges against Grocott, a felony charge of vandalism and a misdemeanor charge against Lastra, four misdemeanor charges against Montgomery and one misdemeanor charge each against Powell and Asfaw.

Late last year, Judge Matt Guerrero disqualify the SLO County District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting the BLM cases because “of a clear conflict of interest.” Prosecutors appealed Judge Guerrero’s ruling, which has delayed the cases from moving forward.


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Buchon

This is to be expected. The defendants clearly enjoy the advantages of Black Privilege, as well as plenty of spillover. It’s not only disgusting, it’s insulting, but it is what it is.


Race-baiting Arata and her equally pathetic hanger-oners have done real damage to our local community and they need to pay. There needs to be justice. They won’t be any in my opinion. At least a couple are sure to hang the juries. That’s just the world we live in today.


That said, SLO County is clearly recovering from their hideous efforts to introduce systemic racism into our local community last summer. This win is enough by itself. These race-baiters gave it their best shot and ultimately failed. A pattern I’m sure they’ll repeat, again and again, for the rest of their lives.


Adam Trask

“have done real damage to our local community”


I wonder if you could quantify that damage? Maybe a broken window here or there? Please inform.


Buchon

I’m sure I could. In this case however, qualitative measures are far more important.


Though it has greatly improved, Downtown SLO for instance truly has an edgy, even dangerous feel to it (compared to pre-Arata days), following the protests/riots/displays of entitled stupidity by those inspired by Arata (or is it “Isis”?) and her followers. Some still won’t set foot in DTSLO and that’s sad.


I personally always had a soft spot for legitimate protestors. I admire their pluck. All too often though I find myself at least initially, equating many legitimate protestors with Arata and her posse of race-baiting troublemakers. While that’s ultimately on me to repair, my feelings were wrought through my experience with Arata and company, and their racist-inspired attacks on our local community.


Worst of all though I think the behavior of Arata and her followers have made many question the intrinsic fairness of the justice system. Justice now challenged through the rise of racism as practiced by by those claiming to be “anti-racism.”


paragon

Downtown SLO has an edgy dangerous feel to it? Seriously? I guess you’ve never spent time in any big cities. I frequent downtown SLO regularly and I can tell you that all the clowns that were protesting were a flash in the pan, now gone and forgotten. Try as they might, they did nothing to damage the tame Mayberry feel that SLO has had for decades. The last time SLO was actually a dangerous place was in the 1850s when it was known as “Barrio del Tigre”. The biggest threat these days is an overaggressive meter maid giving you a parking ticket.


The key thing to understand here is that these protestors crave attention, so don’t give them the power or impact they want. By ignoring them and going about your life paying them no heed, you discourage and disempower them, which makes it less likely that they’ll pull similar stunts in the future. Keeping media attention on them only encourages them and gives them what they want.


Buchon

DTSLO has a FAR edgier/grittier feel to it, then it had 2 years ago.


Neither big cities nor SLO in the 1850s changes that fact. Nice attempt to obfuscate though.


Cindy

It appears the only reason several of these protesters are not pleading, with no jail time, is they are seeking fame. Tianna Arata has been thrown out of the Mark, a bar in downtown SLO, three times this year for attempting to drink while under age. She could care less if the owners or bartenders are fined for her behaviors. I wonder if the local media isn’t covering her antics because they are tired of her attention hogging.


paragon

I’d like to know how she even got into the Mark in the first place. They typically have bouncers at the door checking ids. Did she sneak in?


Zoiebowie

They dindoo nuffin wrong.


copperhead

15 minutes of fame feels about over….hopefully.


nunsense

I don’t know about the judge but it makes me gag.


George Garrigues

The photo upset me. This was the flag (with fewer stars) that was carried by Federal troops into Texas for the first Juneteenth. Pass it on.


Rambunctious

When I see those ungrateful children dancing on our flag I’d like to send them on a slow boat to China….


sardonicsentiment

Burning and stomping on the US flag… And you want respect? You want “equal treatment”?


Well that is without a doubt, the wrong way to go about trying to get those things.


I’ll say it again; you teach others how to treat you. Simple.


Adam Trask

My generation, mostly white upper class, burned and stomped on flags in the late 60’s and early 70’s. We were all treated equally.


In fact, if you study the story of the Chicago 7 and the protests surrounding the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, all seven of those instigators were acquitted—and believe me, many American flags were burned or worse. Tom Hayden, one of those men, later became a well respected leader and politician.


