The Black Lives Matter protest following the police shooting and killing of Alton Sterling in 2016 led to violence causing the injury of a Louisiana police officer. Louisiana’s Supreme Court has decided the officer has grounds to file a lawsuit against protest organizer DeRay Mckesson, reported the Associated Press.
The officer was reported to suffer serious head and facial injuries after someone threw a hard object at him, reported AP News. A federal appeals court had asked the Court if the officer, identified as John Doe, could pursue a federal lawsuit against Mckesson. The Court responded in a 6-1 opinion that he could.
More on the Court’s response from AP News:
“Because it is alleged that Mckesson, with knowledge that such protests could turn violent, staged a protest in direct contravention of law, thereby provoking the police to respond, a person can easily associate the injury to the police officer with the alleged conduct,” Justice William Crain wrote in a concurring opinion.
The case had been through a long federal court path before the state Supreme Court was asked to weigh in. A federal district judge threw out the officer’s original lawsuit. It was revived by a divided panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Mckesson then went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Per AP’s report, the case raises questions about who would be at fault for damages that occur during a protest, which is protected by the First Amendment. There are also questions on whether the state law can be applied to place responsibility on the protest organizer for neglecting to prevent a crime. The Court said state law could be applied there and also allow police officers to collect damages under circumstances like this.
Justice Piper Griffin, the dissenting judge, said if Mckesson is found to have a legal duty in this case, it will have a “chilling effect on political protestors in general” because nothing can keep a “bad actor from attending an otherwise peaceful protest,” reported AP News.
Griffin has a point. All throughout the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, we saw some demonstrators take a violent turn. However, that did not reflect the initial intentions of a peaceful protest. Griffin said courts would see “increased litigation from all sides of the political spectrum,” via AP News.