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    Black Lives Matter Movement cannot be sued, U.S. Judge rules

    A Louisiana police officer cannot sue Black Lives Matter because it is a social movement.

    (Reuters) — A Louisiana police officer cannot sue Black Lives Matter because it is a social movement, a U.S. judge ruled on Sept. 28, finding the campaign could not be held responsible for injuries he got at a protest.

    The unidentified officer sued Black Lives Matter and an activist involved in a July 2016 protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where the officer was struck by a rock.

    The Black Lives Matter movement began with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media in 2012 after Black high school student Trayvon Martin was shot dead in Sanford, Florida, by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter.

    It grew into a nationwide movement in response to the use of excessive force by police, particularly against Black men.

    “‘Black Lives Matter,’ as a social movement, cannot be sued, however, in a similar way that a person cannot plausibly sue other social movements such as the Civil Rights movement, the LGBT rights movement or the Tea Party movement,” Chief Judge Brian Jackson of a U.S District Court in Baton Rouge wrote in a 24-page ruling.

    While the movement itself lacked the capacity to be sued, an associated entity could be held liable, Jackson said. But the judge found the officer had not made a sufficient case against such a group or an individual involved and dismissed the lawsuit.

    Billy Gibbens, an attorney for DeRay Mckesson, the activist named in the lawsuit, said his client “does not condone violence of any kind, and we are very sorry that the officer was injured.”

    “The court was absolutely correct to find that DeRay is not responsible for the criminal conduct of an unidentified person,” Gibbens said in an email to Reuters.

    Attorneys for the officer, Black Lives Matter and the activist named in the lawsuit did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    It was not clear how the ruling might affect a related lawsuit filed by an officer who was wounded during protests last year in Baton Rouge.

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    Black Lives Matter Summit scheduled for Aug. 22

    The Baton Rouge Delta Alumnae Chapter, Planned Parenthood, and the Southern University Law Center will host a Black Lives Matter summit, Saturday, Aug. 22, at 8am at the Southern University Law Center’s AA Lenior Building.

    Organizers said the summit will address and discuss issues such as high incarceration rate, Black-on-Black crime, problematic relationships with law enforcement, disparity in educational opportunities for poverty-stricken areas, funding restraints of Historically Black Colleges and the breakdown of nuclear family.

    The summit is free and open to the public and CLE credits will be offered to all attorneys.. A lite breakfast and lunch will be served. Registration at www.eventbrite.com is requested.

    “There is strength in numbers and we believe in order to make a true impact and address these issues that have plagued our community for years, we must make this a total community  effort to provide positive solutions for these concerns,” said Karmen R. Davis, Baton Rouge Delta Alumnae Chapter president.

    Panel discussions will cover family matters, the judicial system and Black America, community involvement, and education.

    Speakers include Juvenile Court Judge Pam Taylor Johnson; Tasha Clark Amar, executive director of East Baton Rouge Council on Aging; Lamont Cole, CEO of ColeGroup; Ron Gathe, assistant district attorney for the 19th Judicial District; Louisiana State Trooper James Jefferson; Jacqueline Mims,Ph.D., clinical director, Eclectic Cognitive Behavioral Center; Kim Hunter Reed,Ph.D., senior associate, HCM Strategists; Walter Tillman Jr., Ph.D., Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals; attorney Charles Toney; Family Court Chief Judge Lisa Woodruff White; and assistant Southern Universaity New Orleans professor Carey YazeedPh.D.

     

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    Month With Mada: Black Lives Matter Symposium brings youth, adults together

    “The Quality of Life in the Baton Rouge Community regarding all age groups, genders, culture needs to be addressed,” said The Rev. Dale W. Flowers during A Black Lives Matter Symposium, July 6 – July 10, at New Sunlight Baptist Church, 1777 America Street.

    Many Black males have been victims or have lost their lives to police brutality and other others, and this has had a major impact in many communities all over this nation. The symposium presenters discussed a wealth of valuable information ranging from crime, poverty, violence, racism, drugs, education, and healthcare. East Baton Rouge Parish Constable Major Reginald Brown provided the bike giveaways. Gift cards came from local businesses.

    On Monday, July 6, panelists discussed adjudicated property, increase in crime, blighted areas, and first-time home ownership. Attorney Winston Riddick and Nun Judith Brun of Sacred Heart Catholic Church shared tips and techniques for better decision making for teenagers. The smaller age group children had information shared from the Southern University and Louisiana State University agriculture centers.

