A judge has granted a restraining order against a Black Lives Matter activist who took his racially charged rhetoric to the law office and home of Los Angeles Police Commission President Matt Johnson.
The intrusion of the activist, Trevor Ferguson, into the commissioner’s private life marked an escalation of a conflict that had previously been confined to public meetings.
Johnson, one of two African American police commissioners, is sometimes singled out by Ferguson and others, who call him a “houseboy” — a derogatory term for a black person who is subservient to whites — amid demands that LAPD Chief Charlie Beck resign and the entire department be disbanded.
The application for the restraining order, filed on Johnson’s behalf by the city of Los Angeles on Dec. 20, tested the boundary between free speech and harassment.
After hearing more than an hour of testimony Wednesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carol Boas Goodson concluded that Ferguson’s intent was not only 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 five-yard distance from Johnson.
In granting the restraining order, Goodson said that “any parent would be concerned,” because Ferguson mentioned Johnson’s son at a Police Commission meeting and subsequently visited Johnson’s home.
The comment at the meeting, which drew a connection between Johnson’s son and African American victims of police violence, was not a threat, the judge said. But combined with the office and home visits, Ferguson crossed a line.
Ferguson, 35, a rap artist and music producer who uses the name Trevor Gerard, is also African American.
Ferguson’s attorney, Nana Gyamfi, said Johnson’s fear of Ferguson was based on race, even though both men are black.
“Matt Johnson showed that he actually is a houseboy,” she told reporters after the hearing. “It’s ridiculous that he used a method and procedure people use to protect themselves from actual violence … to protect himself from embarrassment,” she said.
Ferguson likely will appeal the decision, she added.
After the hearing, Ferguson said, “Great is Allah,” in response to questions.
According to Johnson, Ferguson has mouthed threats at Police Commission meetings, including that he would beat up Johnson and that he would kill Johnson.
On the morning of Dec. 16, Ferguson and about 20 other Black Lives Matter protesters went to Johnson’s Century City law firm, gathering in the lobby, according to testimony at the hearing.
Two days later, Ferguson and about a dozen other protesters went to Johnson’s home in Sherman Oaks.
By Ferguson’s own account, the group stayed in the street, holding signs and posters, while plainclothes police officers guarded the property.
Ferguson said he half-jokingly told one of the officers that he was going to ring the doorbell, and the officer detained him.