LOS ANGELES – Black Lives Matter activist Trevor Gerard said a request for a temporary restraining order recently filed against him threatens his right to free speech and is a diversion from the larger issue of police killings.
The order was filed Dec. 19 on behalf of Matt M. Johnson, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission. The request calls for Gerard to stay at least 100 yards from Johnson, his wife and children, and his home and the law firm where he works.
Gerard said he plans to protest the restraining order at a court hearing on Jan. 10.
“I feel the larger issue is free speech and particularly protest and how it is criminalized and narrowly defines how people are allowed to engage,” Gerard said. “The restraining order itself makes reference to me as a singular person and completely misses the fact that it was part of a group action. There were legal observers there. We never abdicated harm of anyone.”
Johnson, who has been police commission president since September 2015, alleges in the complaint that Gerard stalked him at his home and at the private law office where he works, angrily demanding to speak with him. The City Attorney’s Office filed the restraining order on Johnson’s behalf, one day after a local coalition of activists, including Black Lives Matter L.A. staged a demonstration outside Johnson’s private residence in Sherman Oaks.
In an interview with The Wave, Gerard said he believes the request for the restraining order strips lawful protests of their context and creates a diversion from a much larger issue.
“The LAPD has led the nation in police killings and that is the larger issue that we continue to raise,” he said.
Gerard has been a vocal member of Black Lives Matter L.A. since taking part in the 54-day encampment at City Hall last July. That protest was in response to the L.A. Police Commission’s ruling that the 2015 police killing of Redel Jones, a 30-year-old black woman, did not violate the department’s deadly force policy.
As police commission president, Johnson has advocated for use-of-force policies that emphasize de-escalation and the use of minimal force in encounters with the public. He also has supported efforts to get LAPD to share more information with the public about shootings by officers.
Gerard said he believes that Johnson has exhibited callous behavior towards the community, particularly mothers who have lost their children.
“While they’re crying and visibly grieving, Matt Johnson will be there checking his phone or the commissioners will laugh with each other,” Gerard said. “That type of disrespect for the community is something that I would never stand for nor would be BLM stand for and that’s exactly why we exist.”
In a written statement, Earl Ofari Hutchinson president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, said, “The Police Commission has been the focus of the ongoing fight for police reform, but threats and intimidation against commission members have no place in that battle. The need for a protective injunction sought by commission President Matt Johnson after alleged threats against him is disturbing.”
Johnson did not reply to emails from a reporter requesting comment on the restraining order.