NEW YORK. The tragic events in Charlottesville that left one protestor dead have been widely reported. Many have criticized the president for his failure to quickly denounce the actions of white nationalists. Now, weeks later, ProPublica, reveals that it has found evidence documenting how white supremacists planned their rallies. According to ProPublica, individuals planning the event joked about using vehicles to run over protestors. Others claimed on message boards that running over protestors wasn’t an offense in North Carolina. Though North Carolina had proposed a law that would have granted civil immunity in the event of an accident involving a protestor, North Carolina has never advocated the use of vehicles for violence.
19 people were injured and one person was killed in the protests. The country is in mourning and many are wondering what should be done. For those who have been injured, are there civil remedies? In other words, do you have the right to sue protest organizers if you are injured?
According to PBS Newshour a personal injury lawyer in Baton Rouge is suing Black Lives Matter for the injuries a police officer sustained after protests in the cities. The individuals being targeted are leaders in the Black Lives Matter cause. The lawsuit claims that the individuals involved in the protests encouraged violence. Is there a case here? PBS notes that there isn’t evidence of any Black Lives Matter organizers encouraging a shooting, drawing a sharp distinction between what ProPublica has observed on message boards, where white nationalists explicitly seemed to encourage and condone the specific violence that was later observed. First Amendment lawyers claim that the Black Lives Matter lawsuit isn’t legitimate. Individuals have a right to protest under the First Amendment. Critics of the lawsuit claim that it is being pursued to silence those who would otherwise speak out against police violence.
In fact, in the case of Black Lives Matter, individuals who were involved in the protests have settled with Baton Rouge for claims that arrests made during protests were unlawful. If anyone has the right to sue the police, it is the protestors.
While the case against Black Lives Matter will likely be dropped, it isn’t clear what will happen in cases where violence is more clearly incited. Under Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled that while, hate speech is protected speech, inciting violence is not protected. This means that if protestors condone violent actions like those seen inCharlottesville, they could face persecution.
In fact, even President Trump was accused of inciting violence when he encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap out of them” according to Slate.
Free speech is generally protected, but violence never is. If you or a loved one has been hurt due to the neglectful or violent actions of another person or party, you may be entitled to compensation under the law. Antin, Ehrlich, & Epstein, L.L.P. are injury lawyers in New York who work closely with victims and families to help them seek the recovery they may deserve.