The New York City government has agreed to pay more than 300 Black Lives Matter demonstrators $21,500 each to settle a lawsuit over the crowd control tactics police used in response to demonstrations in the summer of 2020.
In July 2020, a group of four activists brought a lawsuit against the city on behalf of themselves and other demonstrators who were subjected to allegedly aggressive policing while they protested in the streets. The lawsuit specifically alleged police used unjustified force, such as strikes with their batons and fists and pepper spray, to subdue protesters.
The plaintiffs also alleged police used a tactic known as “kettling,” in which they surrounded demonstrators to prevent them from escaping arrest. The police were also alleged to have excessively tightened plastic handcuffs on arrested protesters, “which caused pain, bruising and, in some cases, led to long-term injury.”
During the course of their lawsuit, which became a class action case, the plaintiffs identified 320 people who fit their proposed class of demonstrators who were “detained and/or subjected to force by police while protesting police brutality on June 4, 2020 in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx.”
On Tuesday, an attorney for the plaintiffs announced they had reached a settlement (pdf) with the city after more than two and a half years. The agreement stipulates that each of the 320 people who met the class description would receive $21,500, with an additional $2,500 awarded to each individual who was given a legal summons after they were arrested. The agreement also covered attorney’s fees for the plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit forward.
The June 4, 2020, protest in question took place just days after George Floyd, a black man, died in Minneapolis Police custody. Protests and riots spread throughout the county following Floyd’s death, including in New York City.
The plaintiffs said they were among those “engaging in peaceful protesting” following Floyd’s death.
Some demonstrations in New York City had devolved into violence and looting in the days leading up to the June 4, 2020, protest in Mott Haven. A man was shot during rioting and looting in the SOHO neighborhood of the city on June 1. In response to the violence and looting, then New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio imposed a curfew throughout the city, beginning at 8 p.m. every evening.
According to the Mott Haven Herald, a demonstration began in the Mott Haven neighborhood at around 7 p.m. on June 4, 2020. Participants brought helmets and goggles because, as attendee Shellyne Rodriguez told the publication, “we had seen the violence perpetrated against protesters.”
The lawsuit alleged police began kettling the protesters before the curfew, preventing some of the protesters from being able to leave before the 8 p.m. curfew went into effect. The lawsuit also alleged that plaintiff Charlie Monlouis-Anderle “never heard the police tell the protesters to leave or disperse” and said officers charged at some of the protesters at around 8:15 p.m. on June 4, 2020. Plaintiff Jarrett Payne claimed that he had heard because the protest was peaceful, it was allowed to continue past the 8 p.m. curfew.
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