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NYC agrees to multimillion dollar settlement compensating protesters corralled by police officers at 2020 George Floyd protest

NYC to pay millions to protesters boxed in by NYPD during 2020 protest
NYC to pay millions to protesters boxed in by NYPD during 2020 protest 02:26

NEW YORK -- New York City has agreed to a multimillion dollar settlement in the case of protesters corralled by cops during George Floyd demonstrations in the summer of 2020.

A federal judge has to approve the settlement, which is related to charges police boxed in hundreds of protesters who were peacefully demonstrating in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. It's a practice the lawyers describe as "kettling."

RELATED STORY (11/7/2020): Mayor Bill De Blasio Urges Protesters To Call Out Agitators, Says Officers Using 'Kettling' Tactic Is Not Acceptable

"They used bicycle officers to surround our clients and the class members and trap them into a spot on the street in Mott Haven, where they then proceeded to attack them and arrest them," attorney Rob Rickner said.

"They threw people to the ground. One of our clients is shown very clearly on a police video getting picked up like a sack of potatoes and thrown to the ground. Two of our other clients were manhandled, even as one of them said to please give her some space, that she had MS," attorney Ali Frick said.

Rickner and Frick filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of five of some 300 protesters attacked by cops on June 4, 2020, during a peaceful George Floyd protest. They were able to prove that the kettling attack had been pre-approved.

"By the highest levels of the NYPD, and what they planned to do and what they did in fact do was make an enormous show of force in Mott Haven. They brought hundreds of officers from all over the city, and they shipped them there hours before this protest even started," Frick said.

RELATED STORY (12/18/2020): NYPD Excessive Force Heightened Tensions During Protests Over George Floyd's Death, DOI Report Finds

Protesters Samira Sierra and her sister Amali were among those who sued.

"They started hitting people with batons. They started ramming people with bikes. They started spraying tear gas. There were cops on top of cars that were punching demonstrators," Samira Sierra said. "There was blood. It was very gory. It was terror."

The Sierra sisters say NYPD officers began boxing the crowd in just after the 8 p.m. curfew that was in effect in the city at the time.

"They just kept moving in from both ends of the street, and they were crushing our bodies together," Samira Sierra said.

"Many people were, at that point, you know, like, pleading for their lives -- 'I can't breathe,' 'Open it up,' 'We're not fighting back,'" Amali Sierra said.

Then came the mass arrests.

"I was body-slammed by about six officers," Samira Sierra said.

"And while exercising that right to not be brutalized and killed by the police, you yourself are brutalized," attorney Lance Clarke said.

The Sierra sisters believe it's no coincidence police used kettling in the Bronx even though most of the 2020 protests were in Manhattan.

"Black and brown folks, we are the Bronx, and it's very clear that the city of New York just wanted to silence us," Samira Sierra said.

Watch Marcia Kramer's report

NYC agrees to multimillion dollar settlement compensating protesters 02:51

The city agreed to pay each of the defendants $21,500, plus an additional $2,000 if they were arrested and ticketed. As many as 200 or 300 protestors will have the right to join the suit and get the payout, the lawyers said.

"There may be others that choose not to join in the class because their injuries are so much more severe," Rickner said.

"Hopefully what happened here today shows them there are consequences and the people that live in this neighborhood deserve the same respect and treatment as people that live in other parts of New York City," Clarke said.  

The mayor's office referred CBS2 to the NYPD, which issued a statement insisting that since the summer of 2020, cops have been retrained in how to deal with large-scale protests.

"The NYPD remains committed to continually improving its practices in every way possible," the statement said.

A spokesman for the NYPD told us much of its "policies and training for policing large-scale demonstrations have been re-envisioned."

The lawyers say the settlement is the largest ever awarded in cases of mass demonstration arrests.

"We think that reflects an acknowledgement that what happened here was a human rights violation," attorney Joshua Moskovitz said.

If everyone one of the protesters participates, the city would be forced to pay as much as $10 million.

The other protesters have until October to join the class action.

If a judge approves the settlement, payments could be made as early as this year.

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