Posted on April 25, 2024

US Supreme Court Rejects Black Lives Matter Activist’s Appeal Over Protest Incident

Andrew Chung, Reuters, April 15, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday allowed a Black Lives Matter activist to be sued by a Louisiana police officer injured during a protest, opens new tab in 2016 in a case that could make it riskier to engage in public demonstrations {snip}

In declining to hear DeRay Mckesson’s appeal, the justices left in place a lower court’s decision reviving a lawsuit by the Baton Rouge police officer, John Ford, who accused him of negligence after being struck by a rock during a protest sparked by the fatal police shooting of a Black man, Alton Sterling.


The 5th Circuit’s decision to allow Ford’s lawsuit could make it easier to sue protest leaders for the illegal conduct of an attendee – an outcome that, according to some legal scholars, could stifle activism seeking political or societal change.


Ford was among the officers assigned to make arrests of protesters on a public highway. He was struck in the face by a rock or piece of concrete hurled by an unidentified person, losing teeth and suffering head and brain injuries {snip}

Ford’s lawsuit, seeking monetary damages, argued that McKesson should have known from his actions leading the protest that it would turn violent.


The 5th Circuit rejected an argument that the lawsuit was foreclosed by a 1982 Supreme Court ruling involving Black civil rights activists in Mississippi limiting liability for protest leaders over the conduct of others when they are involved in actions protected by the First Amendment.

A dissenting 5th Circuit judge, Don Willett, invoked Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march in 1965 from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, drawing attention to the disenfranchisement of black voters. {snip}