A federal judge has ruled that Black Lives Matter is a social movement rather than an entity and therefore cannot be sued, dismissing the complaint against the group and one of its activists by a Louisiana police officer.
“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,” US District Judge Brian Jackson said in a 24-page ruling Thursday, according to AP.
Jackson was addressing a lawsuit against DeRay McKesson and the movement, filed earlier this year by a Baton Rouge, Louisiana police officer who wished to remain anonymous “for his protection.”
The officer sued BLM and McKesson following an injury he suffered to his jaw and teeth on July 9, 2016, when a rock was thrown at him during a rally McKesson attended in Baton Rouge. Protests had broken out after the shooting death of a 37-year-old black man named Alton Sterling at the hands of two white police officers, who were not charged in the incident.
McKesson was responsible for the injury because he “incited the violence,” at the rally, the officer’s complaint said. Judge Jackson disagreed, writing that the activist “solely engaged in protected speech” at the rally.
The complaint against McKesson does not explicitly state that he threw the rock that injured the officer. It does, however, say that the activist “was in charge of the protest” and was seen giving out orders to demonstrators.
“It’s clear that I did nothing wrong that day and that the police were the only violent people in the streets,” McKesson said after the ruling. “The movement began as a call to end violence and that call remains the same today.”
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McKesson, a former Minnesota school teacher who turned to activism in 2015, was one of almost 200 protesters arrested at the July 9 rally. The prominent activist was detained near Baton Rouge police headquarters on a charge of obstructing a highway. However, local authorities later declined to press charges against McKesson and 100 other protesters who were arrested along with him.
Thursday’s ruling may spell bad news for a Baton Rouge sheriff’s deputy who was wounded when a gunman shot and killed three other law enforcement officers in that Louisiana city on July 17, 2016. His lawsuit also names Black Lives Matter and McKesson as the defendants, and Judge Jackson will also preside over the case.