Federal judge rules that Black Lives Matter can’t be sued

Protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement hold up signs as they gather in Union Square in New York City on July 9, 2016. A federal judge ruled this week that the movement cannot be sued. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

Sept. 28 (UPI) — A federal judge in Louisiana has ruled against an anonymous police officer trying to sue the Black Lives Matter movement.

The unnamed Baton Rouge Police Officer brought the suit after he said was hit by a rock-like object and suffered serious injuries during protests over the police-involved shooting death of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old man who was shot dead while officers pinned him to the ground in 2016.

The officer sued Black Lives Matter and associated activist DeRay Mckesson, who, the officer claimed in court documents, “incited the violence.” The officer said Mckesson and the movement should have “should have known that the physical contact[,] riot[,] and demonstration that they staged would become violent.” Middle District of Louisiana Chief Judge Brian Jackson dismissed the suit against Mckesson and Black Lives Matter.

In dropping Black Lives Matter from the suit, Jackson wrote that it represents a “social movement that … lacks the capacity to be sued.”

“The Court also notes that Plaintiff’s attempt to bring suit against a social movement and a hashtag evinces either a gross lack of understanding of the concept of capacity or bad faith,” Jackson wrote. In a proposed amendment, the officer tried to add “#BlackLivesMatter” to the suit.

Addressing Mckesson’s role in the protests and subsequent lawsuit, Jackson wrote the activist was exercising “his constitutional right to association and that he solely engaged in protected speech at the demonstration that took place in Baton Rouge.”

The officer failed to show Mckesson “authorized, directed, or ratified specific tortious activity,” Jackson wrote.

Mckesson told CNN that the lawsuit indicates existing problems in Baton Rouge.

“All of this highlights the need for deep, deep changes in the city of Baton Rouge.” Mckesson said. “It is not a new tactic that people try to use the courts to silence activists and organizers. I am happy that the judge dismissed the lawsuit and understood I had no part in the officer’s injuries.”


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