In the United States, social movements cannot be sued. Other organizations and entities can be sued as can individuals but social movements cannot be. Some movements that have not been able to be sued for that reason have been the Tea Party and the Civil Rights Movement. However, the Tea Party has yet to be sued for civil unrest and property destruction.
An anonymous police officer filed suit against Black Lives Matter and DeRay Mckesson, a prominent figure in the black lives matter movement. The suit was filed after a thrown rock hit the officer during a protest in Baton Rouge in 2016. The protest took place after the shooting death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge.
The suit was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Brian Jackson. The Judge held that Black Lives Matter is not an entity and is not able to be sued. In his ruling Judge Jackson wrote, “Although many entities have utilized the phrase ‘black lives matter’ in their titles or business designations, ‘Black Lives Matter’ itself is not an entity of any sort.”
The judge also found that the claims of the officer himself showed that Mckesson, “solely engaged in protected speech,” during the protest in question.
What Does it Mean
This decision will impact future lawsuits against Black Life Matters. This is not the first lawsuit Black Lives Matter has been subject to. Black Lives Matter was also sued in Texas. The judge, in that case, ruled over the summer that there was no support for the “proposition” that Black Lives Matter is an entity able to be sued.
Donna Grodner, the anonymous officer’s attorney, has also filed suit against Black Lives Matter and Mckesson on behalf of a sheriff’s deputy who was wounded when a gunman shot and killed three other officers in Baton Rouge.
That suit is still pending and will also be heard by Judge Jackson. The precedent set by the anonymous officer’s case will likely impact the ruling in the current pending case.