NYPD’s Violent Tactics During 2020 Protests Will Cost New York City, Tax Payers Millions

Protesters Rally In The Bronx For Victims Of Police Violence - Credit: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
Protesters Rally In The Bronx For Victims Of Police Violence - Credit: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

The New York Police Department’s violent tactics during the 2020 protests against police violence and racial injustice could cost New York City and its taxpayers between $4 and $6 million thanks to a new settlement.

New York City has agreed to pay $21,500 each to the approximately 300 people who were arrested June 4, 2020 while demonstrating in the Bronx. Those who were given Desk Appearance Tickets instead of summonses, and were thus detained longer, will be eligible for an additional $2,500. (Every person who was arrested eventually had their case dismissed.)

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During the demonstration, NYPD officers boxed in the peaceful protesters and prevented them from leaving, a process known as “kettling.” Additionally, some protesters said the cops swung at them with batons and hit them with pepper spray; others said they were detained with zip ties by officers not wearing masks at the height of the pandemic.

In a statement shared with Rolling Stone, one of the demonstrators and lead plaintiffs in the class action suit, Amali Sierra, said, “This protest took place a week into the uprisings that began as the result of George Floyd’s death. And because the NYPD had knowledge of this protest taking place in a South Bronx neighborhood composed of predominately Black and Brown bodies, we were an example. A message. This settlement serves as testimony of the wrongdoing by the hands of the NYPD, and it is a reminder that this institution is not built to protect Black and Brown communities.”

The total amount the city will owe to the protesters involved in the class action suit is unclear. Lawyers have said that about 330 people were eligible to receive payments, but at least 90 had reached settlements with the city in separate lawsuits (per The New York Times). Still, lawyers for the protesters hailed the victory as the highest per-person settlement in a mass arrest class action lawsuit in NYC history.

“This was a pre-planned assault on peaceful protesters and the magnitude of the award reflects the real damage that the NYPD did to this community,” Rob Rickner, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, tells Rolling Stone. “We had to fight for many years to get this result, and through the litigation we were able to expose the high-level NYPD officers who planned this assault.”

In a statement, the NYPD said, “The NYPD remains committed to continually improving its practices in every way possible.” It went on to call the 2020 protests “a challenging moment for the department as officers who themselves were suffering under the strains of a global pandemic did their utmost to help facilitate people’s rights to peaceful expression all while addressing acts of lawlessness including wide-scale rioting, mass chaos, violence, and destruction.”

Both the NYPD and then-New York City mayor Bill de Blasio faced steep criticism for their handling of the largely peaceful protests, which broke out in New York City, and across the country, following the police murder of George Floyd. Amidst some looting and damage to police cars, numerous videos emerged that showed NYPD officers targeting and beating peaceful protesters with little provocation; in one infamous incident, a police van drove through a crowd of protesters.

Eventually, de Blasio and former/disgraced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to impose an 8 p.m. curfew. That was in place the day of the June 4 protest in the Bronx, and in their lawsuits, the protesters claimed they were kettled by the cops well before the 8 p.m. curfew, preventing them from dispersing.

News of the Bronx protest settlement comes weeks after it was announced that the NYPD cost the city $121 million in police misconduct settlements in 2022 — the highest since 2018. The staggering figure comprised numerous payouts tied to other lawsuits filed by protesters in 2020, as well as high-profile cases like that of Muhammad A. Aziz, who received $26 million after spending over two decades in prison after being wrongfully convicted of assassinating of Malcolm X.

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