A personal injury lawyer trying to raise money for her lawsuits against Black Lives Matter and its leaders on behalf of Baton Rouge police officers was rejected by a crowdfunding website on Sunday.
The YouCaring site is a free, online fundraising source for people around the country and in Baton Rouge, including residents whose lives were devastated by floods last year or families who have expensive medical needs. It also supports various versions of local and national Black Lives Matter campaigns.
But when lawyer Donna Grodner, who has filed two federal lawsuits on behalf of police against Black Lives Matter that target one of its leaders Deray Mckesson, created a page to raise $20,000 for expenses, YouCaring took it down.
“In alignment with our mission, we removed this fundraiser because it was not within our community guidelines around promoting harmony,” YouCaring chief marketing officer Maly Ly told the NewsHour Weekend in an email. “We are not the right platform to air grievances, or engage in contentious disputes or controversial public opinion.”
Then, Grodner created a GoFundMe page. GoFundMe did not immediately return a request for comment.
Grodner has filed two lawsuits that accuse Black Lives Matter and its leaders of causing the injuries of two police officers in separate incidents.
The first lawsuit was filed on behalf of an unnamed officer who said he was hit by debris during a protest after local police, who are white, killed 37-year-old Alton Sterling, a black man, on July 5 last year.
Following Sterling’s death, Black Lives Matter organized a “Weekend of Rage” campaign, in line with type of take-to-the-streets rallies the movement has organized since its inception around 2012, to rail against the killings of black people.
The lawsuit claims that Black Lives Matter and one of its leaders Deray Mckesson are responsible for the officer’s injuries, though Mckesson is not accused of throwing anything. It says the Black Lives Matter activists have incited violence and do not try to calm the crowds.
A judge in that case is still deciding whether Black Lives Matter can be charged as an entity.
Grodner filed a second lawsuit on Friday, but with four more leaders as defendants including Alicia Garza and Johnetta “Netta” Elzie, making a similar claim.
The officer she is representing, also unnamed, was shot several days after the Weekend of Rage, by a man from Kansas City who law enforcement said had never attended any of the protests, according to local reports.
A First Amendment lawyer told the NewsHour Weekend on Saturday that Grodner’s theory is bizarre and seems it may be an attempt to hunt for dirt within the movement rather than a legitimate legal claim. David Roland, the director of litigation at the Freedom Center of Missouri, also said it followed the same principle used in a Civil-War era law.
“It’s the same logic that gets applied to people of the Muslim faith. If there’s an act of terrorism, people say, ‘If you don’t come out and disavow this personally, then you are responsible,’” he said.
Roland feared it was a shot across the bow and designed to discourage dissent.
“Black Lives Matter and the people who are involved in it are engaged in civil disobedience because they perceive a fundamental wrong in our society that needs to be corrected,” Roland said. “The best method that they know to employ … is to engage in civil disobedience, and that’s part of a long American tradition.”
Grodner’s GoFundMe page called the protesters militant, saying the money will help “hold them responsible for the injuries they caused, whether in whole or in part through its [anti]-police agenda.”
In response to questions about YouCaring’s decision and the GoFundMe page, Grodner told the NewsHour Weekend in an email that “Both are for the same purpose.”
But Ly said in her email that YouCaring was drawing a line.
“We exist to empower people and communities to rally positive financial, emotional, and social support,” she wrote. “While different viewpoints are a part of life, you should make efforts to ensure that the content of your fundraiser does not promote discord.”