The New York Police Department is being sued for allegedly brutalizing and violating protesters’ civil rights at Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the summer. The suit was filed in federal court on Monday (Oct. 26) by two civil rights groups — The New York Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Aid Society — who also accused New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Dermont Shea of “encouraging” the violence.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 11 protesters, who say they “were met with the very pattern of police violence they marched to end” at demonstrations this May and June. According to the suit, police descended without warning on a peaceful rally and used batons and pepper spray against the crowd.
The suit also claims that protesters’ hands were restrained in zip ties, causing pain, bruising and some long-term injuries. The organizations allege that police detained the protesters without giving them adequate food and water or following the necessary COVID-19 safety precautions.
Furthermore, the suit claims that NYPD leadership and the mayor “condoned and even promoted” the brutality and that the department “deliberately” refused to curb their tactics amidst civilian complains.
“The world was rightly shocked when the NYPD met demonstrators against police harassment and violence with the very abuse the took to the streets to protest,” Corey Stoughton of the Legal Aid Society said. “Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Shea encouraged and allowed this violent response... primarily affecting Black and Brown New Yorkers.”
One protester — Charlie Monlouis-Anderle — said they were beaten until they were limp and denied medical attention for a broken arm.
“I am bringing this lawsuit because it is one way among many that we can demand justice and ensure the safety of future protesters,” Monlouis-Anderle said. “I want the cop who brutalized me, the NYPD and our appointed officials to be held accountable for the terror they caused me and my community.”
Mayor de Blasio also declined to address the suit, saying in a news conference on Monday, “Clearly, what we want and what we believe in is a better and more peaceful relationship between the NYPD and the community. I’m not going to speak to the details of the lawsuit, but I think the underlying concept just isn’t fair.”
A report by the New York Attorney General found that over 1,300 complaints about excessive force were made against the police department during the protest-heavy months of May and June. Complaints included protesters claiming they were zip-tied, detained for hours and surrounded on all sides by police — a containment method called “kettling.”
“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 protestors for demonstrating against police violence,” New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said.
“The City’s response to the righteous wave of Black Lives Matter 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 two organizations are seeking monetary damages on behalf of the 11 protesters. The suit also calls for the city to train police officers to handle protesters in a way that doesn’t violate their civil rights and to hold cops who use excessive force accountable.