Police Officers Attempt to Hold Black Lives Matter Activists Liable for Other Protesters’ Actions

Following a series of protests in 2016 and 2017, several injured police officers sued the Black Lives Matter movement. In late 2016, for example, a police officer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, brought a lawsuit against Black Lives Matter, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, and DeRay Mckesson, a high profile activist associated with the movement. The officer alleged that he was seriously injured during a protest earlier in the year.

The federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in September 2017, ruling that neither social movements nor hashtags can be sued. The judge suggested that the lawsuit was either a gross lack of understanding of the concept of capacity to be sued, or a bad faith attempt. The judge also ruled that Mr. Mckesson was exercising his rights to free speech and association, and that there was no evidence that he incited violence. Other similar lawsuits were dismissed, but they imposed significant time and cost burdens on the activists who were named as defendants.