GOP Judges Launch Bizarre Attack On Black Lives Matter And The First Amendment

Written by Ann Brown
Black Lives Matter
In this July 9, 2016, file photo, Police officer arrest DeRay Mckesson for blocking Airline Highway during a protest in Baton Rouge, La. A Baton Rouge police officer who claims he was injured during the protest after a deadly police shooting filed a lawsuit Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, against prominent Black Lives Matter activist Mckesson. (AP Photo/Max Becherer, File)

Is it okay for some to have free speech and others not to? That’s what some are asking after a recent ruling by three Republican judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

A Black Lives Matter organizer was recently sued for “negligently” leading a protest at which someone else became violent.

“On July 9, 2016, a group of Black Lives Matter activists blocked the highway in front of the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police-department headquarters to protest the July 5 killing of Alton Sterling. Someone threw a hard object at police, injuring a Baton Rouge Police Department officer, who later reported ‘loss of teeth, a jaw injury, a brain injury, a head injury, lost wages, and other compensable losses,’” The Atlantic reported.

Baltimore-based Black Lives Matter organizer DeRay Mckesson was arrested as were more than 100 others. An anonymous officer, referred to as John Doe in the lawsuit, sued Mckesson and the entire Black Lives Matter movement. Court papers alleged that as an organizer of the protest “Mckesson did nothing to prevent the violence or to calm the crowd” and that he “incited the violence.”

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The case went to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and an opinion handed down by three Republican judges some say disregards the First Amendment rights of protesters. The opinion sided with the police officer saying his lawsuit against McKesson can move forward. This limits the right to protest and opens the door for police to actually sue protesters. The opinion said: “The First Amendment does not protect violence.”

The three-judge panel decision in “Doe v. McKesson” “effectively strips First Amendment protections from protest leaders who commit minor offenses, ignoring long-standing Supreme Court precedents in the process,” Think Progress reported.

But the Atlantic questions by another court sided with Donald Trump in a similar case.

When during a campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 1, 2016, Donald Trump pointed to a group of protesters and shouted “Get ‘em out of here,” adding, “Don’t hurt ‘em.” And Trump supporters went on to assault the protesters as they were led out of the rally.

After being attacked, the protesters later sued Trump for “incitement to riot.” And at that time, a panel of the Sixth Circuit dismissed the claim. They wrote in the opinion that Trump’s speech to “encourage unlawful acts” was not “sufficient reason for banning it.”

The judges found that even if Trump wanted to incite violence, the First Amendment still protected him, unless “the words used specifically advocated the use of violence, whether explicitly or implicitly.”

This is completely opposite of the decision in the Doe v. McKesson case. Now many are wondering why.