The city of New York have issued the largest settlement in history this week for 1,300 people who were involved in the 2020 George Floyd protests and attacked by the New York Police Department.
The plaintiffs of the civil lawsuit had claimed that NYPD had crossed the line on protestors' constitutional rights during legal protests including making mass arrests, unlawfully using pepper spray, “kittling” which is to encircle protestors way beyond of an enacted curfew and using excessive force.
The 1,300 protestors will receive a total of $13 million from the settlement – about $10,000 per person, the biggest class action suit in the country for protestors. No reforms have been imposed for the New York Police Department from the settlement.
According to the Legal Aid Society, they had revealed in their analysis of the City's data that there have been payouts of over $121 million in lawsuits against police departments in misconduct last year, the most in the past 5 years.
In the settlement, the police department had denied liability and any structure or practice that would invade anyone's rights. When N.Y.C.'s 2020 mayor, Bill de Blasio implemented a curfew for the first time in 75 years due to the political and public health climate.
Police officers had arrested and injured civilians who were protesting outside of curfew hours while looting was occurring. In a New York Times article, the New York State attorney general's office, the police made just over 2,000 protest-related arrests between May 28 and June 7, 2000.
Intercept had also reported that, “Plaintiffs in the case noted that police had responded to other protests, including “Blue Lives Matter” and pro-police demonstrations, without using the force displayed against racial justice protesters. “In other words, it is the message of the protest that determines whether Defendants will respond with violent tactics and indiscriminate mass arrests,” the plaintiffs wrote in their suit.”
Much work is still needed to address police misconduct, and payouts are only increasing year by year. It's a good first step with this settlement, but respecting constitutional rights is not exactly a priority on the agenda for many police departments.