Of course, each of those men were white. Blacks who protested, on the other hand, usually did not fare as well.


sardonicsentiment

Then “your generation” should be just as embarrassed and ashamed of their actions. Burning and stomping the flag is a reprehensible act by anyone of any color. How dare such behavior be condoned! Far from acceptable behavior that will only bring about disdain and utter contempt from me.


Poor pathetic choices by both generations.


Adam Trask

More than 50,000 American boys lost their lives in Vietnam, some of them were my friends. In fact, Santa Maria High School, where I graduated in 1966—I was able to avoid the draft because of college—had the largest number of Vietnam casualties for any high school in the nation.


These boys were sold down the road by a fake war concocted by JFK, LBJ and then extended by Richard Nixon. Tiny Vietnam, with a GDP 1,000 times smaller than California’s, was turned into a catastrophe because of the Cold War idiocies of the American ruling class (Democrats and Republicans alike). Vietnam simply wanted its independence from colonial rule, a cause, as Americans, we should have supported.


As the war was escalated in 67, 69 and 71, what were we to do? Protest was the only avenue. And, any nation that would allow this to happen to its best young men, should definitely have its flag burned—you also should be aware that this behavior is sanctioned under the Constitution. Go read some history Mr. Sardonic. Start here:


Why are We in Vietnam, by Norman Mailer

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

A Bright Shining Lie, by Neil Sheehan

In Retrospect, by Robert McNamara


sardonicsentiment

“Protest was the only avenue”. Then protest peacefully without further denigrating our country by burning and stomping the flag.


You cannot fight for peace and freedom can’t be captured.


Adam Trask

Sure, as if a piece of inanimate cloth represents the hopes and dreams of those who fought and died for what it represented.


I saluted the flag after the Civil War, when the villainous southern traitors were defeated.


I burned the flag when U.S. troopers slaughtered some 700 Arapaho and Cheyenne who were peacefully camping on land given to them at Sand Creek, Colorado. Troopers made pouches out of the breasts of the native women.


I saluted the flag after America was part of the coalition that defeated fascism.


But, I burned that same flag when it sent 58,220 Americans to their deaths in an unjust war.


Your patriotism is blind. Open your eyes. There are times to support and there are times to protest. If it means burning a symbol, then so be it.


sardonicsentiment

Why burn it if it doesn’t represent anything? What point is being made? What do you expect from that?


If your support is so fickle, it’s not wanted to begin with.


mazin

Clown to the left of me, Jokers to the right, Here I am, Stuck in the middle


derasmus

So, what’s your point Mazin? Really, not rhetorical.


Do you support the SPECIFIC actions that these folks were charged with last summer. No equivocation please, no wordy interpretation of US history, just a binary choice.


What will it be?


Moderator

derasmus, No one was talking to you/replying, enough with the gatekeeping.


“Please address the Policies, events and arguments, not the person.”


mazin

I don’t support these kinds of actions of these protestors, never have. But, except for the young man who threw the skateboard and the protestor who assaulted, i.e., “kneed” an officer, I don’t support their prosecution. Why make media stars or create felons? The whole event is overhyped, a waste of taxpayer’s money, and difficult prosecutions.

My point is the far left and far right are absurd.


derasmus

Fair enough on the skateboard incident, that was without doubt maybe the most egregious part of it. But do you not also believe that Tiana should face some degree of consequence for organizing the mayhem?


Additionally, what about the civil disruption to downtown businesses and patrons, shouting at diners, shaking down business owners for protection with veiled threats …


This happened. I would agree that they were likely not felonies but these actions, in my opinion, and the folks who perpetrated them, should face some sort of consequence.


mazin

A losing prosecution would further impower.


commonsenseguy

I assume you’re talking about the hate-filled, law breaking insurgent group led by Tianna(privileged)Arata and her attorney’s. If not, it calls to question, who’s really the clown and joker here?


mazin

Both far left and right feed off each other, a symbiotic relationship, a mutual dependency. They need to hold out the other as the “scary one” to rally against. Both extremes grow in tandem. The clown and joker.

In this case, some of the protestors seem to be ideologically hyped into an extreme, not caring about anything else, clownish. The joker is the over reaction on the other side.


derasmus

Hmm..,In my opinion, being able to enjoy a meal at a restaurant with friends and family, I don’t think anything about that expectation is feeding off anyone or any far right or far left political philosophy. Nor do I believe that trying to run a small business downtown is. Both examples, peaceful diners at a restaurant and the restaurant and small downtown business owners are not “clowns” or “jokers.”


In my opinion.