Has the Black Lives Matter movement (or at least some of its prominent protesters) incited violence against police officers, leading to the tragic series of ambush attacks on law enforcement we’ve seen this year? If your answer is a flat “no” in this case I have to wonder where you’re getting your news. While some protests remain peaceful and law abiding (or at least only illegal in terms of blocking highways), others have featured calls for violence… a call which can easily be interpreted as having been answered as recently as last night. But assigning blame in the public square is very different from establishing liability in a court of law. That’s a distinction which could be put to the test in Texas, where one police sergeant has filed suit against a host of groups and individuals, claiming that their words and actions have led to the death of cops. (Dallas News)
A Dallas Police sergeant has filed suit against Black Lives Matter leaders and others, blaming the movement for race riots and violence against police officers.
Sgt. Demetrick Pennie, president of the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation and a 17-year law enforcement veteran, filed the amended complaint in federal court Friday. Conservative news site Breitbart published the lawsuit in an article that evening.
The listed defendants include not only those associated with the Black Lives Matter movement but public figures such as the Rev. Al Sharpton, Louis Farrahkan, George Soros, the New Black Panthers Party and even President Barack Obama and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
That’s quite the list of defendants. The focus is obviously on Black Lives Matter as an “organization” but including the President, Hillary Clinton, Al Sharpton and … George Soros (?) makes it a rather scattershot effort right out of the gate. Each element on the list comes with their own set of challenges for the plaintiff even if we were to assume that a court would seriously consider the complaint. (And for the record, I don’t think they will.)
Taking on BLM sounds like the most viable path at first glance, what with the video and photographic evidence available of supporters calling for violence against the police. But how does one take an organization to court which doesn’t actually exist on paper? Who would you identify as the responsible executive in charge of the “organization” who could be held accountable for the actions of the members? There are plenty of self-appointed spokespersons for Black Lives Matter but they don’t even agree with each other at times. And since the group is entirely informal, there is no chain of accountability.
As for the individuals listed in the suit, you’re immediately tromping all over the free speech issue, no matter how much you may disagree with their perceived biases and proclamations. We generally give everyone a pass for saying what they like and even in a case where police officers have wound up being assassinated, you still have to be able to assign blame to specific instances, not some general rabble rousing. In order to stick, I’m pretty sure you’d need to be able to prove the Incitement to Riot complaint, and that demands very specific persons, times, places and statements where a clear line can be drawn from point A to point B.
I obviously understand the frustration and grieving which weighs on Sergeant Pennie, but aside from a few headlines and raising awareness of the real world effects these riots have on police officers, I have a hard time seeing this case going anywhere.