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Defendants in BLM protest case speak out after court hearing

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Posted at 5:58 PM, Oct 22, 2020

Four people appeared in court Thursday in connection with a July 21 Black Lives Matter protest in San Luis Obispo but did not enter pleas.

Marcus Montgomery faces charges of false imprisonment, obstructing the free movement of a person in a public place, and resisting or delaying a peace officer. Joshua Powell faces a charge of resisting or delaying a peace officer, and Amman Asfaw faces a charge of false imprisonment.

They were recently added as co-defendants in the case with protest organizer Tianna Arata, who was arrested the night of July 21. She faces 13 misdemeanor counts.

On Thursday, the case was continued until December 3. That continuation includes the gag order requested against the California Highway Patrol and San Luis Obispo Police Department. Attorneys are also looking into a new motion that alleges racial discrimination and asks the district attorney's office to release how many minorities they prosecute compared to Caucasian people.

While this case was continued, activists are hoping to breathe new life into the Black Lives Matter movement as they say support is needed now more than ever.

All four protesters took time to address the charges they're facing in front of a crowd of supporters outside the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse.

"This is for more than just us. Do not forget what we have been protesting for," Powell said.

"We're being persecuted by those who don't believe in our cause, those who are trying every way possible to silence us as if we are still in bondage," Arata added.

Asfaw says his faith has been getting him through this time.

"Mark 13:11 says when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand or premeditate what you will speak. For whatever is given to you in that hour, speak that for it is not you who speaks but the Holy Spirit," Asfaw said.

"I'm a little scared. It's only natural to be. It's more I'm telling myself I have to be because honestly I have such a strong supportive team of people and I am fighting for something I believe in," Montgomery said.

Many speakers at Thursday's rally took shots at SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow.

One of Arata's attorneys, Curtis Briggs, says the DA's office has committed perjury in some of the documents involved in the case.

Advocates are now hoping for Dow to be recalled.

"It will be my job to teach him how to talk to us because he doesn't know how to do that. In his words, racism doesn't exist in San Luis Obispo. What is happening right now?" said Josephine Agoruah.

Organizers say they've made repeated attempts to meet with Dow, writing a letter earlier this week saying they believe transparency in dialogue is needed for an inclusive and safe community.

KSBY News reached out to Dow for comment. He said, "I will continue to my job to the very best of my ability and with the highest standard of prosecutorial ethics."

Three other protesters - Robert Lastra Jr., Sam Grocott, and Jerad Hill - are expected in court on November 16 for charges that include false imprisonment and vandalism.

Another protester who was arrested on July 21, Elias Bautista, has pleaded not guilty to charges of resisting an executive officer and resisting, obstructing or delaying a peace officer. Police say Bautista assaulted an officer during Arata's arrest.