Judge Rules Black Lives Matter Cannot Be Sued

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Black Lives Matter is a social movement rather than an organization and therefore, cannot be sued, a federal judge ruled. 

The ruling comes after an anonymous police officer attempted to sue Black Lives Matter and DeRay Mckesson, a prominent activist. The suit has now been 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, according to The Associated Press.

In his ruling, Jackson compared Black Lives Matter to the Civil Rights movement, the LGBT rights movement and the Tea Party, other social movements "that a person cannot plausibly sue," according to The Washington Post.

The officer's attorney, Donna Grodner, argued during hearings that Black Lives Matter can be sued because it has an organized structure. 

"It's organized. They have meetings. They solicit money. They have national chapters, she said, according to the AP. "This shows a level of national organization."

Mckesson's attorney, Billy Gibbens, disputed Grodner's characterization, saying Black Lives Matter has no governing body or official members. 

"This is a movement, and there isn't a person who is responsible for it, or the leader or the founder of it," Gibbens said, according to the AP. 

The officer was injured by a rock thrown at police during a 2016 protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after the fatal shooting of a black man, Alton Sterling, by a white police officer. 

Mckesson was present at the Baton Rouge protest and was one of 200 protesters who were arrested for obstructing a highway. The officer's lawsuit alleged that Mckesson "incited the violence" and "was in charge of the protest," according to the AP. 

"It is an expected tactic that those in power will try to use the courts to silence activists and organizers," Mckesson told The Post. "I am thankful that the judge did not allow that to happen in this case." 

The officer also attempted to include the hashtag "#blacklivesmatter" in the suit. 

"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," Jackson wrote, according to the AP. 

The officer brought the suit anonymously "for his protection." The AP reports that court filings cited the July 2016 sniper attack in Dallas that killed five police officers and a later attack on officers in Baton Rouge as reasons to protect the officer's identity. 

The officer's attorney has also filed a separate suit against Black Lives Matter and Mckesson for a sheriff's deputy wounded in the deadly Baton Rouge attack. That suit is currently pending before the same judge. 

Sources: AP via WRAL, The Washington Post / Featured Image: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr / Embedded Images: Otto Yamamoto/FlickrPixabay

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