© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Protesters march following the verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, found guilty of the death of George Floyd, in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S., April 20, 2021. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon/File Photo
By Rachel Nostrant
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The city of New York has agreed to pay $13 million to hundreds of people arrested during the 2020 George Floyd demonstrations, according to attorneys for the plaintiffs, who said it was the largest class action settlement ever paid to protesters in the United States.
The protests in New York City and around the country followed the May 25, 2020, death of Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes while he repeatedly cried out for help, saying “I can’t breathe.”
The city agreed Wednesday to pay $9,950 to each of the more than 1,300 protesters arrested by New York police officers during various protests between May 28 and June 4, 2020, according to a release by the attorneys for the plaintiffs.
“While making a massive number of protesters financially whole is an immense victory to be celebrated, the city’s taxpayers will need to keep shelling out millions until City Hall stops bowing to the worst violent whims of the NYPD,” Remy Green, one of the plaintiff attorneys, said in a statement, referring to the New York Police Department.
People arrested on other charges, such as arson or property destruction, will be excluded from the settlement, which still requires approval by U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon.
The NYPD said in a statement that it had improved numerous practices for handling protests such as those that took place during the pandemic.
“The City and NYPD remain committed to ensuring the public is safe and people’s right to peaceful expression is protected,” it said.
Protesters across 18 locations, including Union Square, Central Park and Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, were subjected to improper use of pepper spray, excessive force with batons and other unlawful tactics such as “kettling,” court documents show.
Kettling is a tactic in which police corral protesters into a tight space or encircles them, effectively trapping them.
Batons, pepper spray and other chemical irritants, and even bicycles were used forcefully against protesters, according to court documents.
“The harmful realities we were protesting in 2020 persist. Black and brown people are disproportionately harassed, prosecuted, jailed and killed by police,” Savitri Durkee, one of the named plaintiffs, said in a statement.
In a separate settlement in March, New York agreed to pay an estimated $7 million to more than 300 people arrested during a June 4, 2020, demonstration in New York’s Bronx borough.
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