Victory for Tianna Arata as judge kicks SLO County DA Dan Dow off the case

A San Luis Obispo County judge ruled on Friday, Dec. 11, that SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow was hopelessly biased against Black Lives Matter organizer Tianna Arata and co-defendants and would not be able to try their case through his office.

The decision from Superior Court Judge Matthew Guerrero pointed to politically-motivated appearances on far-right media and events as an influence for the decision, but most narrowly a fundraiser email that Dow’s wife sent to his supporters that showed clear bias against the Black Lives Matter movement. In the email, Dow’s wife said he was “leading the fight” in the local response to the “wacky defund the police” and BLM movement, which the judge said illustrated a “clear conflict of interest.”

I discussed the whole story during my regular Friday evening livestream on YouTube and Twitch on Dec. 11 (see above), and am glad that Dow has now been outed as a rightwing ideologue by a Superior Court judge no less. It’s something I was arguing months ago after viewing Dow’s actions against Arata and Black Lives Matter activists who blocked Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo in July.

Law enforcement has a clear rightwing political bias, and even beyond Dow they attempted to use their power for political means against organizers and activists in SLO. I also spoke with activists who witnessed a car drive into protestors before a skateboard was thrown at the car, shattering its back window. The SLO branch of the CHP dishonestly portrayed what happened as just an attack on the car. The SLOPD also mischaracterized the actions of activists who hit a car with signs and a flagpole while ignoring that the car was accelerating into people.

I see the decision by Judge Guerrero as a victory for Arata and her friends and fellow activists, of course, but it still remains to be seen whether the California Attorney General’s office will decide to pursue charges. Either way, it is a win for First Amendment rights by putting a far-right ideologue like DA Dan Dow in his place and disqualifying him from pursuing a politically-motivated attack on young protestors.


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Published by Joe Payne

Joe Payne is a lifelong resident of the Santa Maria Valley who teaches music, performs, and tunes pianos ( He's also a seasoned journalist who shares his own reporting and opinion on matters local and national (

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