Protesters hit Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD with a police brutality lawsuit alleging they were beaten with batons, pepper-sprayed and assaulted for peacefully demonstrating against the killing of George Floyd.
The civil rights lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court Monday alleges that the city had a de facto policy of allowing cops to violently target protesters and focuses on the alleged abuse of eleven plaintiffs from May 28 to June 28 at nine protests in Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn.
“The killing of George Floyd was the last straw for me, and it captured many of the issues facing Black people in America,” said plaintiff Jarrett Payne, of Queens, who was arrested June 2 for protesting in Manhattan in violation of an 8 p.m. curfew. “We were met with the same kind of brutal force that police unleashed on George Floyd in his final minutes.”
Several officers allegedly bludgeoned Payne with batons, leaving him bleeding from his head, then arrested him, the suit charges.
Charlie Monlouis-Anderle, who continued marching after the curfew, says a trio of cops allegedly tackled them to the ground, beat them with batons and left them with a broken arm on June 3rd in Brooklyn.
“[The police] are inflicting state-sanctioned violence to intimidate and subdue voices proclaiming that Black Lives Matter,” Monlouis-Anderle said in a statement.
Monlouis-Anderle, who is gender non-binary, says cops added insult to injury by purposefully refusing to use the pronoun “they.”
Payne and Monlouis-Anderle both received disorderly conduct summonses that were subsequently dismissed by the Manhattan and Brooklyn DAs.
The city imposed the curfew after days of rioting and looting cost businesses millions in damages and several violent attacks on cops.
“NYPD officers descended on protesters with unjustifiable fist and baton strikes, chemical peppery spray attacks and other acts of physical violence,” the court papers charge.
De Blasio challenged the lawsuit’s assertions during Monday’s City Hall press briefing.
“From what I’ve heard of the lawsuit’s allegation, it doesn’t sound right at all to me,” he said. “There’s been a conscious effort for seven years now to change the relationship between the NYPD and communities…the underlying concept just isn’t fair.”
The filing alleges that officers encircled protesters using a tactic called “kettling” so they couldn’t escape. Those who were arrested were “placed in excessively tight plastic handcuffs” which in some cases “led to long-term injury,” the suit charges.
During the arrests, many of the officers weren’t wearing masks potentially exposing protesters to the coronavirus, according to the court papers.
The alleged attacks were ordered by the highest-ranking police leadership “in retaliation for the protesters’ message — calling for greater police accountability…and a recognition that Black Lives Matter,” the suit says.
The eleven protesters named as plaintiffs — Payne, Monlouis-Anderle, Andie Mali, Camila Gini, Vidal Guzman, Vivian Matthew King-Yarde, Jaime Fried, Micaela Martinez, Julian Phillips, Nicholas Mulder, and Colleen McCormack-Maitland — are represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Aid Society.
The plaintiffs allege that the city violated their constitutional rights and are suing for compensatory and punitive damages plus attorneys’ fees.
The non-profit Hunan Rights Watch group has said the cops’ heavy-handed response to a June 4 demonstration in the Bronx violated international human rights.
Plaintiffs also want the city to turn over records that they hope will reveal to what extent the mayor and police authorized the aggressive tactics against protesters. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, Chief of Department Terence Monahan and several officers are also named as defendants.
After the caught-on-video police killing of George Floyd May 25 in Minneapolis, thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters took to the city’s streets to decry police brutality and racial injustice.
State Attorney General Letitia James previously announced a probe of the NYPD over the aggressive crackdown of protesters.
DCPI spokeswoman Denise Moroney said, “We will review the lawsuit if and when we are served.”
The city Law Department didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Additional reporting by Julia Marsh and Tina Moore