An unnamed police officer, identified only as “John Doe,” is suing DeRay McKesson over injuries sustained in Baton Rouge during a July 2016 protest. McKesson was in the city in support of a protest against the death of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police officers on July 5.
The unnamed officer's federal lawsuit says he was struck in the face by a piece of concrete or a "rock like substance" thrown at police during a July 9 protest over the death of Alton Sterling, a black man shot and killed during a scuffle with two white officers.
The suit doesn't accuse Mckesson, Baltimore schools administrator, of throwing anything at officers but claims he "incited the violence" on behalf of Black Lives Matter, which also is named as a defendant.
Mckesson "was in charge of the protests and he was seen and heard giving orders throughout the day and night of the protests," the suit says. "The protest turned into a riot."
The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, says the officer lost teeth and had injuries to his jaw and brain.
McKesson is acknowledged as one of several key figures in the Black Lives Matter movement—but not a member of the Black Lives Matter Network which claims approximately 30 chapters throughout the United States and internationally. McKesson and other activists are the co-founders of Project Zero which is a policy-oriented effort at police reform. The protests in Baton Rouge were called by the New Black Panther Party; McKesson was not in charge of the protests as erroneously stated in the anonymous officer’s federal lawsuit filed on Nov. 7.
A video in July showed Mckesson walking alongside Airline Highway on his way back to the main area where the protests were going on when he was arrested.
On the video, Mckesson could be heard talking with fellow protesters and describing what he said was provocative police behavior against protesters.
“The police in Baton Rouge have been truly awful tonight,” Mckesson said on the video. “They have provoked people, they chase people just for kicks. The police have been violent tonight. The protesters have not.”
Moments later, someone shouts, “This is the police, you’re under arrest! Don’t fight me! Don’t fight me!”
McKesson responds: “I’m under arrest, y’all!” before the camera is knocked to the ground. He was reportedly released from custody about 15 hours later.
Hopefully, this lawsuit will be tossed into the garbage heap where it belongs, and not merely because it will be hard for the officer to make his case:
Dane Ciolino, a Loyola University law professor in New Orleans, said it's "really unusual" for the officer to sue under a pseudonym in a case of this kind. Ciolino also said it could be difficult for the officer's attorneys to prove that Mckesson or Black Lives Matter "aided and abetted" the alleged battery or somehow negligently allowed it to happen.
"Black Lives Matter is just a social movement. It's not an entity. I don't know how it could be liable," he said.
The last thing that is needed at this point and time is for a movement of individual officers, who are agents of the state and protected by the state legally and financially, to sue the organizers of protests against them or the victims of their savagery. In Chicago, Robert Rialmo, the police officer who killed Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones on Christmas Day 2015, filed suit against LeGrier’s estate in February of this year, alleging “extreme emotional trauma” and seeking $10 million in damages—for making LeGrier kill him. Rialmo has also filed suit against the city of Chicago, alleging they didn’t prepare him for this type of … work:
“In June, Rialmo terminated city lawyers entirely, Brodsky said, and filed a cross-suit against the city — his co-defendant — claiming he wasn’t trained and equipped by CPD to deal with mentally ill people. Rialmo also claims city lawyers pressured him to drop his counter-claim against LeGrier and have stuck him on desk duty in retaliation.
City attorneys this week filed motions to dismiss Rialmo’s cross-suit.
“We believe that Officer Rialmo’s counter-claims are baseless,” spokesman Bill McCaffrey said in a statement. “Among other things, there is no legal basis for the claims of retaliation and Illinois law provides absolute immunity for his other counter claims.” [...]
“It’s unprecedented for a police officer to say, in these sort of proceedings, that he was not trained to deal with, really, any situation,” Foutris said. “That’s one of the things I expected because of how this unfolded, but to have a police officer come out and say it explicitly, it’s shocking … it validates what we’ve been saying from the beginning.”
For individual officers, who act on behalf of the state and are protected by the state, to step out of that role and sue the victims of their actions is a scary proposition. Scary because of what it means politically as well as legally: another means of possible/future intimidation against the movement for police accountability and reform, as well as another form of punishment against a population that the police contain and repress. Are regular members of the populace allowed to sue police officers as individuals? Are police officers’ individual pensions or salaries at risk of garnishment for their behavior? Are they required to purchase some type of insurance to protect them, as individuals, in case they shoot or maim someone?
These are the kinds of measures that need to be in place to put a check on the actions of individual police officers; individuals who are part of a protected class because they are an extension of the state.