The ACLU asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that, if left standing, would dismantle civil rights era Supreme Court precedent safeguarding the First Amendment right to protest. The petition was filed on behalf of DeRay Mckesson, a prominent civil rights activist and Black Lives Matter movement organizer.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an unnamed Baton Rouge police officer’s lawsuit against Mckesson could proceed. The lawsuit, Doe v. Mckesson, seeks damages from Mckesson for injuries the officer sustained at a protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on July 9, 2016. The protest was held to celebrate the life of Alton Sterling — a Black resident who was shot and killed by two on-duty police officers — and demand accountability and transformative change. Mckesson joined the protest and encouraged others to do so as well.
The officer alleges that, during the protest, one protester threw a rock, which resulted in the officer’s injuries. Mckesson did not throw the rock, nor does the officer allege he did. Instead, the officer’s lawsuit claims Mckesson is responsible for the injuries simply because he encouraged the protest.