**New York City Agrees to Pay $13 Million to Settle Civil Rights Lawsuit Over Police Brutality During Racial Injustice Protests**
New York City has reached a settlement of over $13 million in a civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of approximately 1,300 individuals who were arrested or subjected to police brutality during the racial injustice demonstrations that occurred in the city in the summer of 2020.
Settlement Among Most Expensive in Lawsuit Over Mass Arrests
If approved by a judge, the settlement, which was filed in Manhattan federal court, would be one of the most expensive payouts ever awarded in a lawsuit involving mass arrests.
Focus on Protests Following the Killing of George Floyd
The lawsuit specifically focuses on 18 protests that took place in New York City in the week following the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. Each person who was arrested or subjected to police force at these events would be eligible for $9,950 in compensation, with certain exceptions.
Avoiding Trial and Costly Proceedings
This settlement allows the city to avoid a trial that would have been both expensive and politically charged. Many other cities across the U.S. are also negotiating settlements with protesters who participated in demonstrations against racist police brutality after Floyd’s death.
Accusations of Violating First Amendment Rights
Attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild, who represented the plaintiffs in New York, accused NYPD (New York Police Department) leaders of depriving protesters of their First Amendment rights through a coordinated campaign of indiscriminate brutality and unlawful arrests.
City Claims Responding to Chaotic Situation
Despite the allegations, the city’s attorneys argued that the police were responding to a chaotic situation and pointed out instances of unruly protests where police vehicles were set on fire and officers were attacked with rocks and bottles.
Controversial Crowd Control Tactics
During some of the protests, the police used a crowd control tactic known as kettling, where peaceful protesters were trapped in tight spaces and then subjected to physical violence before being arrested. This resulted in traumatic experiences for the protesters.
Qualified Immunity and Defense by the City
The city used qualified immunity as a defense to protect police officers from lawsuits arising from their lawful work. The city also defended the decision to arrest medics and legal observers, claiming it was within the rights of the department.
Settlement Excludes Certain Protesters
Protesters who were arrested on charges such as trespassing, property destruction, assaulting an officer, arson, or weapons possession will be excluded from the settlement. Those seen blocking police from making arrests may also be ineligible.
Not Aimed at Forcing Change in NYPD Practices
Unlike some other lawsuits related to the 2020 protests, this class action lawsuit does not seek to force changes in the NYPD’s practices. There are ongoing lawsuits seeking injunctive relief, including one filed by the New York Attorney General Letitia James, which calls for a federal monitor to oversee the NYPD’s policing of protests.
Growing Cost to Taxpayers Raises Concerns
The settlement, along with other individual claims and settlements related to the 2020 protests, has resulted in significant costs to New York City. This should serve as a red flag for city leaders regarding the NYPD’s need to address its long-standing problem of constitutionally compliant protest policing.
The $13 million settlement in the civil rights lawsuit against New York City over police brutality during the 2020 racial injustice protests is one of the most expensive payouts in mass arrest cases. While this settlement helps the city avoid costly and politically charged proceedings, concerns remain about the need for systemic change in the NYPD’s treatment of protesters. The high cost to taxpayers should be a wake-up call for city leaders to address these issues and ensure constitutionally compliant protest policing.