New York City agreed to pay $21,500 to each of hundreds of demonstrators who were penned in by police in the Bronx during racial justice protests in 2020 and then charged at or beaten with batons. If a judge approves the settlement filed in federal court, the amount would be one of the highest ever awarded per person in a class action case of mass arrests, and could cost the city between $4 million and $6 million, reports the New York Times. The case concerned 300 people who were arrested on June 4, 2020, in the Mott Haven neighborhood during protests against the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers the week before. Thousands of people demonstrated in New York City in May and June.
On June 4, the police boxed in hundreds of protesters who had peacefully gathered and then prevented them from leaving, a practice known as “kettling.” They were restrained with tight plastic handcuffs also known as zip ties by officers who were not masked as the pandemic raged. Officers wielding batons swung at protesters and hit them with pepper spray, the lawsuit saSid. amira Sierra, 31, one of the protesters who sued the city, said she was “violated” by the police. “We had every right to protest, yet, the City of New York made an explicit statement that day that the people of the Bronx are at will to be terrorized,” she said. The kettling strategy was broadly defended at the time by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the police commissioner, Dermot 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 before an 8 p.m. curfew and prevented from leaving.