SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Hundreds of people came out to support Tianna Arata during a press conference and rally in San Luis Obispo Tuesday morning.
The rally was held at the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse and was organized to demand that city and county leaders “Free Tianna.”
“We are respectfully asking (District Attorney) Dan Dow to reject this charges for what they are,” said Curtis Briggs, one of Arata’s attorneys. “These charges are fabrications. Tianna’s behavior was not illegal that day. It may have been offensive to some people depending on what side of the political aisle you are one, but this is not criminal conduct. She did everything right.”
The Bay Area attorney led off the event with a passionate plea for the citizens of San Luis Obispo to “keep a open mind,” and to hear “the real facts, not what (Police Chief) Deanna Cantrell put out in the media.”
Briggs called for the immediate firing of Cantrell.
He said the chief’s action are “vile” and “reckless,” and that she acted in retaliation of Arata.
“The City Council should initiate an investigation into her conduct immediately,” said Briggs. “She’s perjured herself in documents she submitted to the District Attorney’s office. She is as bad as it gets right now.”
Arata was arrested following a protest she organized in San Luis Obispo on July 21.
After starting at Mitchell Park, protesters later marched throughout the city before moving onto Highway 101, blocking traffic in both directions for about an hour.
According to a police press release, “protesters stopped and surrounded a vehicle at Monterey and California before moving toward downtown and returning to Mitchell Park. Some individuals were also observed chasing down and throwing objects at a vehicle.”
Later, the San Luis Obispo Police Department recommended eight criminal charges against the 20-year-old.
“The facts are Tianna Arata was arrested for her own actions, for her own behavior, for her own decision,” said Cantrell during a virtual press conference with City Manager Derek Johnson after Tuesday’s rally. “She broke several laws. She committed several crimes. She recorded herself committing those crimes and the police department’s job in part is to be a victim’s advocate, and to not only uphold the First Amendment right of peaceful protesters, but everybody in the community.”
The chief also strongly disagreed with Briggs allegation, and defended her actions.
“I would say that those claims are absolutely unequivocally false,” said Cantrell. “I certainly have not perjured myself. I have great integrity.”
Cantrell added she is proud of her tenure with department, which began in 2016, noting she has done an “exceptional job” over the last four years.
“I’m a relatively progressive police chief when it comes to change and when it comes to reform, and when it comes to community and relationships, and in particular, relationships with our marginalized communities,” said Cantrell. “I am also responsible for public safety. I am responsible for the safety of all the people in San Luis Obispo, and upholding the rights of all the people, those who are protesting, those who are not.”
For more than an hour, about a dozen speakers voiced their support of Arata, including her mother.
“This is about love,” said Michelle Arata. “This is not political. This is a human rights issue, and how dare they take it to a political level. This is a human rights issue. Racism is a human rights issue.”
Arata also spoke briefly during the rally, but did not formally address what took place on July 21.
“My passion, my goal, and my energy is to directed towards enacting change. This is not something that can come from divisiveness in the ideology of separateness,” said Arata. “There’s always going to be moments that emphasize hopelessness and makes us question why we’re here, but you’re showing right now that we’re here as a community. We are stronger.”
Dow is currently reviewing the charges recommended by the police and is expected to make a decision sometime before Arata’s next scheduled court appearance on Sept. 3.
“I expect he will file and then we will amplify our efforts to try and get the message out there to counteract the negative and false facts that have come out,” said Arata. “We’ll be out there trying to make sure the SLO jury stays fair and impartial because we want the system to work. We believe the system can work here and we believe a jury trial is the way vindicate Tianna Arata.”