Supreme Court’s Decision in Mckesson v. Doe Case Sparks Outcry: What Organizations In Impacted States Are Saying In Response

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The Supreme Court’s recent decision to not hear the Mckesson v. Doe case has put long-held protest rights into question, prompting strong condemnation from civil rights advocates. At the heart of the issue is the question of whether groups or individuals that organize protests in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi can be held responsible for any injuries or damage that occurs during the event – even if the organizer clearly played no role in the damage. 

The decision to not take the case leaves confusion on what is the standard law around protest rights moving forward. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that an unnamed officer (“Doe”) could sue the leader of a Black Lives Matter rally (Mckesson) in Baton Rouge after being injured by a rock thrown by an unnamed protestor that was not affiliated with putting the event together. The case was first brought to the Supreme Court in 2020, where the court instructed the 5th Circuit to seek the Louisiana Supreme Court’s guidance on whether Doe’s case was eligible by state law. The state Supreme Court determined that Mckesson, the protest leader, could be sued for damages which brought the case back before the United States Supreme Court where it was ultimately rejected from being heard. 

In response to recent attempts to limit the scope of public demonstrations, Anneshia Hardy, Executive Director of Alabama Values, voiced strong opposition, emphasizing the critical role of protests in democratic societies. Hardy stated, “Protests have always been at the heart of transformative movements, from the civil rights marches that rewrote the rules of our nation to the global outcry for climate and social justice. They embody our collective power to challenge and dismantle entrenched norms. Now, with increasing efforts to restrict or ban protests, our First Amendment rights are under direct attack. These unconstitutional measures strike at the core of our democracy and freedom. We must advocate against these measures and uphold our right to speak and act for change.”

Ashley Shelton, Executive Director of Power Coalition for Equity and Justice (Louisiana), and Nsombi Lambright, Executive Director of One Voice (Mississippi), are two of many community leaders in the three directly-impacted states raising their voices in opposition to the threat on constitutional freedoms. Shelton captured the sentiment of many, stating, “I have been speaking about this for some time! How can my 2nd Amendment rights be more protected than my 1st Amendment rights? It doesn’t make sense and is an affront to the very heart of the United States Constitution!” Lambright reinforced the urgency of the matter, declaring, “While this court continues to find ways to violate our Constitutional rights, we will continue to stand with communities in protest to this decision and any other decision that threatens our human rights.”

The Mckesson v. Doe case represented a pivotal opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of laws that impede the right to protest. By choosing not to hear the case, the Supreme Court has effectively upheld the lower court rulings, leaving the fate of constitutional freedoms uncertain. This decision not only undermines the principles of democracy but also sets a dangerous precedent for the future of civil liberties in America.

The attack on protest rights isn’t a new one. Proceeding legislative policies against this constitutional freedom include Tennessee passing bills that felonize certain methods of protest, Alabama’s currently proposed anti-protest bill (SB 57), and the city of Florence, Alabama going so far as to ban unamplified voices from being too loud during protests in their downtown area. While the attacks on protest rights aren’t new, this decision by the 5th Circuit – and the lack of a decision by the United States Supreme Court – leave protesting rights in a more perilous position than ever. 

As communities grapple with the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision, it is imperative that we remain vigilant in our defense of constitutional rights. The voices of dissent must not be silenced, and the right to fight for justice and equality must continue unabated.

Cover image from deray.com

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