Posted on March 1, 2023

New York Will Pay Millions to Protesters Violently Corralled by Police

Maria Cramer, New York Times, March 1, 2023

New York City has agreed to pay $21,500 to each of hundreds of demonstrators who were penned in by the police in the Bronx during racial justice protests in 2020, then charged at or beaten with batons, according to a legal settlement.

If a judge approves the settlement filed in federal court late Tuesday, 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.

The case concerned roughly 300 people who were arrested on June 4, 2020, in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx during protests against the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers the week before. His death set off protests across the country, including in New York, where thousands of people demonstrated in May and June.

On June 4, the police boxed in hundreds of protesters who had peacefully gathered on 136th Street and then prevented them from leaving, a practice known as “kettling,” according to the lawsuit.

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, according to the lawsuit.

Samira Sierra, 31, one of the protesters who sued the city and who lives in the Bronx, said she was “violated” by the police during the demonstrations.

“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 in a statement.

The kettling strategy was broadly defended at the time by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, who said it was needed because protesters were defying curfews and looters had ransacked parts of Manhattan {snip}


The people who were arrested eventually had their cases dismissed, said Rob Rickner, one of the lawyers for the protesters, who said the kettling strategy was a part of a “preplanned show of force.”


Lawyers for the demonstrators described the settlement as “historic.” They said that before this agreement, the highest amount paid per person in a case of mass arrests was in 2010, when a federal judge awarded $18,000 per person to demonstrators picked up in a mass arrest during a 2000 protest near the World Bank and International Monetary Fund buildings in Washington, D.C., in a $13.7 million settlement.


The lawyers said that while about 330 people were eligible to receive payments, as many as 90 of them have already settled with the city in separate complaints.

Other protesters may have decided to file separate claims against the city, especially those people who reported more severe injuries during their encounters with the police, Mr. Rickner said.