A federal judge dismissed a case filed by an anonymous Baton Rouge, LA, police officer against Black Lives Matter leaders on Thursday. In his decision, U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson ruled that Black Lives Matter was a movement, akin to the civil rights movement, that couldn’t be sued.
Jackson’s ruling came in a case brought against DeRay Mckesson and Johnetta Elzie, among other Black Lives Matter leaders, by a police officer who was injured by a rock thrown at a police brutality protest in Baton Rouge, LA, last year.
Black Lives Matter, Jackson wrote, wasn’t an entity capable of being sued. “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,” said Jackson.
Jackson also ruled that the officer couldn’t sue a hashtag, which he apparently tried do by adding #BlackLivesMatter to the list of defendants, the Associated Press reported. “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.
The unnamed officer was injured in protests that followed the death of Alton Sterling, a black man who was fatally shot by a white police officer in July, 2016. Mckesson, who was present at the demonstration, acted well within his rights of protected free speech, according to the judge.
Another case against Black Lives Matter is pending, however. It was filed by the same unnamed officer’s attorney, Donna Grodner. Jackson will also hear that suit, which alleges Mckesson and Black Lives Matter leaders incited the violence that led to the fatal shooting of three police officers in Baton Rouge, LA, last summer.