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Denver City Council approves $4.7M settlement to over 300 Black Lives Matter protesters from 2020 arrests

Denver City Council approves $4.7M settlement to 2020 protesters
Denver City Council approves $4.7M settlement to 2020 protesters 00:29

Denver's City Council unanimously approved a $4.7 million settlement to over 300 Black Lives Matter protesters arrested by Denver police in the summer of 2020.

The settlement was approved as part of the city council's consent agenda and covers over 300 people who participated in protests surrounding the police killing of George Floyd. This settlement is separate from the $14 million payout to 12 injured protesters, which went to a jury trial last year -- and which the city is appealing in federal court -- and a $1.6 million settlement to seven injured protesters earlier this year.

The $4.7 million settlement approved Monday will go to protesters who say their First Amendment rights were violated by the Denver Police Department.

"Denver used its militarized police force to unlawfully arrest over 300 people for protesting the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor," said Claire Sannier, one of the arrested protesters and plaintiffs in this lawsuit. "The city has agreed to pay for this one instance of violent suppression of free speech, while they continue to brutalize and imprison people every day. Our message is that Black Lives Matter is as necessary now as it was in 2020."

Front and center in the initial lawsuit filed against the city are text messages sent among Denver police leadership appearing to show them only enforcing a curfew against protesters.

"Over 300 people were arrested for the simple act of protesting. The U.S. Constitution does not allow police to clear the streets of protesters simply because they do not agree with their message," said Elizabeth Wang, of the civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy and lead attorney for the plaintiffs. "In addition to compensation to protesters, the settlement prevents the City from enacting any curfew enforced against those engaged in protest activity in the future. This is a win that will protect free speech in Denver for the years to come."

CBS News Colorado reached out to the Denver Police Department for comment. A department spokesman deferred to the City Attorney's Office, which denies that the department violated anyone's constitutional rights.

"The City and County of Denver has reached a settlement in a federal class action lawsuit filed on behalf of over 300 individuals who were arrested for violating the curfew order during protests in May 2020," the City Attorney's Office said in a statement. "The class plaintiffs alleged enforcement of the curfew order violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Denver denies its curfew order was unconstitutionally enforced. Under the proposed settlement, the total amount for class members is expected to be between approximately $3.0 to 3.5 million with the remaining approximately $1.22 to 1.72 million allocated to attorneys' fees, costs, and settlement administration expenses. The settlement must be approved by the District Court."

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