- The more than 300 demonstrators will be awarded $21 500 each.
- According to a class action lawsuit police initiated mass arrests using batons and pepper spray on some of the demonstrators.
- The total payments could amount to around $7 million.
New York City has agreed to pay millions of dollars to demonstrators who sued the police department, saying they had been mistreated during a June 2020 racial justice protest that followed the killing of George Floyd.
The proposed settlement will award $21 500 to each of the more than 300 people arrested in the Mott Haven neighbourhood of the city's Bronx borough if a federal judge approves it.
The 4 June demonstration was among numerous protests in New York City and around the country after the killing of Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died on 25 May 2020 when a Minneapolis police officer pinned his neck to the ground with a knee for about nine minutes.
According to a class action lawsuit filed in 2020, New York police trapped hundreds of peaceful protesters in a strategy known as "kettling" before a 20:00 curfew took effect and then initiated mass arrests, using batons and pepper spray on some of the demonstrators.
"In the course of this litigation, we learned that this operation was preplanned and coordinated at the highest levels of the NYPD," Ali Frick, one of the lawyers who brought the case, said in an interview. She said the settlement appears to be the largest ever per person for any class action suit related to a mass arrest.
In a statement, the New York City Police Department said the demonstration occurred at a "challenging moment" when officers -already dealing with the strains of the Covid-19 pandemic - attempted to balance the right of people to protest with safety concerns.
"Much of the NYPD's policies and training for policing large-scale demonstrations have been re-envisioned based on the findings of the department's-self-initiated analyses and on the recommendations from three outside agencies which carefully investigated that period," the department said.
The total payments could amount to around $7 million, not including attorneys' fees, but a precise accounting has yet to be available. According to court filings, some protesters pursued individual claims and reached separate settlements, making them ineligible for additional payments.
Last month, the city's civilian police review board recommended that 146 officers face disciplinary action for excessive use of force and other misconduct during the 2020 protests.
A city watchdog agency issued a report in December 2020 finding that police use of force, including kettling, often failed to differentiate between peaceful protesters and criminal actors, adding to the tension between demonstrators and officers.
The city paid out $121 million in 2022 in police misconduct settlements, the most in five years, according to an analysis by the Legal Aid Society released last month.