deray mckesson the latest target of anti-blm police retaliation
By Erin White
May 2, 2019
High-profile Baltimore-based organizer, DeRay Mckesson, is the latest target of systematic criminalization of social justice and Black Lives Matter activists by law enforcement.
As President Trump has demonstrated and The Atlantic points out, public advocacy of violence and public protest are protected by the First Amendment. Unless clearly intended to cause immediate violence to occur. Which, in 2016, was doubled down on the Sixth Circuit when protestors from a Trump 2016 presidential rally sued the president for “incitement to riot”.
During a rally in Louisville, then-candidate Trump called for protestors to be removed from the event, “Get ‘em out of here!”
He instructed to security we can only assume, “Don’t hurt ‘em!” in that glib Trump-y way. But protestors were hurt. They were assaulted by Trump supporters as they were led out.
Fast-forward several months to July 2016 when a group of Black Lives Matter activists shut down a freeway in Baton Rouge in protest of the July 5th killing of Alton Sterling. McKesson was one of more than 100 protestors arrested that night. During the action, a Baton Rouge officer was allegedly hit with a hard object, resulting in, what he says, was “loss of teeth, a jaw injury, a brain injury, a head injury, lost wages, and other compensable losses.’” Now, he’s suing DeRay and the entire BLM movement claiming “Mckesson did nothing to prevent the violence or to calm the crowd” and that he “incited the violence.”
The complaint filed by the anonymous officer, John Doe, frames BLM as a violent nationwide conspiracy, among other things, but somehow fails manages to mention any alleged words spoken or actions taken by Mckesson that could have led to the violence in Baton Rouge. The complaint reads, “Black Lives Matter leadership ratified all action taken during the protest. DeRay Mckesson ratified all action taken during the Baton Rogue protest.”
The lawsuit was dismissed by a federal district judge in September 2017, noting that plaintiffs cannot sue an entire social movement. In regards to Mckesson the judge concluded that “The only public speech to which Plaintiff cites in his Complaint is a one-sentence statement that Mckesson allegedly made to The New York Times: ‘The police want protestors to be too afraid to protest.’” Words that “do not advocate—or make any reference to—violence of any kind.”
Last week, though, the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the case — no hearing or oral arguments. Just the reinstatement after a panel on the same court held the case back in 2017.
“The 5th Circuit decision is disappointing and could have wide-reaching implications about the right the protest. I’m currently exploring all legal options and plan to formally respond to the Court’s ruling soon,” Mckesson tells AFROPUNK.
The hypocrisy of the criminal justice system and the standard to which activists and citizens are held compared to politicians is startling, to say the least. If Mckesson is guilty of inciting violence, what of the police officers who have been documented doing just that? Paid time off, I guess.
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