As the final days of 2016 tick away, the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement still remain. This year, the movement was a consistent part of the news cycle as peaceful protests and rallies spread across the country. These events were in response to the police shooting deaths of unarmed Black men that included Alfred Olango, Terence Crutcher, Deravis Caine Rogers, Gregg Gunn and many others. In Atlanta and other cities, protests included walking onto busy expressways in a massive group and halting the flow of traffic. In some cities, this form of peaceful protest was met by activists being deliberately struck by vehicles and having weapons pulled on them by unsympathetic drivers. Across the county, the BLM movement was portrayed as a violent, terrorist organization despite the movement’s non-violent action and philosophy. During the 2016 election cycle, President-elect Trump helped spread the falsehoods against the movement, allowing him to tap into the psyche of White fear of Blacks.
This is being played out currently in Los Angeles where BLM leader Trevor Gerard has had legal action taken against him by Matt M. Johnson, the president of the Los Angeles Police Commission. Johnson has a policy for an overhaul of police use of force rules that focuses on de-escalation. Still, this has not stopped the continued issues of policing in the Los Angeles area. According to Gerard, “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…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.”
This week, Johnson took out a temporary restraining order against Gerard, stating that he feared for his life and the safety of his family. Gerard and other BLM activists at one point had a protest encampment outside Los Angeles City Hall and were verbally confrontational to officials including Johnson at city meetings. But activists in the BLM movement also went to Johnson’s private law office where he has a profitable entertainment law practice. In the complaint, Johnson alleges that Gerard stalked him at his home and office where he works, angrily demanding to speak with him. He 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 denies these allegations and stated to media it was part of a politically motivated attack. But Johnson states in his restraining order request that Gerard made threats at commission meetings. The complaint allegesm “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 denied that he made such a threat and stated that what he actually mouthed was “bitch-ass houseboy” to Johnson. Gerard is well known for disrupting meetings and at a November 2016 meeting he stated during the public comments portion, “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.”
The commission president has had Gerard ejected from meetings on multiple occasions and he now faces pending criminal trespass charges. Gerard must remain 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 that Gerard stay at least five yards away from Johnson during public meetings.