    On Tuesday, July 7, Chief Administrator George Bell discussed the closure of the Mid-City Baton Rouge General Hospital’s emergency room while Sherry Asberry from Our Lady of the Hospital talked about healthcare. State Representative Alfred Williams discussed funding sources that could have been considered in saving the emergency facility. Other presentations involved HIV/AIDS, Clerk of Court-Identification Cards and Fingerprinting.
    Representation from the Baton Rouge Police Department was given by Riley Harbor focusing on crime prevention, proactive/reactive measures, and the importance of Neighborhood Watch Programs and Civic Organizations. The highlight that added to the session on Wednesday July, 8th along with other topics was Tanesha Craig, a fitness instructor talked about healthy diets and led the group in an exercise fitness class. Terrell Johnson, African American World History Professor from Southern University, also gave a dynamic and profound presentation.

    On Thursday, July 9, the topic was education. EBR School Board member Evelyn Ware Jackson and Liz Frischert discussed assessment and accountability, the importance of having an education, and the Common Core Education Program. Marcus Coleman, Dean of Students at Southern University A & M College, shared college preparatory information, academic readiness for the upcoming school term. Norma Veal gave tips on fire safety, and a representative from the Baton Rouge Constable Office talked about the D.A.R.E. Program

    Finally on Friday, July 10, the culminating sessions wrapping up the Black Lives Matter Symposium included a period of questions and answers.

    Flowers said the primary focus and concentration is to devise a plan to improve the quality of life in the community where we reside, work, and live.

    The Black Lives Matter Symposium reached out to children as young as pre-K toddlers to senior citizens. It was a very informative and a much needed dialogue for alerting and keeping the Baton Rouge Community aware of issues affecting many citizens. This symposium showed the importance of knowing what is happening and going on in today’s society.

    By Mada McDonald
    Drum Columnist

    The Month with Mada column shares commentary on community and current events compiled by Mada McDonald, a public relations professional and community activist in Baton Rouge. Leave your comments below.

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  • President Obama gives six-point answer on Baltimore during press conference with Japan

    During joint press conference with Japan’s Prime Minister, President Barack Obama responded to journalist Chris Jansing’s questions on Baltimore with six points.

    Here’s the transcript:

    Chris Jansing. (NBC Senior White House Correspondent)

    Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  As you know, the National Guard is now on the streets of Baltimore — the latest aftermath in a series of what have been high-profile confrontations between black men and police officers.  And there seems to be growing frustration among African American leaders that not enough is being done quickly enough.  Marc Morial of the Urban League said, “The U.S. is in a state of emergency of tremendous proportions.”  The president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund says, “We are in the throes of a national crisis.” 

    Are we in the throes of a national crisis?  What are you prepared to do about it, both in terms of Baltimore and the larger picture?  And what do you say to critics who say that since the death of Trayvon Martin, you have not been aggressive enough in your response? 

    And to Prime Minister Abe, how important is a Pacific trade deal to keeping the influence of China in check, both economically and militarily?  And do you agree with President Obama when he says that failing to complete a deal will simply further China’s influence?  Thank you.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Before I answer the question about Baltimore, I’m going to horn in on your question to Prime Minister Abe.

    I’ve been very clear that TPP is good for American businesses and American workers, regardless of what China is doing.  And we will make the case on the merits as to why it will open up markets for American goods, American exports, and create American jobs.  So this is not simply a defensive agreement, this is something that is going to be part and parcel of our broader economic agenda moving forward.  And when 95 percent of the world’s markets are outside our shores, we’ve got to make sure that we’re out there competing.  And I’m confident we can compete.

    With respect to Baltimore, let me make a couple of points.  First, obviously our thoughts continue to be with the family of Freddie Gray.  Understandably, they want answers.  And DOJ has opened an investigation.  It is working with local law enforcement to find out exactly what happened, and I think there should be full transparency and accountability.

    Second, my thoughts are with the police officers who were injured in last night’s disturbances.  It underscores that that’s a tough job and we have to keep that in mind, and my hope is that they can heal and get back to work as soon as possible.

    Point number three, there’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday.  It is counterproductive.  When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting, they’re not making a statement — they’re stealing.  When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson.  And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities that rob jobs and opportunity from people in that area.

    So it is entirely appropriate that the mayor of Baltimore, who I spoke to yesterday, and the governor, who I spoke to yesterday, work to stop that kind of senseless violence and destruction.  That is not a protest.  That is not a statement.  It’s people — a handful of people taking advantage of a situation for their own purposes, and they need to be treated as criminals.

    Point number four, the violence that happened yesterday distracted from the fact that you had seen multiple days of peaceful protests that were focused on entirely legitimate concerns of these communities in Baltimore, led by clergy and community leaders.  And they were constructive and they were thoughtful, and frankly, didn’t get that much attention.  And one burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again, and the thousands of demonstrators who did it the right way I think have been lost in the discussion. 

