An anonymous Louisiana police officer learned the hard way what many people already know: Black Lives Matter is a social movement that cannot be stopped. After being injured by a rock during a protest of the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge in 2016, the anonymous police officer attempted to sue Black Lives Matter and prominent protestor DeRay Mckesson. But according to The Baltimore Sun, a federal judge ruled Thursday that Black Lives Matter is a movement akin to the Tea Party or the Civil Rights Movement. As such, it cannot be sued, and the case was dismissed.
“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,” U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson wrote in his ruling. Black Lives Matter does not have a leader or founder, a governing body, regulations, or bylaws, or even any fees.
The officer even attempted to add the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter as a defendant, claiming the hashtag as a “national unincorporated association” based in California. "For reasons that should be obvious, a hashtag—which is an expression that categorizes or classifies a person's thought—is not a 'juridical person' and therefore lacks the capacity to be sued," the judge wrote.
“This is a movement, and there isn't a person who is responsible for it, or the leader or the founder of it,” Mckesson’s lawyer, Billy Gibbens, told the judge during a hearing this June.
The police officer sued Mckesson for inciting violence and for being in “charge” of the protest, during which someone threw a rock that injured the officer’s jaw and teeth. However, the judge found that Mckesson took part in “protected speech” only during the demonstrations in July 2016. The judge was able to reach this conclusion using the officer’s claims against Mckesson.
The protest against Sterling's death at the hands of a Baton Rouge police officer led to the arrest of nearly 200 protestors, including Mckesson himself. Nevertheless, the local district attorney decided to not prosecute nearly 100 of those arrested, including Mckesson. In return, Mckesson and other protestors are suing the city of Baton Rouge for what they believe was an infringement on their constitutional rights and for an excessive use of force by the police.
“It's clear that I did nothing wrong that day and that the police were the only violent people in the streets,” Mckesson said Thursday after learning of the judge's ruling. “The movement began as a call to end violence, and that call remains the same today.”