By Brad Brooks
PHILADELPHIA, PA – Philadelphia will pay $9.25 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by racial justice protesters who accused police of abusing them at a 2020 rally following the killing of George Floyd, the city said on Monday.
The Philadelphia city government said in a written statement the payment would be distributed among 343 plaintiffs who alleged physical and emotional injuries in the police response to protests ignited by the killing of Floyd, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police.
The city will also provide a grant of at least $500,000 to the Bread & Roses Community Fund for free mental health counseling for residents of West Philadelphia, a predominantly Black neighborhood, who have been victims of police violence, lawyers for plaintiffs said.
Videos of the protest showed Philadelphia police using tear gas and pepper spray on a crowd of demonstrators who had gathered on a major highway on June 1, 2020. Plaintiffs also accused police of firing rubber bullets into the crowd.
The 2020 protests in Philadelphia were among many that came after video surfaced showing a Minneapolis police officer pinning Floyd’s neck to the ground with his knee for about nine minutes.
The Legal Defense Fund, one of the organizations representing the plaintiffs, called the settlement one of the largest in the city’s history. The Fund said police had agreed to meet with West Philadelphia residents every six months to provide data on its use of force and to take questions from the community.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said the pain and trauma caused by “a legacy of systemic racism and police brutality against Black and Brown Philadelphians is immeasurable” but that he hoped the settlement would help bring about some healing.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said her department is “a learning organization” and it would continue work to better protect “the first amendment rights of protesters.”
New York City recently agreed to pay out millions to protesters who alleged police abuse during that city’s demonstrations in the wake of Floyd’s death.
(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)