The City of Philadelphia has announced a $9.25 million settlement with hundreds of people who sued the city alleging “excessive and unreasonable force” by police during the civil unrest over the killing of George Floyd in 2020.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of 343 plaintiffs alleged that the response by police left protesters with “physical injuries that, in some cases, required medical treatment and hospitalization, as well as emotional anguish” during a protest over police brutality on May 31, 2020 – just a few days after Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis.
Philadelphia police officers used “tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets” against protesters “and in some cases arrested participants and bystanders” according to the lawsuit, which was filed by the Legal Defense Fund, the Abolitionist Law Center, and Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin LLP.
The city also agreed to disengage from the 1033 program, “a federal program which arms state and local law enforcement with military weapons and equipment,” according to a statement by the Legal Defense Fund about the settlement.
Under the agreement, the city will also give a grant of between $500,000 and $600,000 to Bread & Rose Community Fund to provide free mental health counseling and community-led programing for “all residents within a radius of 52nd Street corridor in West Philadelphia, not just plaintiffs in the lawsuit,” according to the city’s press release.
The settlement did not include an admission of liability or wrongdoing by the defendants, and the court filings with the settlement terms indicate the city continues to deny any wrongdoing.
How police respond to protests came under intense scrutiny during the massive protests that erupted nationwide after Floyd’s death as police in major cities tried to quell unrest with tear gas and rubber bullets.
In the statement, the Legal Defense Fund said this is an “unprecedented settlement with the City of Philadelphia for the Philadelphia Police Department’s excessive, militaristic use of force” during the 2020 protests.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said “the Philadelphia Police Department is a learning organization, and we remain dedicated to moving forward in meaningful and productive ways,” according to a news release from the city.
“We will continue to work non-stop towards improving what we as police do to protect the first amendment rights of protestors, keep our communities and officers safe, and to ultimately prove that we are committed to a higher standard,” she continued.
The settlement “features a recognition of the damage the PPD has done throughout West Philadelphia and it communicates the importance of centering the community in a path towards healing,” said Cara McClellan, director and practice associate professor of the Advocacy for Racial and Civil Justice Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Today’s settlement sets an important precedent for accountability in future cases,” she added.
Source : CNN