The above photo landed a community activist in a hot water with Inglewood Unified School District county administrator Dr. Erika Torres. Torres filed a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the activist for what she described as a “threat on her life” for his posting these posters in front of district offices. 2UrbanGirls was able to reach the district’s legal team who declined to confirm whether Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. or Inglewood Police Chief Mark Fronterotta assisted with getting the TRO granted in record time.
Community activist Morris Phillips was profiled by the Los Angeles Wave newspaper, in September 2020, due to his peaceful protest of the NFL not doing enough to help Inglewood students.
“What we want right now is for those seven banks and the L.A. Rams and L.A. Chargers to provide $25 million to get the Inglewood school district out of state receivership,” said Morris Phillips with CommunityBenefitsAgreement.com.
Phillips pointed to the media blitz given that NBA owner Steve Ballmer pledged a $100 million community benefits package to the city and school district, while Los Angeles Rams owner offered residents access to parks on the Hollywood Park project.
“Stan Kroenke put his generational wealth and invested it here in a nine-square mile city and the stadium was supposed to cost $1.8 billion that ended up costing $5 billion plus,” Butts said. “His return on investment is stretched out so far beyond whatever he could have expected, but still he’s here and he’s pledged his family to be here.”
“Everybody is not situated similarly. The Clippers Arena costs $1.8 billion tops, so everyone is not the same, every billionaire is not the same and just to say they did, you did that. That’s just not fair,” Butts said.
Phillips contacted the Inglewood Police Department (IPD) on March 15 to make them aware he would be peacefully protesting at the district offices.
Phillips states that shortly after arriving and posting the photos on a tree, IPD showed up, and placed handcuffs on Phillips and detained him.
He cites officers Dotson and Manning as the officers who came out to assist with Torres’ pleas for “help”.
Mayor Butts publicly thanked Dotson, the grandson of District 1 Councilman George Dotson, for arriving in time to save the mayor as he was writhing on his office floor during a nearly fatal heart attack.
According to the TRO, Torres called Chief Fronterotta stating “I view Mr. Phillips public display of my photograph depicted as a threat to my life”. The document is written in Torres’ handwriting and she did not say that Phillips actually made threats on her life.
Because Phillips posed no direct threat to Dr. Torres, he was released from their custody.
2UrbanGirls reached David Orbach, with the law firm Orbach Huff Suarez & Henderson LLP, to ascertain whether the TRO was an infringement of Phillips right to freedom of speech.
“The District encourages the community to exercise their rights under the First Amendment. However, the First Amendment does not give an individual the right to threaten the personal safety of another person,” said Orbach. “This individual began making the threats which led to the TRO after the District declined to enter into a consulting contract with him.”
Orbach provided a copy of the unsolicited proposal for media outreach services.
2UrbanGirls initiated a public records request seeking a copy of the police report filed by Dr. Torres.
The date the TRO was issued was peculiar.
The Inglewood Courthouse issued the TRO in a matter of hours, on March 15, after Phillips first presented himself to protest at the district’s office. The public is aware appointments are needed to be in the court due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Questions to Orbach inquiring how they obtained the TRO on the same day, the name of the issuing judge, and whether Mayor Butts or Chief Fronterotta assisted with the speedy granting of the document went unanswered.
Torres publicly reprimanded former IUSD advisory board member D’artagnan Scorza for comments he made during a national interview on Mayor Butts, but allowed a Latino principal to remain on the district’s payroll, through the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, after he was investigated and found to be calling Black staffers “monkeys“.
Torres isn’t the first district administrator who was afraid of minorities while serving IUSD. Dr. Brann attempted to hire himself personal security because he didn’t know enough about Inglewood and “didn’t want to get hurt here”.
Are Mayor Butts and Chief Fronterotta using IPD personnel as Torres’ personal bodyguards?