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SLO mayor and SLO County District Attorney at odds over additional charges against protesters

Posted at 10:34 PM, Oct 19, 2020

It’s a war of words between two San Luis Obispo County leaders over the recent treatment of protesters in San Luis Obispo.

Over the weekend, San Luis Obispo mayor Heidi Harmon did not hold back in an open letter to SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow.

This letter comes after six more people were charged in connection to the July 21st protest that went through downtown San Luis Obispo and onto Highway 101.

In her letter, Harmon says in part:

Your Jim Crow tactics will not stand here in SLO. And we, the people of SLO, will not stand idle while our young people are being played like pawns for political gain.

These sentiments were reflected by many of the protesters who came out to Mission Plaza Monday afternoon for a silent demonstration.

"[The announcement of new charges] was not shocking, it was something like: okay, that's the playbook they're gonna use," said protester Michelle Martinez.

"At first it was three Black men who were charged and then to cover it up, [the DA's office] was like three other White people are now being charged. That's ridiculous," said protestor Samantha Smith.

Advocates are calling for all charges for all eight people including Tianna Arata and Elias Bautista to be dropped.

District Attorney Dan Dow released a statement Monday responding to mayor Harmon's letter saying:

It has come to my attention that a local incumbent mayoral candidate pulled a political campaign stunt over the weekend by using my name and office to make preposterous false allegations. The mayoral candidate’s campaign stunt, intended to help her political fundraising, was untruthful as it intentionally misstated facts and fabricated allegations for political purposes. I am proud of the tireless work of my office to protect the people of our county through aggressive and fair prosecution of crime and protecting the rights of crime victims.

It is the duty of the district attorney’s office to thoroughly review every investigation to determine if the evidence proves that a crime was committed. We perform that duty every day without regard to individual characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin or political viewpoint. The mayoral candidate’s dangerous and divisive rhetoric seeks to stir more unrest rather than promote peace and healing in our community. I will never compromise the integrity of this office by using race or public opinion to decide whether or not to file a criminal charge. My decisions will always be based on the evidence and the law.

All of this momentum is building towards Thursday where at least four of the eight protesters will be having their day in court.

A rally is expected to start here outside the courthouse on Thursday at 8 a.m.