A federal lawsuit filed in Manhattan on Monday morning accuses Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea and the NYPD of violating the civil rights of 11 marchers who were arrested and/or assaulted by cops during the George Floyd protests earlier this year.
The New York Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Aid Society filed the suit on behalf of individuals who participated in protests that broke out across the city between May 28 and June 28 in the aftermath of Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
The lawsuit accuses NYPD officers of employing “aggressive techniques” against the marchers in an effort to control the protests — from dousing them with pepper spray, to assaulting them with batons, to “kettling” large groups of marchers, blocking off any means of egress and sparking standoffs with armed officers.
Thirty-eight unidentified members of the NYPD were also named as defendants in the lawsuit, as the victims were not able to identify all of them by name.
“When tens of thousands of New Yorkers took to the streets peacefully to protest police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, the NYPD unleashed an indiscriminate and brutal wave of violence to punish protesters for demonstrating against police violence,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. “Instead of holding the NYPD accountable for the repeated abuses, the mayor and the police commissioner became the apologists-in-chief. The city’s response to the righteous wave of #BlackLivesMatter protests is a stain on the city that can’t be allowed to go unchecked, especially as New Yorkers prepare for the possibility of a new wave of protest after the election.”
The lawsuit filed in the Manhattan-based Southern District of New York documents some of the alleged civil rights violations that protesters suffered at the hands of NYPD officers during the spring protests.
One of the co-plaintiffs on the NYCLU/Legal Aid Society case is Jarrett Payne, a Black man from Queens who participated in the June 2 protest that began at Foley Square and headed to Midtown. The protest continued after the 8 p.m. curfew imposed in New York following looting and rioting that coincided the march, but since it was peaceful, Payne felt he could continue with the march until the NYPD told them to stop.
That moment came when Payne arrived with the group of protesters at Central Park near 5th Avenue.
“Multiple officers attacked me with batons, and I was left bloodied and in need of medical care,” Payne said.
The lawsuit notes that Payne suffered a head wound that caused profuse bleeding, staining his face mask and the protest sign he held. Cops then placed handcuffs tightly around his wrist upon bringing him into custody. One officer allegedly told him, “You got what was coming to you.”
Payne received minimal care after he was transferred to a police station in Brooklyn. He was released from custody early the following morning on a disorderly conduct summons that was later dismissed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
Another protester, Charlie Monlouis-Anderle, a Black resident of Brooklyn arrested during a June 3 march in their home borough, was struck with batons by officers and then tackled to the ground “without warning or provocation,” according to the lawsuit. Monlouis-Anderle was placed in tight handcuffs, even though they complained of extreme pain in their right arm, which wound up being broken during the initial assault.
“My arm was broken by police during a peaceful protest in support of Black lives,” Monlouis-Anderle said. “The NYPD is brutalizing protesters who dare to challenge the police’s invulnerability within a racist judicial system. They are inflicting state-sanctioned violence to intimidate and subdue voices proclaiming that Black Lives Matter.”
The NYCLU, Legal Aid Society and the 11 protesters are seeking financial compensation from the city for damages inflicted, but also acknowledgement that the protesters’ First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated. They are also seeking “discovery and disclosure from the city” to reveal NYPD protest policies “and the extent to which the mayor and police leadership authorized the brutal treatment of peaceful protesters.”
“The world was rightly shocked when the NYPD met demonstrators against police harassment and violence with the very abuse they took to the streets to protest,” added Corey Stoughton of the Legal Aid Society. “Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Shea encouraged and allowed this violent response, a gross failure of leadership that continues a longstanding pattern of promoting of culture of impunity for police misconduct primarily affecting Black and Brown New Yorkers, and failing to meet the moment and address New Yorkers’ demands for change.”
When reached for comment about the litigation, an NYPD spokesperson replied, “We will review the lawsuit if and when we are served.”
During his Monday morning press conference, de Blasio declined to go into the details of the lawsuit, but said that the NYPD is committed to improving relationships between police and the communities they serve.
“Clearly, what we want and what we believe in is a better and more peaceful relationship between the NYPD and the community,” de Blasio said. “I’m not going to speak to the details of the lawsuit, but I think the underlying concept just isn’t fair.”
You can read the entire lawsuit here.