(The Center Square) – Paying $13 million to more than 1,300 arrested in New York City during the 2020 George Floyd demonstrations is “outrageous,” says a critic of the proposed settlement.
“This is outrageous,” said Cully Stimson, a senior analyst with the Heritage Foundation. “It’s a money grab benefiting people who violated law and order under the guise of equity. They’re using a blunt force instrument of a class action lawsuit to extract money from a sympathetic defendant, which in this case is New York City.”
Stimson said protesters who were wronged by police might have a legitimate claim, but on a case by case basis. Many of the demonstrators were engaged in criminal activity under the guise of peaceful protests, and shouldn’t be compensated, he said.
“They took advantage of the murder of George Floyd to loot, destroy property and assault police, all under the guise of peaceful protesting,” Stimson said. “And for those people, there was a double benefit: they didn’t get prosecuted and they got rich. They’re benefiting financially from criminality.”
The settlement, agreed to Wednesday, is yet to be approved by a judge. The protestors were arrested by New York police officers during the protests or subjected to improper use of pepper spray, excessive force with batons and other unlawful tactics.
If approved, each defendant would be eligible for $9,950 in compensation.
The settlements continue a national discussion about aggressive policing techniques but also the rising cost to taxpayers from million-dollar police settlements involving the 2020 demonstrations over the death of Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer.
In March, New York City agreed to pay $7 million to more than 300 people arrested during a June 2020 demonstration in the Bronx.
Shortly after, the city of Philadelphia agreed to pay more than $9 million in a record-breaking settlement, which is being split among 350 people who participated in the protests.
Collectively, Stimson said, the police settlements and calls to defund law enforcement do little to improve public safety and will contribute to low morale in police departments amid a shortage of rank-and-file police officers with many leaving the profession.
“This hurts people, particularly in underserved communities,” he said. “It’s only the elites, who are far removed from crime ridden neighborhoods, who think that fewer police is good for law and order.”
Backers of the New York City settlements argue the compensation is justified, and suggest the fault lies with the city’s inability to control the NYPD and prevent police brutality against demonstrators.
“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, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.
Plaintiffs in the case say they hope the settlement will spur more policing reforms to improve law enforcement responses to protests such as those that took place during the pandemic.
“The harmful realities we were protesting in 2020 persist,” Savitri Durkee, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said in a statement. “Black and brown people are disproportionately harassed, prosecuted, jailed and killed by police.”