From a pandemic to racial unrest, 2020 has been a year that few will forget. 

2020 is the year that the coronavirus took the lives of over 1.5 million people across the globe. The year that the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd sparked Black Lives Matter protests and reinvigorated the movement for racial justice. The year that California experienced one of its worst wildfire seasons in history, burning 4,359,517 acres across the state. The year that the United States faced an extremely polarized election. 

Mustang News Staff was there to capture the events that affected the San Luis Obispo community this year — both before and after the pandemic. These photographs reflect on the monumental events that mark 2020 a year like no other.

Editor’s Note: The dates referenced in the caption do not necessarily reflect the dates the photos were taken. 


Jan. 7, Cal Poly. Transgender students could begin receiving Hormone Replacement Therapy on campus through the Health Center. Emily Merten/Mustang News

Jan. 18, Mitchell Park. Thousands of people gathered for the Fourth Annual San Luis Obispo Women’s March. Themed “The Time is Now,” marchers advocated for showing up, speaking up, voting, running and leading. Andy Sherar/Mustang News

Jan. 21, Montaña de Oro. Montaña De Oro was opened for fracking by the Bureau of Land Management. Jack Sann/Mustang News

Jan. 30, Mott Athletics Center. Days after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant, Men’s Basketball Guard Junior Ballard wrote “R.I.P. Kobe” and “I’m meant for this” in honor of the late basketball star. Diego Rivera/Mustang News

Jan. 30, Mott Athletics Center. Men’s Basketball pulled out a 101-100 overtime win over CSU Fullerton with a last-second point by Colby Rogers. This marked Head Coach John Smith’s first game against his former team and Smith didn’t hesitate to celebrate the win with fans after the game. Diego Rivera/Mustang News


Feb. 1, ASI Multi-Activity Center. Universities traveled to compete in Cal Poly’s 13th Mustang Ball, an annual ballroom dancing competition. Kyle Calzia/Mustang News

Feb. 6, Mott Athletics Center. Cal Poly was forced to vacate records after the NCAA upheld the decision to punish the program for misusing textbook scholarships. Kyle Calzia/Mustang News

Feb. 16, Salt River Fields, Scottsdale. In an MLB4 Tournament game against #1 Vanderbilt, Cal Poly Baseball upset the defending champions with a 9-8 walk-off win. Cole Cabrera (right) tied the game at 8-8 with a deep sacrifice fly-ball and Tate Samuelson (left) capped the 9-8 comeback with a pop-up that allowed Elijah Green to score the walk-off run against the defending national champions. Kyle Calzia/Mustang News

Feb. 21, Performing Arts Center. Chris Burkard, a local award-winning photographer and documentarist, held an exclusive screening for his short film “Under an Arctic Sky” at Cal Poly. Connor Frost/Mustang News

Feb. 22, Performing Arts Center. United in Movement, formerly known as Urban Movement, held the second annual Illuminate show. The show sold out the Performing Arts Center with 1,300 tickets sold and showcased 200 dancers. Kyle Calzia/Mustang News


March 1, Camp San Luis Obispo. Students from various schools brought innovative solutions to the annual SLO Hacks hackathon to win prizes from company sponsors and receive guidance from their representatives. Caroline Silva/Mustang News

March 12, Honda Center, Anaheim. One day after Cal Poly Women’s Basketball emerged victorious over UC Irvine to advance to the semifinals of the Big West Tournament, the Big West Conference suspended all sports due to coronavirus. The sudden announcement cut the women’s run in the tournament short. Kyle Calzia/Mustang News

March 18, San Luis Obispo. The City of San Luis Obispo closed all bars, breweries and wine tasting venues, and limited restaurant operations to pick-up only due to increasing cases of COVID-19. Chris Gately/Mustang News

March 30, Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) Recreation Center. Work began on the ASI Recreation Center as an alternate care site for COVID-19 patients. Andy Sherar/Mustang News


April 2, French Hospital Medical Center. Nurses held a vigil after fifteen healthcare workers tested positive for COVID-19 in San Luis Obispo. Diego Rivera/Mustang News

April 4, ASI Recreation Center. As the ASI Recreation Center remained prepared for COVID-19 patients, San Luis Obispo County recorded the first death to COVID-19 in the county. Andy Sherar/Mustang News


May 20, San Luis Obispo. San Luis Obispo County expanded COVID-19 testing so that anyone — whether or not they have symptoms — could be tested in Paso Robles. Connor Frost/Mustang News

May 20, San Luis Obispo. San Luis Obispo County was allowed to move through the later phase of stage two of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Resilience Road Map, which reopened more in-person services including retail stores and dine-in restaurants. Sofia Clark/Mustang News

