The president of the Los Angeles Police Commission has filed a request for a temporary restraining order against a prominent member of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, alleging a pattern of stalking and violent threats. According to the order, the commission president feared for his life and the safety of his family.
The Black Lives Matter activist, Trevor Gerard, denies the allegations, which he says distort the truth and are politically motivated.
Matt M. Johnson, who's 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. Johnson also alleges that Gerard mouthed violent threats to Johnson from the audience at board meetings and made threatening statements, including “a gratuitous reference” to Johnson’s children.
Gerard, 35, says the commission president deliberately took statements and actions of his out of context in retaliation for Black Lives Matter L.A.'s confrontational style of activism. “I never told him that he should be afraid of me,” Gerard tells L.A. Weekly. “I never told him to meet me outside. I never threatened him with any kind of physical violence. ”
The City Attorney's Office filed for the restraining order on Johnson's behalf on Dec. 19, one day after a local coalition of activists, including members of Black Lives Matter L.A., staged a demonstration outside Johnson’s private residence in Sherman Oaks. Two days before the restraining order was filed, on Dec. 17, the activists gained entry to the entertainment law firm in Century City where Johnson is managing partner.
“The people who sit on the commission board largely have acted as a rubber-stamp body for the extreme levels of violence that LAPD has been engaging in,” Gerard says of the impetus for the decision to protest at commissioners' homes and businesses. “And they have become too comfortable with the way that we're forced to engage them in that meeting space, which is in the LAPD headquarters itself.”
In Johnson’s request for a restraining order, he states that Gerard entered his law office on Dec. 17 but does not mention that Gerard was part of a group of activists there staging a protest, as Gerard claims. Similarly, the restraining order states that Gerard arrived outside Johnson's home unannounced, “apparently attempting to find me.” But it does not mention that Gerard arrived as part of a group of demonstrators with signs.
Gerard was arrested by LAPD officers at Johnson’s house and briefly held in custody. He says no charges have been filed, though LAPD told him the investigation for criminal trespass is pending. LAPD was not immediately able to comment on the investigation
Johnson did not reply to emails from L.A. Weekly requesting comment on the restraining order. A representative from the L.A. Police Commission told L.A. Weekly that Johnson is away from the office on vacation. The City Attorney’s Office, which filed the request on Johnson’s behalf, declined to comment on the complaint.
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 has been a vocal member of Black Lives Matter L.A. since taking part in the 54-day encampment at City Hall in 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.
Gerard frequently attends commission meetings and speaks during the public comment time, often addressing members of the commission directly, even abrasively. (He has addressed Johnson at board meetings using the epithet “houseboy.”)
Johnson's request for a restraining order states that Gerard’s comments at board meetings “are almost always angry and hostile.” In it, Johnson alleges that Gerard made statements both in public comment and from the audience “that I should be scared of him and that I should meet with him, apparently not while in a board meeting.” Gerard denies this.
Elsewhere in the restraining order request, Johnson states that Gerard mouthed threats to him from the audience while the board meeting was in progress. As Johnson states in the complaint: “These comments include 'I’m going to beat your ass' and ‘I am going to fucking kill you.’ These threats were made while he was looking directly at me, but because he did not speak them aloud, there was no recording.”
Gerard denies this as well, telling L.A. Weekly that the exact words he mouthed to the commissioner were “bitch-ass houseboy.”
Johnson ordered police to escort Gerard from a board meeting on Oct. 11, determining that Gerard's comments during the public comment period had strayed from the agenda item under discussion. Gerard maintains he was ejected for disclosing to the public an admission that Johnson made at a community meeting that the board has no disciplinary power over the police.
Several of the boisterous encounters between Johnson and Gerard described in the complaint are available in the video archives of police commission meetings and on YouTube. For instance, what Johnson refers to in the complaint as Gerard’s gratuitous reference to his children appears in the video of the Nov. 1 board meeting.
“Matt Johnson has four children, one of whom I understand is a boy. God forbid, Matt Johnson, that you ever have to suffer at the hands of men like Charlie Beck. … God forbid you have to sit in this audience and suffer because your boy was just another nigger in the crosshairs.”
Gerard has been dismissive of the commission for contributing to what he calls “the zero-accountability culture” in the LAPD, particularly on the issue of fatal officer-involved shootings. L.A. has had more of those shootings than any other city in the country.
Johnson’s restraining order request calls for Gerard to stay at least 100 yards away from Johnson, Johnson’s wife and children, and his home and the law firm where he works. Additionally, it would require Gerard to stay at least five yards away from Johnson during public meetings, though he may still address the Board of Police Commissioners during the public comment time.
Gerard says he plans to contest the restraining order at a court hearing on Jan. 10.