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Tipsheet

NYC to Pay BLM Protesters Millions in 'Historic' Settlement

AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

BLM protesters demonstrating in the wake of George Floyd’s death in New York City could be paid millions if a judge approves a settlement filed in federal court on Tuesday. 

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Each of the hundreds of protesters who were pepper sprayed, swung at with batons, or restrained with zip ties would get paid $21,500 each, while those who received court appearance tickets could receive an extra $2,500, totaling nearly $10 million. This would be the highest per-person settlement award in a class action lawsuit for a mass arrest in NYC. 

“The violence unleashed upon us that night was intentional, unwarranted, and will be with me for the rest of my life. What the NYPD did, aided by the political powers of New York City, was an extreme abuse of power. While I am relieved that we have been able to secure some monetary restitution for those of us brutalized by the NYPD that night, nothing will change what happened to us and so many others suffering under the boot of the police in America,” said Henry Wood, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. 

The case concerned roughly 300 people who were arrested on June 4, 2020, in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx during protests against the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers the week before. His death set off protests across the country, including in New York, where thousands of people demonstrated in May and June.

On June 4, the police boxed in hundreds of protesters who had peacefully gathered on 136th Street and then prevented them from leaving, a practice known as “kettling,” according to the lawsuit. […]

The kettling strategy was broadly defended at the time by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, who said it was needed because protesters were defying curfews and looters had ransacked parts of Manhattan, though the demonstrations had been largely peaceful.

According to the lawsuit, the protesters arrested in the Bronx were surrounded by police officers before an 8 p.m. curfew and prevented from leaving.

City leaders approved the tactics in an effort to “suppress the protests with well-orchestrated operations corralling and violently arresting the protesters,” the lawsuit said. “Many protesters were left injured and bleeding. Some protesters fainted, or lost consciousness and went into convulsions.” (NYT)

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 “The highest levels of the NYPD coordinated a pre-planned assault on peaceful protesters, and we’re gratified that this historic settlement will provide some measure of justice to those who suffered from this brutality. We hope this historic award forces the City to finally account for how it polices peaceful demonstrations,” plaintiffs’ attorney Ali Frick said in a statement.

While former NYPD commissioner Dermott Shea defended the officers' actions at the time, the NYPD has since changed its training and policies for mass demonstrations, noting they "have been re-envisioned based on the findings of the department's own, self-initiated analyses and on the recommendations from three outside agencies who carefully investigated that period."

The statement added, “The NYPD remains committed to continually improving its practices in every way possible."

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