Racist justice activists awarded $14 million in key case against Denver police

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Protesters wearing protective masks raise their fists as they sit in silence for 9 minutes during a peaceful protest against the death in the Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, at 19 and Broadway in Denver, Colorado, USA, June 1

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) – A federal court jury on Friday awarded $14 million to a dozen activists who sued Denver police, claiming that excessive force was used against protesters. peaceful during racist injustice protests following the death of George Floyd in 2020.

The city of Denver has previously settled a number of civil complaints stemming from police responses to the Floyd protests, but Friday’s decision lawsuit is the first such case in the nation to be filed. brought to trial, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents some of the plaintiffs.

The ruling, which came after about three hours of jury deliberation, limits the trial to three weeks in US District Court in Denver.

The lawsuit, filed in June 2020, prompted a federal judge to issue a temporary order barring police in Denver from using tear gas, plastic bullets, explosive grenades, and other “less lethal” forces except when approved by a senior officer in response to specific acts of violence.

The death of Floyd, an unarmed Black man, during his arrest in Minneapolis by a white officer kneeling on his neck, sparked a wave of protests against police brutality and injustice. public racism in the summer of 2020 in cities around the country, including Denver.

While the lawsuit filed by activists in Denver admits that some protesters engaged in illegal behavior, they argue that the vast majority are peaceful and accuse the police of engaging in censorship tactics. heavy-handed riot control without giving clear warnings and orders to disperse.

The biggest individual prize, $3 million, went to Zachary Packard, who was hit in the head by a bullet fired from a police pistol. The suit says he suffered a fractured jaw and skull, broken two spinal discs and bleeding in his brain.

“There is a widespread custom and practice of violence and aggression against protesters,” plaintiffs attorney Tim Macdonald told jurors.

A lawyer defending the city, Lindsay (NYSE: Jordan,) argued that police must make quick decisions in a chaotic situation. Jordan said some protesters began setting fires and breaking windows in the state Supreme Court building and a nearby museum.

“When legitimate anger turns to violence and destruction, it is the responsibility of the police to intervene for the sake of public safety,” she said.

In a statement released after the ruling, the city’s Department of Public Safety, which oversees the police department, said officers made mistakes, but that the protests were on an “unprecedented scale”. “.

“The city has never seen such protracted levels of violence and destruction before,” the statement said.

The department said the city made policy changes in the wake of the protests, including increasing officer training for crowd management, and eliminating the use of certain “less lethal” weapons. ” and new guidelines on the use of pepper spray.

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