May 30, Mitchell Park. Hundreds of protestors gathered in Mitchell Park in solidarity with George Floyd. A string of protests were sparked by the death of Floyd in Minneapolis less than a week earlier. Diego Rivera/Mustang News

May 31, San Luis Obispo. Former Police Chief Deanna Cantrell (right) and local activist Tianna Arata (left) walked together as community members marched in protest of racial inequality in San Luis Obispo. Diego Rivera/Mustang News


June 1, San Luis Obispo. A San Luis Obispo police officer watched on as activists protested against police brutality. The protest ended with law enforcement deploying tear gas, firecrackers and rubber bullets into the crowd after previously warning protestors to disperse. Diego Rivera/Mustang News

June 4, San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly Football quarterback Jalen Hamler stood in the center of a peaceful protest. Hamler and several other Cal Poly athletes were often at the forefront of the protests and gatherings throughout June. Diego Rivera/Mustang News

June 8, San Luis Obispo. Marking the sixth protest in San Luis Obispo in ten days, protestors marched through downtown San Luis Obispo with a “Black Lives Matter” banner. Carolyne Sysmans/Mustang News


July 15, San Luis Obispo. The state ordered more business closures in San Luis Obispo, including gyms and fitness centers, hair salons and barber shops, nail salons, massage parlors, tattoo parlors, indoor malls and offices for non-critical infrastructure. Other activities were also limited, which included places of worship and indoor protests. Andy Sherar/Mustang News

July 21, San Luis Obispo. Local activist Tianna Arata was arrested by the San Luis Obispo Police Department after a Black Lives Matter protest. District Attorney Dan Dow later charged her with 13 misdemeanors, including five counts of false imprisonment, six counts of obstruction of a thoroughfare, one count of unlawful assembly, and one count of disturbing the peace by loud noise. Diego Rivera/Mustang News


August 22, San Luis Obispo. The arrest of activist Tianna Arata gained national attention. A petition demanding District Attorney Dan Dow drop the charges against Arata garnered over 500,000 signatures, which caught the attention of national media outlets such as Cosmopolitan and Complex. Dow would later be removed from Arata’s case in December due to a conflict of interest. Marcus Cocova/Mustang News

Aug. 24, ASI Recreation Center. The ASI Recreation Center partially reopened for outdoor use, requiring a reservation to use the facilities. Emmy Scherer/Mustang News


Sept. 21, San Luis Obispo. In response to local Black Lives Matter protests, the City Council’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force looked to begin their work to combat racial inequality in San Luis Obispo. Connor Frost/Mustang News

Sept. 27, Pirate’s Cove. Sixty-one students confessed to participating in a large social gathering without face coverings or social distancing. Kate Karson/Mustang News


Oct. 22, San Luis Obispo County Courthouse. At a rally in support of Tianna Arata during one of her court appearances, a protestor holds up a sign displaying a Black Lives Matter fist symbol. Kyle Calzia/Mustang News

Oct. 29, Doerr Family Field. Cal Poly Athletics continued to work hard to sustain practices for multiple teams, including Cal Poly football. Less than a week later, football began full-pads practices, marking another crucial step in the hopeful return of games in the 2020-2021 athletic year. Kyle Calzia/Mustang News

Oct. 29, Cerro Vista Dorms. Cal Poly used Cerro Vista’s Romauldo building to isolate COVID-positive students and residents in quarantine who had possibly been exposed to the coronavirus. The university did not communicate its use of Romauldo to the 649 residents living in the other five Cerro Vista buildings. Emilie Johnson/Mustang News

Oct. 31, San Luis Obispo. Students found creative ways to celebrate Halloween despite the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and gathering restrictions. Kate Karson/Mustang News


Nov. 7, San Luis Obispo. Community members celebrated in the streets of Downtown San Luis Obispo after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were announced as President-Elect and Vice President-Elect of the United States. Kylie Kowalske/Mustang News

Nov.25, Maples Pavilion, Stanford. Women’s Basketball returned to play against #2 Stanford, being the first Cal Poly team to compete since they last played in the Big West Tournament on March 11. During play at Stanford, Gianna Silvestri watched on, while donning a mask and staying six feet apart from her other teammates on the bench. Kyle Calzia/Mustang News


Dec. 11, San Luis Obispo County Courthouse. Judge Matthew Guerrero removed District Attorney Dan Dow from Tianna Arata’s case due to a conflict of interest. Three men — Amman Asfaw, Marcus Montgomery and Joshua Powell — were also a part of the case for their participation in a July 21 protest.  Marcus Cocova/Mustang News

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