by Jo Ellen Nott
On March 1, 2023, New York City agreed to settle a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of more than 300 protesters who were penned up by NYPD officers and then brutally assaulted with batons and pepper spray and restrained with zip ties on June 4, 2020.
The protest took place in the Bronx neighborhood of Mott Haven during the nationwide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd. Videos from the demonstration show that NYPD officers confined the protestors within one block at 7:45 p.m. to prevent them from leaving in observance of the 8 p.m. curfew that former Gov. Bill De Blasio had imposed to stop looting during the unrest.
The “kettling” or corralling of protestors to assault and then arrest them was approved by city leaders intent on suppressing the protests in New York City. According to the lawsuit, “many protesters were left injured and bleeding. Some protesters fainted, or lost consciousness and went into convulsions.” The brutal show of force and subsequent arrests were all for naught. The protestors who were arrested eventually had their cases dismissed, said Rob Rickner, a lawyer for the protesters.
Human Rights Watch, an NGO headquartered in New York City, released a 99-page report on the incident after an intensive investigation that included analyzing 155 videos. The group concluded that the actions of the NYPD on that June 4 night amounted “to serious violations of international human rights law.”
The proposed settlement will pay each of the 300 “kettled” and beaten protesters $21,500, with some receiving an additional $2,500. The New York Times reports “this amount is the highest the city has ever awarded per person in a class action lawsuit.” If a federal judge approves the settlement, it will cost the taxpayers of New York somewhere between $4 and $6 million dollars.
In February 2023, New York City revealed that police misconduct settlements in 2022 had skyrocketed to a total cost of $121 million, the highest level since 2018. It’s just a cost of doing business in the Big Apple, however, where the NYPD budget comes in at about $11 billion per year.
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