New York City officials have agreed to pay $13 million to settle a civil rights case over the treatment of protesters following the murder of George Floyd.
According to USA Today, 1,380 plaintiffs who “were arrested and/or subjected to force by N.Y.P.D. officers” at 18 specific locations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn will receive $9,950 apiece. Experts say it is the largest class action settlement ever paid to protesters.
Per the court documents, the plaintiffs said that law enforcement officers “systematically attacked, trapped, and arrested people who were joining in protests condemning police violence in response to the gruesome murder of George Floyd.”
Deploying a tactic known as kettling, officers corralled protesters by striking them with their batons, used pepper spray to apprehend them, and arrested hundreds of demonstrators without just cause, the court documents read.
Surveillance footage showed that the officer’s actions were “widespread and pervasive.”
At a press conference on Thursday (July 20), Elena Cohen, the lead attorney representing the plaintiffs and a former president of the National Lawyers’ Guild, expressed her gratitude for the settlement. “Having the settlement in this record amount of money, even if it doesn’t come with an explicit ‘we did something wrong,’ gives a message that the city of New York understands that what they did was wrong and really legitimizes that what happened to them and other people with them isn’t okay,” Cohen said.
“Today’s settlement is historic, and I’m very proud that it will bring some sense of justice to nearly 1,400 people who took to the streets and put their bodies on the line against police brutality,” attorney Wylie Stecklow added, according to CBS News.
Adama Sow, one of the lead plaintiffs was blindfolded by officers with his face mask and forced to kneel in a pool of someone else’s blood on a street.
Barbara Ross, another protestor said while riding her bike during a peaceful protest, police vans swapped in to arrest demonstrators.
“She was riding right into me, just quickly opened up the door and grabbed my handlebars, and that made me fly because I was going fast,” Ross said.
Ross suffered a broken foot from the encounter with officers.
“When you hear the stories and see the videos, it was extremely traumatic and extremely scary,” Cohen said.
In response to the settlement, the City and NYPD released a joint statement pledging to protect the rights of protestors.
“The City and NYPD remain committed to ensuring the public is safe and people’s right to peaceful expression is protected,” the statement said. “The NYPD has improved numerous practices to address the challenges it faced at protests during the pandemic.”
The plaintiffs and attorneys believe that the legal victory is just the tip of the iceberg and that the practices of the NYPD should be overhauled with reforms that have been enacted by police departments in other cities such as Minneapolis.
“The idea that we keep New York City To Pay George Floyd Protesters $13 Million In Civil Rights Settlementcoming back, year after year, protest after protest, to have to continue to sue the city for the knowing unconstitutional practices of the NYPD is absolutely a disgrace,” attorney David Rankin said.
In connection with the 2020 protests, New York City has settled several lawsuits that have cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
According to The Guardian, at least 19 cities will pay out more than $80 Million to settle lawsuits with demonstrators who were injured by police during protests.