- The Washington Times - Monday, November 2, 2020

The Supreme Court on Monday sided with Black Lives Matter organizer DeRay McKesson in a case in which the activist argued he should not be held legally responsible for violence that occurred during a 2016 protest that resulted in a police officer suffering brain damage during a brutal attack.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier that Mr. McKesson could be held liable for negligent conduct that precipitated the violence. The high court disagreed and let him off the hook in a 7-1 opinion published Monday.

Mr. McKesson organized a demonstration four years ago in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, over a police shooting that killed Alton Sterling, who was shot during an arrest when he reached for a gun in his waistband.

Mr. McKesson allegedly instructed protesters to gather on the highway in front of police headquarters. When police moved to arrest the group, a demonstrator threw a chunk of concrete that struck an officer, knocking out teeth and inflicting brain trauma.

Despite the violence, Mr. McKesson and other Black Lives Matter activists were invited to the White House after the protest to meet President Obama and discuss law enforcement in Black communities.

The unnamed officer sued Mr. McKesson for negligent conduct in organizing the protest which resulted in the assault. The individual who threw the concrete chunk remains unidentified.

The district court ruled that the First Amendment protected Mr. McKesson against the negligence claim, but the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision.

On Monday, though, in an unsigned opinion from the Supreme Court, the justices remanded the case back to the lower courts for further proceedings, siding with Mr. McKesson.

The justices reasoned the federal appeals court should have considered precedent from Louisiana law and the state’s Supreme Court.

“We conclude that the Fifth Circuit should not have ventured into so uncertain an area of tort law — one laden with value judgments and fraught with implications for First Amendment rights — without first seeking guidance on potentially controlling Louisiana law from the Louisiana Supreme Court,” the Supreme Court’s unsigned opinion read.

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the court’s ruling. His dissent was not included with the opinion, which only noted that he disagreed.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the high court last week, did not weigh in on the matter.

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