Mar 21, 2023 - News

Philadelphia to pay protesters $9 million

Illustration of a pair of handcuffs in the shape of a dollar sign.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Philadelphia will pay $9.25 million to hundreds of people injured by police during protests in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Driving the news: Lawyers for the plaintiffs said at a news conference yesterday that it was the largest settlement secured to date against police for using heavy-handed tactics.

  • As part of the settlement, the city is committing an additional $500,000 to the Bread and Roses Community Fund that’ll go toward community programs and helping victims of police violence.

Why it matters: The settlement resolves allegations contained in four federal lawsuits from about 350 people who said they were harmed on May 31-June 1, 2020, during peaceful demonstrations for racial justice.

Catch up quick: Police deployed swarms of officers and military-style vehicles to try to quell demonstrations on Interstate 676 and in the 52nd corridor in West Philly, where many Black businesses were looted.

  • Some protesters and bystanders complained that they were injured and hospitalized after being teargassed, pepper sprayed and shot with rubber bullets.
  • Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw later apologized for authorizing tear gas use on the expressway, and City Council adopted changes that limited police from using it and rubber bullets during demonstrations.
  • The city also created a stronger police watchdog agency with investigative subpoena power.

What they’re saying: The police response was “an attack on people’s cornerstone rights to express dissent,” Charles McLaurin of the Legal Defense Fund told Axios. The settlement is an “important step” toward improving policing efforts, but shouldn’t be viewed as a “panacea” that’ll completely mend strained relationships between officers and the community, he said.

Details: Lawyers for the plaintiffs said the city withdrew from a federal program that provides excess military weaponry and equipment to police departments.

  • City officials also agreed to meet twice a year with West Philadelphians to answer questions about police use of force and respond to questions from the community, per the settlement.

The other side: City officials in statements called the settlement “one step in the right direction” and vowed that the department would learn from its mistakes.

  • “The Philadelphia Police Department is a learning organization, and we remain dedicated to moving forward in meaningful and productive ways," Outlaw said.

The bottom line: The six-figure payout adds to nearly $116 million that the city has shelled out in police misconduct settlements since 2016.

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