New York City has agreed to one of the most expensive payouts ever in a lawsuit over mass arrests in a civil rights lawsuit brought by about 1,300 people arrested or beaten by police in racial injustice protests in 2020, the Associated Press reports. The $13 million settlement, subject to a federal judge's approval, stems from a lawsuit concerning 18 of the many protests that erupted in the city after the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. With certain exceptions, people arrested or subjected to force by NYPD officers at those events will each be eligible for $9,950 in compensation, according to attorneys for the plaintiffs. It comes as many other cities across the U.S. are negotiating their own settlements with protesters.
Attorneys with the National Lawyers Guild, which represented the plaintiffs in New York, accused NYPD leaders of depriving protesters of their 1st Amendment rights through a “coordinated” campaign of indiscriminate brutality and unlawful arrests. Through more than two years of litigation, attorneys for the city maintained that police were responding to a chaotic and unprecedented situation, pointing to some unruly protests in which police vehicles were set on fire and officers pelted with rocks and plastic bottles. During some protests, police used a crowd-control technique called kettling against peaceful protesters. The tactic involved pushing protesters into tight spaces, using batons to break them up, and then using pepper spray to make arrests. Another class action settlement announced earlier this year would award $21,500 to those arrested by police during one demonstration in the Bronx, a payout that could total around $10 million including legal fees. Separately, more than 600 people have brought individual claims against New York City related to police action during the 2020 protests, according to the city’s comptroller, Brad Lander. Roughly half of them have resulted in settlements and resolutions, costing the city nearly $12 million to date.