New York City will pay millions of dollars to settle a class action suit brought by protesters trapped, beaten, and arrested by the NYPD during a protest in Mott Haven in the Bronx in 2020, according to proposed settlement terms filed in federal court yesterday.
In a summer full of the violent suppression of protests against police violence, the incident in Mott Haven on June 4, 2020, stood out as especially egregious: Under a plan hatched and personally overseen by then-Chief of Department Terence Monahan, the highest uniformed officer in the NYPD, and with the cooperation of the NYPD's own legal team, police trapped more than 300 nonviolent protesters on East 136th Street, preventing them from leaving until after the 8 p.m. curfew that was then in place went into effect. Officers then pepper-sprayed the protestors, beat them with batons, and arrested them en masse. Along with protesters, legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild and passers-by were handcuffed and detained as well.
The next day, Mayor de Blasio brushed off press accounts of the violent suppression of the protest, and his police commissioner, Dermot Shea, said the NYPD "had a plan which was executed nearly flawlessly." But investigations by the NYC Department of Investigation and the New York attorney general's office excoriated the police's handling of the protest, and a detailed report by Human Rights Watch found the police actions that day violated New Yorkers' constitutional rights as well as international human rights law.
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, everyone caught up in the Mott Haven kettle will be entitled to receive $21,500. Those who were issued desk appearance tickets could get $2,500 on top of that, and the named plaintiffs who brought the suit would be entitled to an additional $21,500. The City will also pay out $2,550,000 in attorney's fees.
In terms of its total cost to the City, this settlement figure, which tops out at seven figures, is hardly unprecedented. But it is a large figure when viewed as a per-person settlement. When the NYPD conducted illegal mass arrests of protesters at the 2004 Republican National Convention—an operation, also overseen by Monahan, that resulted in 1,800 arrests—it ultimately settled the resulting lawsuits for $18 million. Lawyers for the Mott Haven protesters say they believe this would be the largest per-person settlement in a mass arrest case in New York history.
The lawsuit being provisionally settled is one of many resulting from the NYPD's conduct during the 2020 protests. While this lawsuit sought only financial damages, others that are still pending are seeking injunctive relief, including forcing the NYPD to overhaul its policies and training to comply with the Constitution.
As is common in settlements like this, the NYPD is resolving the case without admitting that it did anything wrong.
Asked about the settlement, an NYPD spokesperson noted that the Mott Haven protesters were arrested for violating the curfew that was in place at the time. "It was a challenging moment for the department as officers who themselves were suffering under the strains of a global pandemic did their utmost to help facilitate people's rights to peaceful expression while addressing acts of lawlessness including wide-scale rioting, mass chaos, violence, and destruction," the spokesperson continued, adding that since 2020, the NYPD has "re-envisioned" much of its policy and training for large demonstrations.
In a statement announcing the proposed settlement, one of the lead plaintiffs, Amali Sierra, struck a different note: "This settlement serves as testimony of the wrongdoing by the hands of the NYPD," she wrote. "It is a reminder that this institution is not built to protect Black and Brown communities."
Plus, some other goings on about town:
- The Times, the Daily News, and the Post all have stories on what sounds to be a five-alarm conflagration within the top echelons of the FDNY, as a handful of former chiefs have sued the department and the new commissioner, Laura Kavanagh, claiming that she unfairly demoted them and is generally ill-suited to run the department.
- A New York railroad lobbyist tells New York Focus that only federal law should regulate the railroads here, then refuses to comment on a federal railroad proposal, claiming that they would only comment on state law. This is a railroad lobbying koan now.
- The acting chief judge on New York's highest court is still upset about the governor's nominee being voted down.
- If you tip your landlord: Why?
- New York City, the richest city in the richest society in the history of humanity, has more than 1.5 million people in danger of starving.
- "Connecticut Man Refuses To Wear Shoes, Gets 1500 Words in the New York Times."
- The CITY has a good story about the film industry tax subsidies, but it's weirdly framed up top to make it seem like we need to dial that cash up. Read Hell Gate's dive into the film subsidies (and their dubious efficacy) here.
And finally, please subscribe to Hell Gate, unless you want us to quit to go care for the loons.
Image credit: edwardhblake / Flickr