BATON ROUGE — A U.S. district judge is expected to determine if a Louisiana police officer's lawsuit against Black Lives Matter can proceed.
An unidentified Baton Rouge officer filed suit last November against Black Lives Matter and one of its leaders, DeRay Mckesson, for injuries he sustained at a Black Lives Matter protest in Baton Rouge after the death of Alton Sterling.
Sterling, an African-American man, was shot and killed outside a convenience store in July 2016, igniting protests from Black Lives Matter.
In the lawsuit, the officer claims he was struck in the face with a piece of concrete that was thrown during the protest, causing injuries to his jaw and brain and knocking out some of his teeth.
The suit accuses Mckesson, the self-described leader of Black Lives Matter, of inciting the violence, but not throwing concrete.
Mckesson was one of 200 activists arrested.
The lawsuit sparked the debate as to whether Black Lives Matter is a movement or an organization that can be sued.
Mckesson’s attorney, William Gibbens, argues that Black Lives Matter does not have a governing body, bylaws, or dues, and therefore is a movement, not an organization.
U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana heard arguments on June 14 on whether to dismiss the police officer’s lawsuit against Black Lives Matter.
"Black Lives Matter is an organization,” Bill Quigley, law professor and director of the law clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans, told the Louisiana Record. “Like any organization, members of the Black Lives Matter organization can be sued if there is proof that they injured anyone.”
The attorney for the officer, Donna Grodner, argues that Black Lives Matter is an organization because it holds meeting, has chapters and solicits money.
“In this case, there does not seem to be any realistic chance that the organization [Black Lives Matter] could be found liable for any damages,” Quigley said. “In the law, anything is possible, but I think most lawyers would think there is close to no chance that the courts will rule in favor of the officer."