New York City agreed Wednesday to pay $13.7 million to more than 1,000 protesters who took to the streets during the George Floyd protests in 2020.
The city’s huge payout settles a major class-action lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court that claimed police violated the civil rights of protesters.
The lawsuit dealt with clashes between protesters and police at 18 protests that happened during the week after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody at the end of May.
Protesters who are eligible for a payout can receive $9,950 in compensation, according to attorneys for the plaintiffs.
Some of the protesters who are eligible for payouts were arrested, while others were not arrested, but had their First Amendment rights infringed by police, their lawsuit claimed.
Protesters who were arrested on charges of violence including trespassing, property destruction, assaulting an officer, or arson or weapons possession will not be eligible for a payout, and those who blocked police from arresting other people may also not be eligible.
The settlement must still be approved by a judge. It would reportedly be one of the most expensive payouts ever over mass arrests.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild, a left-leaning group, accused the NYPD of violating protesters’ First Amendment rights by taking an excessively violent approach and making illegal arrests.
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In some instances, police beat and kicked protesters, the lawsuit claimed.
“N.Y.P.D.’s suppression of dissent has continued through numerous mayoral administrations,” one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers said in a statement.
The city argued the NYPD did not try to quash lawful protests and take away the protesters’ constitutional right to demonstrate.
“There is no history – or present or future – of unconstitutional policing,” read a memo from Georgia Pestana, an attorney for the city. “There is no frequent deprivation of constitutional rights.”
In the days after Floyd’s death, about 10,000 people were arrested across the country. The property damage from the riots across the country totaled nearly $2 billion.
In New York, police arrested just over 2,000 people between May 28, three days after Floyd’s death, and June 7, according to the New York State attorney general’s office.
Thousands of people protested in New York City, some violently. Rioters injured dozens of police officers, damaged dozens of police cars — setting some of them on fire and graffitiing them — and looted or damaged at least 450 businesses.
In one instance, two NYPD officers in Brooklyn were shot and one was stabbed in the neck as they tried to prevent looting during a protest.
The mayor placed the city under a curfew for the first week of June, the city’s first curfew in 75 years, but the curfew was frequently violated by protesters.
Although it is the largest, this is not New York’s first settlement with protesters who demonstrated over George Floyd.
In March, the city settled with about 300 people who were arrested on June 4, 2020, in the Bronx. Those protesters were awarded $21,500 each.
Police boxed in the hundreds of protesters using a police tactic known as “kettling,” the lawsuit from those protesters claimed. Officers restrained them with zip ties and swung at protesters with batons, and sprayed pepper spray at them, the lawsuit said.
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