Attorneys for Detroit Will Breathe
Police use a baton during an Aug. 23, 2020, protest in Detroit.
The city of Detroit will pay Detroit Will Breathe protesters more than $1 million as part of a police brutality lawsuit filed in the aftermath of demonstrations over the death of George Floyd in 2020.
The protest group Detroit Will Breathe claimed in the suit that police violated their constitutional rights by responding to peaceful demonstrations with “beatings, tear gas, pepper spray, and mass arrests.” Some of the protesters were hospitalized with serious injuries.
Under the judgment, Detroit Will Breathe and 14 plaintiffs will receive a total of $1,035,000.
“This offer of judgment resolves the case in our favor and means that the federal court will rule that the City of Detroit and the Detroit Police Department violated the constitutional rights of protesters during the George Floyd uprising in 2020,” Detroit Will Breathe said in a statement.
The Detroit Police Department, under the leadership of then-Chief James Craig, repeatedly denied wrongdoing, even after some protesters were met with brute force while peacefully demonstrating.
Detroit police, using batons, tear gas & pepper spray, arrested 42 peaceful protesters early Sunday morning. Protesters were bruised & bleeding. Video by Jeffrey Nolish, an observer with Michigan Liberation. pic.twitter.com/XhNIpru9vT
— Steve Neavling (@MCmuckraker) August 24, 2020
After filing the lawsuit, a federal judge in September 2020 issued a restraining order prohibiting police from using batons, shields, tear gas, rubber bullets, chokeholds, and other tactics against peaceful protesters, legal observers, and medical personnel.
“From the moment the Court issued its restraining order until the present it is my understanding that there have been no incidents of force against protestors, no arrests, and no allegations of property damage,” Detroit Will Breathe attorney Jack Schulz told Metro Times in a statement. “Although this order ends with the lawsuit, there is two years of peaceful protest without the police resorting to batons, tear gas, and rubber bullets to support its value should the police drift back to this violent approach.”
Prior to the restraining order, Schulz says, “The officers showed little restraint and intentionally caused serious physical and emotional injuries rather than even attempting to place protestors under arrest peacefully.”
During the lawsuit, the plaintiffs received body cam footage, incident reports, and other documents that detailed the brutality.
“It is no coincidence that the City forfeited the case after we obtained this evidence, and before putting James Craig and any other police officers on the stand,” Detroit Will Breathe said. “DPD’s desperation to publicly demonize us, per Chief Craig’s many interviews on Fox News, showed their fear of a movement exposing the true oppressive nature of police.”
City officials declined to comment on the judgment, which was approved by city council in July.
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