As I am sure you have heard, Tianna Arata and Elias Bautista were unjustly arrested during a peaceful protest against police brutality and racism on July 21st in San Luis Obispo. Both Arata and Bautista face felonies, five and two respectively, putting their futures in jeopardy.
Naturally, public outrage ensued across The Internet. Infographics detailing the event flooded Instagram, articles published by Cosmopolitan and other nationally ranked publications covered the issue, and social media influencers like Sarah Baska and Elijah Daniels took to Twitter and Tik Tok sharing each stories of the victims, asking their followers to contact government officials and sign petitions to clear Arata’s and Bautista’s names.
So, what exactly is SLO law enforcement’s reasoning behind the arrests? Well, SLOPD cites two forms of “violence” during the protest: a smashed car window and a skateboard thrown at a vehicle barreling through the crowd. These incidents were somehow enough for police to consider the protest a riot and for Arata and Bautista to be taken into custody.
Despite being the organizer, Arata should not be held accountable for individual protester’s actions nor legally chastised for the broken glass of an SUV, especially the one maliciously headed in her direction. What’s even more disturbing is the irony of the situation. It is laughable that police officers believe arresting, manhandling, and berating protesters during a non-violent protest against police brutality will end the fight. You, officer, are only adding further justification to the cause and proving the point of the protest. For the officers of the SLOPD, it might be worth reflecting — what could look bad about ambushing a non-resisting, non-violent protest organizer with six armed policemen?
Even worse is SLO County officer Ian Parkinson’s tone-deaf statement in response to Tianna’s arrest and the global pandemic. In a piece published by the SLO Tribune, Parkinson considered himself the victim, stating “The only thing I know about prejudice is when I put on a uniform and somebody doesn’t like me because I’m wearing a uniform.” He goes on to claim that “racism is everywhere” but he has “never seen any indication that systemic racism exists in [SLO] county.” To top it all off, Parkinson proudly stated he will not hand out fines to enforce COVID-19 mandates in SLO county and added: “If you choose to wear [a mask] great for you. If you choose not to wear one great for you.”
This is not an isolated incident. Back in June, SLOPD used tear gas, firecracker-like devices, and made arrests against a peaceful crowd of 200 protesters also demonstrating for black lives. In a press conference following the event, Police Chief Deanna Cantrell attempted to justify officers’ actions, claiming “suspected violence” and alleging rocks and water bottles were targeted at police officers. Both allegations lack video evidence, and witnesses claim them to be utterly misinformed.
As a college town with a majority white population, officers like Ian Parkinson, and a history of racism, it is unequivocally necessary that we hold these aggressors accountable. Help clear Tianna Arata and Elias Bautista from their unjust charges by sharing their stories and signing the petitions below. And if you are in the SLO area, attend the Free Tianna Coalition’s “Free Tianna Arata Press Conference and Rally” tomorrow August 25th at 10 am, located at the San Luis Obispo Courthouse (1050 Monterey St.)
Delaney Faherty is .WAV’s Content Editor, she wrote the article. Olive Robertson is a .WAV staff member, she created the graphic.