A Louisiana police officer sought to hold Black Lives Matter activist Deray McKesson responsible for his injuries
The Supreme Court handed a victory to Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson as it struck down a ruling that would’ve undermined the First Amendment.
The high court voided a lower court ruling that permitted a Louisiana police officer to move forward with a lawsuit against McKesson in response to a 2016 protest after the death of Alton Sterling, CNBC reports. An officer from Baton Rouge was hit with a rock by a still-unidentified suspect during a protest. The anonymous officer suffered injuries to his brain, teeth, and head.
The officer wanted to hold McKesson legally accountable since he organized the event where the incident took place. A federal appellate court previously granted the officer permission to continue with the suit because “a violent confrontation with a police officer was a foreseeable effect of negligently directing a protest.”
However, the Supreme Court returned the case to the lower courts for further view due to “novel issues of state law,” on Monday. The decision by the justices was 7 to 1. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented and newly appointed Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not take part in the ruling.
“The Louisiana Supreme Court, to be sure, may announce the same duty as the Fifth Circuit,” the justices wrote. However, the justices added, the 5th Circuit should not have “ventured into so uncertain an area” of law that was “laden with value judgments and fraught with implications for First Amendment rights” without guidance from the Louisiana Supreme Court on Louisiana law.
McKesson celebrated the ruling on social media. He characterized it as a “win” for activists who may have been prevented from organizing lest they be held responsible for the actions of others.
“I’ve been in this legal battle since Nov 2016 and the Supreme Court vacated the 5th Circuit decision against me that said that individual organizers can be civilly liable for injuries/damages. This is [a] win for every organizer & activist. Let’s keep fighting,” he tweeted.
The ACLU defended McKesson in the suit claiming that another outcome would’ve had a chilling consequence on speech.
“The Supreme Court has long recognized that peaceful protesters cannot be held liable for the unintended, unlawful actions of others,” said American Civil Liberties Union national legal director David Cole. “If the law had allowed anyone to sue leaders of social justice movements over the violent actions of others, there would have been no civil rights movement. The lower court’s ruling is a threat to the First Amendment rights of millions of Americans.”
However, a representative for the anonymous officer insisted that the 5th circuit “got it right” and the loss was merely due to a technicality.
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