A Los Angeles Black Lives Matter activist was hit with a civil restraining order Wednesday after being accused of threatening the president of the Los Angeles Police Commission.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the city sought the restraining order against activist Trevor Ferguson (also known as Trevor Gerard), who, according to court documents, allegedly targeted commission President Matt Johnson at public meetings and referenced Johnson’s children.
Both Johnson and Ferguson are black. Ferguson has denied the allegations.
From the Times:
But Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Carol Boas Goodson granted the restraining order, saying that “any parent would be concerned” by Ferguson’s mentioning Johnson’s son at a Police Commission meeting and then visiting Johnson’s home.
After more than an hour of testimony from Johnson, Ferguson and others, Goodson concluded that Ferguson’s intent was not to protest but to “incite fear.” The restraining order requires Ferguson to stay away from Johnson and his family. Ferguson can continue to speak at Police Commission meetings but must keep a 5-yard distance from Johnson.
A temporary order with the same restrictions has been in effect since Dec. 20.
The Times reports that after the hearing, Johnson said that he supports the First Amendment but that Ferguson had gone too far.
“The right to protest has led to tremendous gains for people who look like myself and Mr. Ferguson,” Johnson said. “It’s something I deeply respect. But there is a line, and for me that line is when you threaten the safety of my family. Like any father, I’m not going to apologize for taking steps to protect the safety of my family.”
Nana Gyamfi, Ferguson’s attorney, told the Times that Johnson’s fear of Ferguson is based on race.
“It’s ridiculous that he used a method and procedure people use to protect themselves from actual violence ... to protect himself from embarrassment,” Gyamfi said.
Gyamfi also said that the restraining order’s impact goes beyond Ferguson and could erode First Amendment rights for other protesters.
“By the time you look up, your rights have been gutted,” Gyamfi said. She added that Ferguson will likely appeal the decision.
Ferguson told The Root that Johnson originally attempted to get a criminal restraining order against him but that that request was denied. He said he could only guess why, but he noted that criminal restraining orders require real evidence, not hearsay, which makes up a large portion of Johnson’s request. Civil restraining orders are easier to get.
Ferguson said that Johnson and the city have a fight on their hands.
“I think maybe they thought we would just lay down, but if you kick the hornet’s nest, there is always consequences,” Ferguson said.
More from the Times:
In a court declaration, Johnson alleged that Ferguson made a “gratuitous reference to his children” at a November Police Commission meeting and stated at another meeting that Johnson should be scared of him.
At various meetings, Ferguson has mouthed threats to Johnson, including that he would beat up Johnson and kill him, according to the declaration. Because the threats were not spoken aloud, there is no recording of them, the declaration said.
Ferguson told The Root that each time he is at the lectern speaking, it is recorded, which is standard procedure for all Police Commission meetings. There are no recordings that show Ferguson mouthing any threats to Johnson.
More from the Times:
According to Johnson’s court declaration, the reference to his children occurred at a Police Commission meeting Nov. 1.
In an official audio recording of the meeting, Ferguson stated that Johnson has four children, one of whom is a boy. Ferguson then drew a connection between Johnson’s son and African-American victims of police violence, saying he hoped Johnson would not become a grieving parent.
“You have not only chosen the side of men like Charlie Beck and [Mayor] Eric Garcetti, you have chosen to be their errand boy,” Ferguson continued. “So run, boy, and tell your masters: The city is ours now.”
Johnson’s declaration cited another incident from the Dec. 13 commission meeting. Ferguson made statements during public comment and from the audience that Johnson should feel scared of him and suggesting that the two men meet outside of a board meeting, the declaration said.
On the official audio recording of the meeting, Ferguson spoke about crime and the community before stating: “Ultimately, I know you guys don’t care—and I see the houseboy Matt Johnson over on his phone or whatever, like this.”
Ferguson then referenced human rights abuses and the lawlessness that might result from “zero accountability.”
“When 4 million people realize how [messed up] you are, you will not be able to stop that tide,” he said. “And it’s coming. And it’s coming for all of you.”
None of that sounds like Ferguson making an actual personal threat to Johnson.
In his declaration, Johnson cited two separate instances in which he claimed that Ferguson showed up at his home and his place of business. Ferguson said that Johnson left out the part where there was an entire group of activists present in both cases, and not just Ferguson by himself.
Ferguson was detained by police at the protest in front of Johnson’s home but was released without any charges being filed.
Ferguson told the Times that the activists sought Johnson out at his home because speaking to him at Police Commission meetings was no longer effective.
“We felt the people on the board were allowed to be complicit in violence, basically to be a rubber-stamping body,” Ferguson said. “It was time to engage them in other spaces, where the playing field was more even.”
Read more at the Los Angeles Times.