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Court rulings toss lawsuit against Black Lives Matter and Mckesson, allow class-action payments to protesters

Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that accused Black Lives Matter and several movement leaders — including Baltimore's DeRay Mckesson — of inciting violence that led to a gunman's deadly ambush of law enforcement officers in Louisiana last year.

And in a separate matter, another judge ruled that Mckesson and others may receive awards up to $1,000 in cash in a class-action settlement claiming police violated protesters' civil rights in arresting them after the deadly shootings.

In the first lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson's ruling Friday said lawyers for a Baton Rouge sheriff's deputy wounded in the attack "utterly failed to state a plausible claim" and instead launched a "confused attack" against Black Lives Matter and others, including movement leader Mckesson, 32, a prominent Baltimore-based activist.

Jackson previously ruled that Black Lives Matter is a social movement and therefore can't be sued. Last month, he threw out a separate lawsuit in which a Baton Rouge police officer blamed Black Lives Matter and Mckesson for injuries he sustained during a protest over a black man's shooting death during a struggle with police.

The officer's lawyers also attempted to add "#BlackLivesMatter" as a defendant, but Jackson ruled a hashtag can't be sued either.

Donna Grodner, a Baton Rouge-based attorney who filed both suits, filed a notice Thursday she is appealing last month's ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She declined to comment on the judge's latest ruling.

Gavin Long, a 29-year-old black former Marine from Kansas City, Missouri, shot and killed three officers and wounded three others outside a convenience store and car wash near Baton Rouge police headquarters before he was shot dead. The attack on July 17, 2016, occurred less than two weeks after a white Baton Rouge police officer shot and killed 37-year-old Alton Sterling, a black man.

The suit doesn't name the wounded officer but its description of the plaintiff matches East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Deputy Nicholas Tullier.

Jackson said nothing in his ruling "impugns the character and courage" of the wounded deputy. "That he suffered and continues to suffer from the injuries he sustained in the line of duty is not in question, nor should it be minimized," the judge added.

In the class-action filing, U.S. District Judge John W. deGravelles of Friday approved a settlement that awards up to $1,000 to protesters who claim police used excessive force in arresting them.

Mckesson is among 69 arrested protesters eligible for payments ranging from $500 to $1,000.

The judge, who said the total value of the settlement is about $136,000, ruled from the bench after a hearing Mckesson and another plaintiff attended.

Mckesson said the settlement demonstrates courts can be effective in holding officers and city governments "accountable" for police misconduct.

"This can be a blueprint for activists and organizers and lawyers across the county to think about what remedies look like at the court level. And it's not just money," he said after the hearing.

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