DOWNTOWN — He goes out nearly every weekend, carrying the same red and yellow double-sided sign, marching up and down the same block of Santa Monica Boulevard, handing out leaflets about his grievances against a local pub.
Since November of 2007, F. Daniel Gray has been staging one-man weekend protests of Ye Olde King’s Head, standing in the 200 block of Santa Monica Boulevard, hoping to tell passersby the story of how the former public school teacher from Los Angeles was asked to leave the British restaurant the previous year.
He is currently forced to stay at least 100 yards away from the restaurant because of a restraining order.
Gray said he was watching the World Cup final between France and Italy in July 2006 at the restaurant when an employee asked him to leave, saying that he was creating a disturbance.
“I was just sitting there,” he said. “I said, ‘according to law, you have to give me a reason.’”
“He said ‘you leave or I will have you arrested.’”
After leaving the restaurant, Gray said he contacted the Santa Monica Police Department but wasn’t successful in getting an officer to respond to the dispute. Still upset over the incident, Gray said he began corresponding via e-mail with the owner, who reportedly responded in one of the messages that someone had observed the customer push a woman at the restaurant.
“I said, ‘you accuse me of a crime,’” Gray said. “You accuse me of being a criminal … and that is slander.”
He filed a lawsuit claiming that the restaurant had made defamatory statements, litigation that was subsequently thrown out of court after a judge reportedly found the case to have no merit. That was when he began the protests.
“I have lies that have been told about me,” Gray said.
In September 2008, a Santa Monica Court judge issued the restraining order. The order expires on Sept. 1, 2011.
Gray is no stranger to protests. He said he was fired from a teaching job with the Los Angeles Unified School District after carrying a sign that claimed the vice principal was racist. Gray unsuccessfully appealed the job termination.
Yaron Tilles, the attorney representing Ye Olde King’s Head, said that while he could not comment on the specifics of the defamation lawsuit, Gray was asked to leave because he was causing a disturbance.
“That matter has been litigated and has been resolved,” Tilles said. “Mr. Gray took it up on appeal and the trial court dismissal was upheld on the appeal as well.”
The restaurant has also filed its own defamation claim against Gray. Tilles said he could not comment on either the restraining order or claim.
“Ye Olde King’s Head is exploring and pursuing all of its rights and remedies within the law to address it,” he said.
For now, Gray continues his weekend protests, always carrying the same sign.
“I’m saying beware, there is poison available at Ye Olde King’s Head,” he said. “I’m not talking about food, I’m talking words.”