Two Black New York legislators say they were beaten with bicycles and pepper-sprayed by cops during a Black Lives Matter protest in Brooklyn last summer. Now, the lawmakers — State Sen. Zellnor Myrie and Assemblywoman Diana Richardson — have filed a federal lawsuit against the city.
The suit from Myrie and Richardson alleges that Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea and six other officers violated their right to free speech, assaulted them and illegally detained Myrie.
“The experience was a painful and humiliating reminder that following the rules and complying with police orders does not protect Black Americans from police brutality, not even Black Americans who have ascended to elected office,” the suit reads.
Along with unspecified damages, the suit also asks that a judge declare certain police tactics illegal, such as “kettling,” which is when officers surround protesters from all sides. The New York Times reports that with this and several other suits stemming from the protests, the city potentially faces millions of dollars in payouts.
Myrie and Richardson claim that after kettling the group of protesters, police, without warning, used their bicycles to hit them. Myrie said he was hit in the back and in the legs while Richardson was struck in the stomach. They added that after ignoring protesters’ cries and not giving any verbal instructions, the cops pepper-sprayed both of them in the face.
The Department of Investigation previously found that many New York officers violated protesters’ civil rights during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year. However, NYT reports, only a handful of the cops were disciplined.
“The N.Y.P.D. has a longstanding track record of successfully protecting the right of the public to protest while ensuring public safety and is committed to strengthening those efforts,” Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city Law Department, said in response to the lawsuit. “We will review these claims.”