Philadelphia has agreed to pay $9.25 million to more than 300 people who said they were injured in the police response to racial justice protests that erupted after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the city said on Monday.
The city announced the settlement with the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit who said they sustained “physical and emotional injuries” in the city’s response to civil unrest and demonstrations on May 31 and June 1, 2020, after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, city officials said.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit included residents of West Philadelphia and people who participated in demonstrations on Interstate 676 in which they called for police accountability.
Video taken at the time showed officers using tear gas and pepper spray on protesters who had gathered minutes earlier. Plaintiffs also said that officers used rubber bullets.
Under the agreement, a total of $9.25 million will be distributed among 343 plaintiffs, according to the city.
In addition, a grant of $500,000 to $600,000 to the Bread & Roses Community Fund will fund free mental health counseling for West Philadelphia residents. The group works toward racial, social and economic justice in the city.
Mental health counseling will also be available to all residents within an unspecified radius of the 52nd Street corridor where protests took place in West Philadelphia, not just plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the city said.
“The pain and trauma caused by a legacy of systemic racism and police brutality against Black and Brown Philadelphians is immeasurable,” Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia said in a statement about the settlement.
“We hope this settlement will provide some healing from the harm experienced by people in their neighborhoods in West Philadelphia and during demonstrations on I-676 in 2020,” he added.
In response to the settlement, Danielle Outlaw, commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department, said her department “will continue to work nonstop towards improving what we as police do to protect the First Amendment rights of protesters, keep our communities and officers safe, and to ultimately prove that we are committed to a higher standard.”
At a news conference on Monday, representatives from the Legal Defense Fund, which was one of the organizations that represented the plaintiffs, called the agreement “one of the largest settlements of its kind in Philadelphia history.”
“We believe that today’s settlement represents a long overdue and frank recognition of the stark violence that police inflicted on West Philadelphia residents and protesters,” said Charles McLaurin, a senior counsel with the fund.
He added, “We hope that today’s settlement provides a measure of healing for those harmed by police violence in 2020 and beyond.”
Amelia Carter, one of the plaintiffs, also spoke at the news conference.
“Instead of protecting us, the Philadelphia Police Department waged war in our streets,” Ms. Carter said. “There should be no place for the militarization of a police department that is supposed to serve us.”
The allocation of payments from the settlement will be “fact-specific for each client, depending on the harm they experienced,” said a spokesman for the Legal Defense Fund.
The settlement was reached weeks after New York City agreed to pay $4 million to $6 million to protesters from a George Floyd protest that took place in the Bronx around the same time. New York City agreed to pay $21,500 to each of hundreds of demonstrators who were penned in by the police, then charged at or beaten with batons, according to the settlement.
On June 4, 2020, the police boxed in hundreds of protesters who had peacefully gathered on 136th Street and then prevented them from leaving, a practice known as “kettling,” according to the lawsuit.
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