In Columbus, Ohio, more than two dozen plaintiffs will receive financial compensation because of a civil rights lawsuit they filed claiming they were brutalized while protesting racial injustice during the summer of 2020.
On Thursday afternoon, Dec. 9, City Attorney Zach Klein announced the $5.75 million settlement agreement that came after 32 plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Columbus, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
The suit names former Police Chief Thomas Quinlan, a Columbus police commander, three lieutenants, seven sergeants and 14 officers for the injuries the plaintiffs suffered while protesting Downtown. The funds will reportedly come from the city’s general fund once approved by the City Council.
In a written statement, Klein commended many Columbus police officers for their response to the unrest, which began after George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police in May 2020. Klein added that some officers crossed the line.
“During the protests in Columbus, some plaintiffs were significantly injured," he said. "Therefore, it's incumbent upon the city to accept responsibility and pay restitution ... this litigation highlighted serious issues that must be addressed."
In addition to financial compensation, the City of Columbus also agreed to permanently ban police officers from using tear gas and wooden bullets to break up non-violent protesters. They are also now required to ensure body cameras and vehicle dash cameras are on and functioning before any interaction with protesters.
The plaintiffs in the case had alleged that their First Amendment constitutional rights were violated during the summer protests mostly in Downtown Columbus.
“We admire (the 32 plaintiffs) for standing up for their principles, their concerns about racism and their right to protest,” Fred Gittes, a civil rights attorney among the 11 who represented the plaintiffs, said in a written statement. “With trust, Columbus residents will work more often with police to prevent and solve crime.”
The Dispatch reports that the Columbus Division of Police made arrests and used pepper spray, tear gas, wooden baton rounds, and sponge rounds to break up crowds of protesters.
The plaintiffs alleged that some officers used pepper spray without provocation and used bicycles to ram into protesters and people standing around, using video taken of what happened as evidence.
Tammy Fournier-Alsaada, the lead plaintiff in the case, is a social justice organizer and part of the People’s Justice Project in Columbus. She claims in court documents that she was at a protest on May 30, 2020 in Downtown when she was informed that protesters were being arrested.
When she began speaking to a police official she knew and was granted permission to walk through a line of offices to continue a discussion, Fournier-Alsaada was pepper-sprayed without provocation. Others in the lawsuit say they suffered broken bones, wounds from wooden pellets, and were improperly arrested.