More than 340 plaintiffs were awarded $9.25 million for police brutality during the 2020 George Floyd protests.
The city of Philadelphia in the United States has agreed to pay $9.25 million to settle a class action lawsuit by protesters who said the city’s police responded with excessive force when demonstrations broke out over George’s murder Floyd in 2020.
On Monday, the city government released a written statement saying the money would be divided among 343 plaintiffs. The city will also offer a $500,000 grant to the Bread and Roses Community Fund to provide mental health services to those who have been victims of police brutality.
“We’ve been through the wringer and if this can get us to a point where we can continue to heal, it’s worth it,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.
Massive protests against police brutality shocked the US in 2020 after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed when police in Minneapolis, Minnesota pinned him to the ground and knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes as he struggled to breathe .
There was looting and violence in some cities, but the protests were largely peaceful. In some cities, law enforcement agencies were accused of using heavy-handed techniques against peaceful protesters.
In early June 2020, videos circulated on social media showing Philadelphia police firing tear gas at protesters who had blocked a highway. Sandwiched between two specialized police units, the demonstrators had nowhere to go as they were hit with tear gas, pepper spray and, reportedly, rubber bullets.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs also stated that police had turned predominantly black Philadelphia neighborhoods into spaces resembling a war zone, with militarized police vehicles “indiscriminately firing tear gas grenades” at residents.
Protests in the city include clashes with police, the burning of several police vehicles and some cases of theft.
“Together with city, state and community stakeholders, we will continue to work non-stop to improve what we as police are doing to protect the First Amendment rights of protesters, keep our communities and officers safe and ultimately to prove that we are committed to a higher standard,” Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said in a statement.
City officials also ended their participation in a controversial program that allows state and local law enforcement agencies to receive surplus military equipment from the federal government, which critics say has contributed to the militarization of the police force.
A 2021 analysis by the New York Times found that police in numerous cities across the country mishandled the protests, often responding with excessive force.
Years after Floyd’s death, however, the US continues to grapple with allegations of racism and excessive police militarization.
A 2021 study published in the medical journal The Lancet found that deaths from police brutality were dramatically underreported, with US national statistics failing to record 17,000 deaths between 1980 and 2018. That amounted to 55.5 percent of all police-related deaths.