Arata arraignment postponed again, attorney to challenge her charges

Tianna Arata standing on a highway barrier

By CCN STAFF

Attorneys for San Luis Obispo BLM protest leader Tianna Arata are seeking to have her charges of disturbing the peace, obstruction and false imprisonment dismissed, asserting her actions are protected under the First Amendment and that she is a victim of targeting.

Arata appeared in court for the second time Thursday morning. And again, Judge Matthew Guerrero continued her arraignment hearing, this time so the defense can file a demurrer. If the pleading is approved by the judge, the case will be tossed.

Shortly afterwards, Arrata attorney Patrick Fisher filed the pleading which asserts Arrata did not know that what she was doing was wrong, and that “imposing criminal liability would severely chill lawful assembly and freedom of speech.” In addition, Fisher claims former SLO police chief Deanna Cantrell targeted Arata because she “is an outspoken and charismatic young Black woman,” according to the pleading.

“Chief Cantrell retaliated against Tianna to cover for Cantrell’s incompetence and tried to turn Tianna into felon, recommending multitude of felony charges and defending those recommendations in the media,” according to the pleading. “The arrest and prosecution of Tianna is not even remotely ethical.”

Earlier this month, prosecutors charged Arata with 13 misdemeanors: one count of unlawful assembly, one count of disturbing the peace, six counts of obstruction of a thoroughfare and five counts of false imprisonment. Arata has yet to enter a plea in the case.

On July 21, Arata led approximately 300 protesters onto Highway 101, blocking all lanes in both directions for nearly an hour. While on the highway, protesters blocked drivers trying to exit the freeway, including a father attempting to take his pregnant daughter to the hospital.

In one incident on the highway, a protester threw a skateboard at the back window of a car. The window shattered, with pieces landing on a 4-year-old boy, who was unharmed. Protesters claim the driver had hit a protester. 

On Thursday, Arata appeared in court on a Zoom conference call with attorney Patrick Fisher, who said he planned to file the demurer later in the day. 

Fisher made the announcement a day after the San Luis Obispo Police Department announcing it had cited two Black Lives Matter protesters for obstructing traffic. The citations stem from an incident in which protester blocked traffic while they demanded prosecutors drop all charges against Arata.

Unlike her first court appearance, on Thursday protesters did not rally outside the courthouse. Judge Guerrero scheduled the next court hearing for Oct. 22.

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