SAN LUIS OBISPO — San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow issued a statement Friday evening regarding the arrests of two people following a Black Lives Matter protest that blocked Highway 101 in both directions Tuesday evening for more than an hour.
San Luis Obispo Police Department officers arrested Tianna Arata on suspicion of participation in a riot, unlawful assembly, conspiracy, unlawful imprisonment and resisting arrest after the protest concluded. The decision to arrest Arata was made in coordination with the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office based on Arata’s actions and the actions of the organized group.
During the Arata arrest, a San Luis Obispo PD officer was allegedly assaulted by Elias Bautista, who was subsequently arrested. The officer suffered minor injuries.
Dow issued the following statement Friday evening:
“I know that many in our community are very interested in this situation. At this time, I would like to respectfully ask all who are concerned to please be patient and allow us to complete our duty in a fair, thoughtful, and thorough manner. Our obligation is to be objective and to not make charging decisions on the basis of public opinion.
“Please know that it is premature for the District Attorney’s Office to make any determination on the case that is currently being investigated by the San Luis Obispo Police Department regarding the facts of the arrests of Ms. Tianna Arata and Mr. Elias Bautista. Once law enforcement agencies have concluded their investigation(s), they will likely refer the case(s) to our office for review.
“Only at that time will we be able to conduct our independent evaluation of the evidence and make a factual determination of whether criminal charges should be filed in Court.
“It would be inappropriate and counterproductive for this office to provide an opinion at this time based on social media posts or media reports that may or may not be borne out by the evidence (facts) gathered in the pending investigation(s). We will carefully and thoroughly examine all of the evidence submitted before making any final determination.”
Early Monday morning, the City of San Luis Obispo became aware of a planned, peaceful protest on Tuesday. The San Luis Obispo Police Department immediately began reaching out to group organizers to ensure the protesters’ safety and the community’s safety.
Police Chief Deanna Cantrell contacted protest organizer, Arata, before the event and was ensured the event at Mitchell Park would be peaceful.
City officials concluded the protest on Tuesday resulted in significant public safety risks for protesters and community members. The City stated it supports peaceful protests and the expression of free speech, “but actions that put the safety of the public at risk cannot be tolerated and detract from the ability for voices to be heard at this important time.”
The protest began at 4 p.m. at Mitchell Park and, at approximately 5:15 p.m., transitioned to a march of about 300 people through the downtown area.
The protesters entered Highway 101 and blocked all lanes in both directions for nearly an hour. Law enforcement resources were limited based on expectations of a peaceful protest, according to SLOPD. While on the freeway, protesters reportedly damaged the hood of a car and smashed the rear window where a 4-year-old child was in the back seat and had glass shattered on him.
Shortly after 7:10 p.m., the protest left the highway using the northbound California Boulevard exit and moved toward Monterey Street. Protesters reportedly stopped and surrounded a vehicle at Monterey and California before moving toward downtown and returning to Mitchell Park. Some individuals were reportedly observed chasing down and throwing objects at a car.
The group returned to Mitchell Park at approximately 7:30 p.m., where they continued to hold the protest until dispersing at around 8 p.m.
Subsequent peaceful protests have been held in SLO this week.