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Tianna Arata
Tianna Arata at a BLM rallyvia

Tianna Arata: BLM activist facing 15 years in prison for peaceful protest

Thousands are demanding the release of Arata, who was arrested after organising a peaceful protest against police brutality

Thousands of people have signed petitions demanding the release of Tianna Arata, a 20-year-old Black Lives Matter activist who’s been imprisoned for 15 years for arranging a rally in California against police brutality. After a demonstration last Friday (August 7) protesting the charges, the hashtag #FreeTianna went viral on Twitter, as more people attempted to bring attention to the case. Videos of Arata’s arrest have been widely circulated online.

“Tianna is seen as a leader in the eyes of all of us here today. She brings all of us together,” one unnamed protester, a friend of Arata’s who witnessed her arrest, told local media at last week’s demo. “It’s not easy seeing someone you love, someone you respect, your friend, being basically ambushed... that shit is not easy.” The protest garnered over 300 locals, who chanted: “Hey you, Dan Dow. Drop the charges right now.” Dan Dow is the District Attorney for San Luis Obispo, California. Placards calling for Arata’s release were held aloft as speeches were made to the crowds. More demonstrations in solidarity with Arata are expected to take place before court proceedings.

Here’s what you need to know.


Arata is a 20-year-old activist from San Luis Obispo, California. She was arrested by local police at the end of a five-hour Black Lives Matter protest that she organised. The San Luis Obispo PD wants county prosecutors to charge Tianna with five felonies and three misdemeanours related to her July 21 arrest.

Chief deputy district attorney Jerret Gran said that the police department wants a total of eight charges against Tianna: four felony counts of false imprisonment; one felony count of conspiracy; one count of resisting or obstructing a peace officer, a misdemeanour; one count of inciting a riot, a misdemeanour; and one misdemeanour count of unlawful assembly.


Arata was arrested by police in San Luis Obispo, California, after a protest she organised reportedly resulted in vandalism. According to a statement released by the police department, the police chief contacted Arata to ensure the protest would be peaceful. They claimed that the march – which began at Mitchell Park – moved towards Highway 101, blocking traffic for nearly an hour. They said that the rear window of a passenger car was smashed, with glass falling onto a four-year-old passenger in the back seat.

After the protest, police arrested Arata on charges of participation in a riot, unlawful assembly, conspiracy, unlawful imprisonment, and resisting arrest, which could result in her facing up to 15 years in prison. In a video of her arrest, several officers can be seen forcing her into a police car, with 15 (!) police cars present.

“It’s deteriorating me,” Arata told local news outlet The Tribune. “Mentally as well as physically because I don’t get good rest. I’m waking up in the middle of the night.”

“I just turned 20 last month, there’s so much that I want to accomplish,” she said. “And I’ve been through so much struggle in my life that dealing with this, it’s just, like, I want to be able to overcome it and to go on to the new steps of my life.”

“It’s frustrating because I don’t necessarily see why all of this is being slammed onto me,” she added. “I’m trying to build bridges. I’m trying to help people.”

A GoFundMe campaign alleges the following: “During the protest, a car ambushed Tianna’s body, almost hitting her. She was terrified and used whatever was in her hands to hit the car and protect herself. Instead of finding the person who tried to hit her, the San Luis Obispo police department arrested Tianna for rioting, unlawful assembly, conspiracy, unlawful imprisonment, and resisting arrest.

“There are also videos that show that Tianna was not resisting arrest. The San Luis Obispo police department has targeted her, throwing her whatever charges they could possibly get away with.”

Footage via a protester on Twitter appears to show the vehicle touted to have a child in the backseat accelerating into protesters first. Eyewitness reports shared on social media contest the police’s account of the car incident, with multiple claiming that demonstrators only reacted to attack the car in defence, after the vehicle had rammed the crowd.


Swathes of people are speaking out to condemn police holding Arata legally responsible for the actions of all protesters. Some claim that Arata is being punished for simply being an organiser. Supporters have been calling on San Luis district attorney Dan Dow to drop the charges, with protesters gathering in front of the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse on Friday (August 7).

The arraignment date is currently scheduled for September 3. According to the Tribune said: “Prosecutors will now have to decide whether each charge is merited, and if so, whether they feel they can prove each charge beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury.”

 On Monday, #FREETIANNA was trending widely on Twitter, and it continues to trend locally. There’s a petition to support Arata, which has received over 70,000 signatures, and a GoFundMe account has been created to help cover her legal fees.