The Baton Rouge, La., police officer who anonymously sued both Black Lives Matter and activist DeRay Mckesson will have to seek his legal revenge elsewhere. A federal judge ruled Thursday that Black Lives Matter is a social movement not unlike the civil rights movement or the Tea Party, and therefore cannot be sued.
The police officer filed his lawsuit against BLM and Mckesson last year, after he was reportedly injured during a protest in Baton Rouge after the shooting of Alton Sterling. The Associated Press reports that U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson dismissed the officer’s lawsuit, ruling that Black Lives Matter is an entity incapable of being sued.
In his 24-page ruling, Jackson said that the officer’s own claims demonstrated that Mckesson “solely engaged in protected speech” at the July 9, 2016, demonstration.
Jackson wrote in his ruling, “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.”
The officer’s suit also attempted to add the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter—described as “a national unincorporated association” based in California—as a defendant, but Jackson ruled that a hashtag cannot be sued, either.
“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.
Donna Grodner, the attorney representing the officer in the lawsuit, also has a separate lawsuit filed against Black Lives Matter and Mckesson on behalf of a sheriff’s deputy who was wounded by the gunman who shot and killed three other law-enforcement officers in Baton Rouge last summer. That case, which is pending before Judge Jackson, alleges that BLM and five of its leaders incited violence that led to the deadly ambush.
While making an earlier argument that Black Lives Matter should be held accountable, Grodner said, “It’s organized. They have meetings. They solicit money. They have national chapters. This shows a level of national organization.”
After hearing about the ruling, Mckesson said Thursday: “It’s clear that I did nothing wrong that day and that the police were the only violent people in the streets. The movement began as a call to end violence and that call remains the same today.”
Read more at the Associated Press.