    The overwhelming majority of the community in Baltimore I think have handled this appropriately, expressing real concern and outrage over the possibility that our laws were not applied evenly in the case of Mr. Gray, and that accountability needs to exist.  And I think we have to give them credit.  My understanding is, is you’ve got some of the same organizers now going back into these communities to try to clean up in the aftermath of a handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place.  What they were doing, what those community leaders and clergy and others were doing, that is a statement.  That’s the kind of organizing that needs to take place if we’re going to tackle this problem.  And they deserve credit for it, and we should be lifting them up.

    Point number five — and I’ve got six, because this is important.  Since Ferguson, and the task force that we put together, we have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals — primarily African American, often poor — in ways that have raised troubling questions.  And it comes up, it seems like, once a week now, or once every couple of weeks.  And so I think it’s pretty understandable why the leaders of civil rights organizations but, more importantly, moms and dads across the country, might start saying this is a crisis.  What I’d say is this has been a slow-rolling crisis.  This has been going on for a long time.  This is not new, and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.

    The good news is, is that perhaps there’s some newfound awareness because of social media and video cameras and so forth that there are problems and challenges when it comes to how policing and our laws are applied in certain communities, and we have to pay attention to it and respond. 

    What’s also good news is the task force that was made up of law enforcement and community activists that we brought together here in the White House have come up with very constructive concrete proposals that, if adopted by local communities and by states and by counties, by law enforcement generally, would make a difference.  It wouldn’t solve every problem, but would make a concrete difference in rebuilding trust and making sure that the overwhelming majority of effective, honest and fair law enforcement officers, that they’re able to do their job better because it will weed out or retrain or put a stop to those handful who may be not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

    Now, the challenge for us as the federal government is, is that we don’t run these police forces.  I can’t federalize every police force in the country and force them to retrain.  But what I can do is to start working with them collaboratively so that they can begin this process of change themselves. 

    And coming out of the task force that we put together, we’re now working with local communities.  The Department of Justice has just announced a grant program for those jurisdictions that want to purchase body cameras.  We are going to be issuing grants for those jurisdictions that are prepared to start trying to implement some of the new training and data collection and other things that can make a difference.  And we’re going to keep on working with those local jurisdictions so that they can begin to make the changes that are necessary. 

    I think it’s going to be important for organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police and other police unions and organization to acknowledge that this is not good for police.  We have to own up to the fact that occasionally there are going to be problems here, just as there are in every other occupation.  There are some bad politicians who are corrupt.  There are folks in the business community or on Wall Street who don’t do the right thing.  Well, there’s some police who aren’t doing the right thing.  And rather than close ranks, what we’ve seen is a number of thoughtful police chiefs and commissioners and others recognize they got to get their arms around this thing and work together with the community to solve the problem.  And we’re committed to facilitating that process.

    So the heads of our COPS agency that helps with community policing, they’re already out in Baltimore.  Our Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division is already out in Baltimore.  But we’re going to be working systematically with every city and jurisdiction around the country to try to help them implement some solutions that we know work. 

    And I’ll make my final point — I’m sorry, Mr. Prime Minister, but this is a pretty important issue for us. 

    We can’t just leave this to the police.  I think there are police departments that have to do some soul searching.  I think there are some communities that have to do some soul searching.  But I think we, as a country, have to do some soul searching.  This is not new.  It’s been going on for decades. 

    And without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, what we also know is that if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty; they’ve got parents — often because of substance-abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves — can’t do right by their kids; if it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead, than they go to college.  In communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community, and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks — in those environments, if we think that we’re just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not going to solve this problem.  And we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets, and everybody will feign concern until it goes away, and then we go about our business as usual.

    If we are serious about solving this problem, then we’re going to not only have to help the police, we’re going to have to think about what can we do — the rest of us — to make sure that we’re providing early education to these kids; to make sure that we’re reforming our criminal justice system so it’s not just a pipeline from schools to prisons; so that we’re not rendering men in these communities unemployable because of a felony record for a nonviolent drug offense; that we’re making investments so that they can get the training they need to find jobs.  That’s hard.  That requires more than just the occasional news report or task force.  And there’s a bunch of my agenda that would make a difference right now in that.

    Now, I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities, and so we’ll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform and around job training, and around some investments in infrastructure in these communities trying to attract new businesses in.

    But if we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could.  It’s just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant — and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, and we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped.  We’re paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids, and we think they’re important.  And they shouldn’t be living in poverty and violence. 

    That’s how I feel.  I think there are a lot of good-meaning people around the country that feel that way.  But that kind of political mobilization I think we haven’t seen in quite some time.  And what I’ve tried to do is to promote those ideas that would make a difference.  But I think we all understand that the politics of that are tough because it’s easy to ignore those problems or to treat them just as a law and order issue, as opposed to a broader social issue.

    That was a really long answer, but I felt pretty strongly about it.

    The press conference continued discussing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. Read it in it’s entirety at www.whitehouse.gov.

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