UPDATED 8/12 5:36 p.m. ET: California officials have addressed the supposed misinformation surrounding Tianna Arata's arrest.
On Monday, the district attorney for San Luis Obispo County released a statement that laid out key details about the case. DA Dan Dow said county officials had yet to decide whether they would pursue criminal charges against Arata, and denied the claims she was facing more than a decade years behind bars.
"Recent social media posts and other media reports state that Ms. Arata faces 15 years in prison for her conduct," the statement read. "This is patently incorrect and a reckless statement. Due to public safety realignment (AB 109) signed into law in 2011, the charges referred are only eligible to be sentenced to a term in county jail, not state prison. Although the San Luis Obispo Police Department has listed numerous charges that they believe the evidence supports, the decision of what charges to bring is completely within the authority and responsibility of the District Attorney. All individuals charged with a crime are legally presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law. Therefore, it is premature to speculate or discuss what possible sentence would be appropriate or warranted."
Arata was arrested on July 21 while leading a Black Lives Matter protest that allegedly turned violent. Police Chief Deanna Cantrell claimed Arata lead about 300 protesters onto Highway 101, where they blocked traffic and began striking vehicles. According to the San Luis Obispo Tribune, authorities claimed demonstrators had smashed a window to a vehicle that was occupied by a 4-year-old; they also say Arata hit a car with a flag pole; however, protesters say the drivers of both vehicles drove into the demonstrators before they were struck.
Arata was ultimately booked on four counts of false imprisonment, one felony count of conspiracy, resisting or obstructing a peace officer, inciting a riot, and unlawful assembly. Her attorney Patrick Fisher told KSBY he is hopeful that the DA will choose not to file criminal charges against his client.
"We are hopeful that, ultimately, our District Attorney's Office will decide that a criminal case against Tianna Arata is not warranted so that this community and this inspiring person, Tianna Arata, can begin to recover from her arrest and its aftermath," he said. "The public attention this situation has attracted is understandable when one considers that what happened to Tianna hurts all of us. The arrest of peaceful protesters offends our country's core values."
See the original story below.
Thousands have united behind the cause of calling attention to the disheartening case of Tianna Arata, a California protester who was arrested in July and now faces a litany of preposterously harsh charges.
Of the multiple charges the San Luis Obispo Police Department is asking the District Attorney's Office to bring against the 20-year-old activist, five of them are felonies. Per regional outlet KSBY, the potential charges include inciting a riot and false imprisonment, among others.
A protest headed by Arata on July 21 against police brutality notably included the temporary blocking of Highway 101.
In a statement shared immediately after the protest in question, police claimed they had made contact with Arata prior to the demonstration to discuss methods of keeping the protest peaceful.
"The City of San Luis Obispo supports peaceful protests," Police Chief Deanna Cantrell said, "but we will not support violent acts and will continue to take action to protect our community." Activists and supporters have disputed police's account of how the day proceeded, particularly with regards to blame being placed on Arata for incidents including a damaged vehicle window.
Furthermore, law enforcement's handling of Arata's arrest has been widely condemned, including in a recent piece from the San Louis Obispo Tribune editorial board that assesses police's actions as being focused on carrying out a campaign of "vindictiveness" that will only "further divide" the region.
"There are eyewitness reports and video evidence of motorists driving into groups of protesters, but we've yet to hear whether any action will be taken against them," the board said, adding that there should be concern surrounding the fact that the narrative is being shifted to paint drivers as "blameless victims."
At the time of this writing, a petition calling on the District Attorney's Office to not pursue charges had garnered nearly 100,000 signatures. Furthermore, supporters have started calling for justice for Arata using the #FreeTianna hashtag, as well as by sharing a LinkTree page that lists a number of ways people can get involved.