The District Attorney’s Office charged three more protestors who participated in the July 21 Black Lives Matter Protest.
After Tianna Arata’s defense team formally requested a dismissal of the charges against her, the District Attorney’s office responded by amending the complaint and charging three young Black men in relation to the events that occurred during the Black Lives Matter protest on July 21, 2020, according to the amended complaint filed by the District Attorney (DA’s) office Thursday Oct. 15.
The District Attorney’s office is still charging Arata 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. Now, 24-year-old Marcus Montgomery, 22-year-old Amman Asfaw and 23-year-old Joshua Powell face similar charges.
Asfaw, an electrical engineering graduate student, was recently appointed chairperson of San Luis Obispo City’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force, according to a press release from Cal Poly’s College of Engineering. He is also President of Cal Poly’s National Society of Black Engineers.
Now, he is charged with the false imprisonment of “occupants in 2012 white Honda sedan at the intersection of California Boulevard and Montgomery Street,” according to the DA’s Complaint.
According to the amended complaint, Montgomery is charged with false imprisonment, resisting or delaying a police officer and obstructing the free movement of any person in a public place. Powell is charged with delaying two police officers.
Of the roughly 300 protest participants, four Black residents, all in their early 20’s, have been criminally charged.
In response to all defendants in this matter being young Black people, Arata’s attorney Curtis Briggs said, “it illustrates the point we are trying to make.”
The three men and Arata will appear at the San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Oct. 22 to hear Judge Matthew Guerrero’s ruling, according to the demurrer.
The charges against the three men are a response to Arata’s demurrer, filed on Thursday, Sept. 17. After the demurrer was filed, the prosecution had until Thursday, Oct. 15 to respond. The DA responded by amending the complaint to include three more defendants in addition to Arata.
The demurrer argues that the 13 misdemeanor charges against Arata should be dropped because they violate her first amendment rights.
The demurrer challenges the validity of the charges against Arata because she is being held individually responsible for the actions of hundreds of people who attended the protest. It also mentions that she is the only person being charged.
The DA has amended the complaint by adding Montgomery, Asfaw and Powell as Arata’s co-defendants.
The amended complaint seeks to strengthen the prosecution by addressing one of the defense’s arguments in the demurrer. According to the demurrer, Arata was being singled out by the San Luis Obispo Police Department and DA’s office because she was the only individual being held criminally liable for the events that occurred. In response to this, the DA chose to charge more protesters.
Briggs said that he and fellow defense attorney Patrick Fisher anticipated that the DA would charge more people.
“I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to advance civil rights,” Briggs said. “When the dust settles and the smoke clears, we are going to end up doing so much more for Black Lives Matter.”