Protesters To Receive Five-Figure Payouts for Police Actions During NYC George Floyd Violence

New York City taxpayers are on the hook for as much as $7 million to the protesters and another $2.5 million in lawyers’ fees in the case.

AP/John Minchillo
Demonstrators raise their mobile phone lights during a protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement at New York in July 2020. AP/John Minchillo

Hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters who marched in New York City after the death of George Floyd in 2020 will receive $21,500 each from the city because police used what was described as heavy-handed tactics to enforce a curfew and tamp down several nights of violence and looting that engulfed the city that summer.

The payoff, submitted for a court’s approval Tuesday evening, settles a class action filed by some 320 people who were arrested, detained, or roughed up by police in the Bronx borough of New York City on June 4, 2020. All told, New York City taxpayers are on the hook for as much as $7 million to the protesters and another $2.5 million in lawyers’ fees in the case.

The protesters and their lawyers allege that the New York Police Department used a crowd control tactic known as “kettling,” in which unruly crowds are corralled into a tight space by phalanxes of law enforcement officers, and subjected those within the perimeter to excessive force. More than 320 people were arrested that evening for violating the 8 p.m. curfew put in place to stop the violent social unrest that followed the Floyd murder.

Many of the protesters in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx were pummeled with batons and pepper-sprayed by police during the kettling, according to the plaintiffs. Some of those arrested were restrained with zip ties around their wrists by officers who, they pointed out, were not wearing masks in the early days of Covid pandemic.

The protesters said the police violated their Fourth Amendment rights by arresting them without probable cause, their First Amendment rights to assemble and speak freely about political matters, and their 14th Amendment equal protection rights. They also cited a number of state law violations regarding emotional distress, denial of medical care, and excessive detention in their plea.

Under the terms of the settlement, many of the protesters who were on the scene will be eligible for cash payments of $21,500 each. Those arrested that night will receive an additional $2,500 each. Several other lawsuits over the events of that night that are not part of the class are pending.

At the time, the New York police commissioner, Dermot Shea, described the operation that night as being “executed nearly flawlessly,” according to the Gothamist website. Outsiders had come to the neighborhood with guns and gasoline, he said, “advertising that they were going to burn things down, that they were going to injure cops, that they were going to cause mayhem.”

Protests — many of them violent — by activists angered by the murder of Floyd engulfed many American cities during the summer of 2020. In the days preceding the Bronx arrests, there were widespread clashes between police and protesters throughout New York City, and several neighborhoods in Manhattan were looted extensively. Fires were set during many of the incidents, and multiple police officers were injured in the melees.

On June 1, Mayor de Blasio signed an executive order instituting an 8 p.m. curfew in an effort to quell the violence and “protect the City and its residents from severe endangerment and harm to their health, safety and property.”

“It was a challenging moment for the department as officers who themselves were suffering under the strains of a global pandemic did their utmost to help facilitate people’s rights to peaceful expression all while addressing acts of lawlessness including wide-scale rioting, mass chaos, violence, and destruction,” the NYPD said in a statement released following news of the Mott Haven settlement.

Since the summer of 2020, the department said, many of its policies and training revolving around large-scale demonstrations have been “re-envisioned” in light of its own analysis of the events, as well as those of three outside agencies.


The New York Sun

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