Private SLO County Facebook Groups are Targeting Black Lives Matter Protesters

Aaron Ochs
4 min readJun 12, 2020
Protest Five Cities logo (Source: Facebook)

As San Luis Obispo County residents witnessed an increase in Black Lives Matter protests, a number of private, invite-only Facebook groups have appeared to target peaceful protesters and residents criticizing an Arroyo Grande business’ controversial reaction to the protests.

One of those groups, “Protect Five Cities” was founded on June 2 by Oceano residents Paul and Nicole Karp. The group’s stated mission is “to allow the citizens and business owners of the Five Cities Area to share information regarding the protests and other events taking place in these recently uncertain times.” The administrators asked for discussions respectful with regards to race, political affiliation, sexual orientation and religious beliefs.

Like other “Protect” groups throughout SLO County, “Protect Five Cities” have served as a hotbed for targeted harassment against protesters, residents supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement and government officials. The group grew exponentially in membership once armed men appeared on rooftops during a June 5 protest in Arroyo Grande. The Pit owner John Hackleman told KSBY that he put armed men on the roof of his business after hearing rumors about protests in Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach. Hackleman’s decision drew community outcry. Critics of the move have stated the appearance of armed men on rooftops needlessly intimidated protesters while The Pit supporters have chided critics for attacking the Hackleman’s legal, constitutional rights.

In a Facebook video addressing her constituents, Arroyo Grande mayor Caren Ray expressed displeasure over The Pit’s actions but stated their conduct was lawful.

Prior to the protest, Hackleman stated in a 24-minute long video that all protesters around the U.S. should be held responsible for the actions of rioters, looters and bad actors. He cited as examples looting and vandalism that took place in Santa Monica, San Diego and Santa Maria. However, most of the protests that took place in SLO County have been peaceful. On June 1, a group of individuals broke windows and stole items from Santa Maria’s Town Center Mall. According to the San Luis Obispo Police Dept., a group of teenagers unaffiliated with the protest vandalized a few stores in Downtown San Luis…

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Aaron Ochs

Author, artist, advocate and entrepreneur from Morro Bay, California.