DeRay Mckesson is a controversial person in the Black Lives Matter Movement. Mckesson is at the center of a legal battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Well, almost. The high court refused to hear McKesson v. Doe, allowing the Fifth Circuit Court’s ruling to prevail. While the devastating decision did not totally eliminate the right to protest in the three states under the circuit’s jurisdiction, it added to the ice effect orchestrated by the right-wing movement to criminalize any and all protests.

Mckesson parachuted into the Ferguson Uprising from Minneapolis after the murder of Mike Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. Soon, he catapulted his way into the national mainstream media and became a self-appointed spokesperson and leader of the movement.

Mckesson and other fellow travelers left the St. Louis area to pursue fame and fortune. They received lucrative deals for books and speaking gigs; they were anointed with unearned titles. They left behind a hostile community weary of the opportunists who rode the coattails of home-grown activists and organizers.

Most of what Mckesson touched after Ferguson has curdled. He made an unsuccessful run for mayor of Baltimore. He fell out with his co-founders of Campaign Zero, a nonprofit organization seeking police reforms. On his book tour in 2019, Mckesson’s stop in St. Louis was disrupted by angry young people who accused him of using the historic Ferguson protest for his own gain.

I’m giving you this history so that you understand what happened in Baton Rouge after the police murder of Alton Sterling in 2016. Mckesson went to Baton Rouge to protest the shooting and was arrested, along with others, when they attempted to shut down a highway. He filmed his own arrest.

There were many who thought this was another example of DeRay Mckesson’s obsession as a media hog. Some were dismissive and ignored the implications of the situation.

Then something happened, something that dramatically changes the way protests will be viewed in the future. At a Sterling demonstration organized by Mckesson, someone threw a bottle at a cop who suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The cop is the plaintiff John Doe in a lawsuit against Mckesson believing him to have engaged in “negligent protest” as the event organizer. The suit has resulted in a volley of legal maneuvers over the last eight years.

No matter how one feels about DeRay Mckesson, this is no longer just about him. I doubt if he planned an assault on a cop. I do believe it was inevitable that such a lawsuit would be contrived to justify conservatives’ agenda to suppress the righteous non-violent demonstrations of resistance.

We witnessed the wave of anti-protest legislation escalating after the infamous George Floyd police murder in 2020. The legislation is designed to undermine First Amendment rights, to stifle dissent, to criminalize protests and to unleash sanctions against citizens lawfully engaged in protests. According to the International Center for Not for Profit Law (ICNP), nearly 300 bills have been introduced across the country that will make protesters and/or organizers of protests criminally and financially liable for property damages and injuries should they be convicted.

If the concept of authoritarianism is coming to your mind, you are normal and understand the dangerous erosion of civil rights in a so-called democracy. Under authoritarianism, personal freedoms are the first to be sacrificed and organized opposition is crushed to the ground.

Let us get over how we feel about DeRay as an individual and focus on intensifying an organized resistance to collectively defend our democratic rights. Mckesson v. Doe is not the end of the story, or just DeRay’s story. It is now our story and we who believe in freedom must write the ending.

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board

member and Columnist, Jamala Rogers,

founder and Chair Emeritus of the

Organization for Black Struggle in St.

Louis. She is an organizer, trainer and

speaker. She is the author of The Best of

the Way I See It – A Chronicle of

Struggle. Other writings by Ms. Rogers

can be found on her blog

jamalarogers.com. Contact Ms. Rogers

and BC.