New York AG is suing the NYPD and the town for extreme violence in protests in opposition to racial justice
New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a press conference announcing a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA on August 6, 2020 in New York City.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images
New York attorney general Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the New York Police Department and New York City on Thursday alleging authorities used excessive force during the racial justice protests that summer.
The lawsuit, which has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern Borough of New York, calls on the NYPD to implement systemic reforms, which are monitored by an independent observer. It also asked a court to declare the police acts unlawful.
The 69-page filing contains allegations of dozens of excessive violent violations, accompanied by graphic photos of people allegedly beaten and, in some cases, illegally detained by police.
“There is no question that the NYPD has committed a pattern of excessive, brutal and unlawful violence against peaceful protesters,” James said in a statement accompanying the lawsuit.
“In the past few months, the NYPD has repeatedly and blatantly violated New Yorkers’ rights, inflicting significant physical and psychological damage, and creating great distrust of law enforcement,” said James. “With today’s lawsuit, this longstanding pattern of brutal and illegal violence ends. Nobody is above the law – not even the people charged with enforcing it.”
NYPD police watch protesters in Times Square during a protest against “Black Lives Matter” on June 1, 2020.
Timothy A. Clary | AFP via Getty Images
The lawsuit comes months after thousands gathered in New York to protest police violence after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville. Floyd and Taylor, both Black, were killed by police and became symbols of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a civil investigation into police misconduct after videos were circulated showing violent clashes between apparently peaceful protesters and law enforcement agencies. The investigation eventually found 30 incidents in which the police allegedly used pepper spray illegally and 75 in which they allegedly used improper force.
“When the defendants decided in May 2020 to send thousands of under-trained officials to large-scale protests that challenged the behavior and authority of the police, the results were predictable: mass arrests, excessive violence and other illegal efforts to suppress the protests . ” Lament reads.
“While many aggrieved protesters have asked for financial relief to repair their injuries, this lawsuit seeks solely a declaratory and injunction – a relief essential to ending the NYPD’s decades of unlawful practices in monitoring protests.” , is it[called
Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement that he met with the attorney general on Wednesday, “and we have a common goal: to advance important police reforms.”
“I could no longer agree that there are urgent reforms that need and will be implemented this year, including the major disciplinary reforms announced with my pledge to the Obama Foundation, all 30 recommendations from the DOI and Legal Department reports and more, “said de Blasio.
“This work is critical and ongoing. Legal proceedings and the additional bureaucracy of a federal monitor will not speed up this work. There is no time to lose and we will continue to move forward,” he added.
A spokesman for the NYPD said the department “welcomes the reform and has taken up recent proposals from both the city’s investigative department and the city’s legal department.”
“As the mayor said, adding another layer does not accelerate the process of continued reform that we have adopted and pursued,” the spokesman said.
A protester points to a NYPD officer during a “Black Lives Matter” demonstration in New York City on May 28, 2020, outraged at the death of a Minnesota black man who died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes would have.
Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images
One controversial practice that the lawsuit is limited to is “kettling” or corralling protesters, sometimes not allowing them to disperse, sometimes for hours. The lawsuit alleges that demonstrators who are subject to the practice have been illegally detained.
She also accused the police of routinely arresting key workers for violating a curfew when they were exempt.
The suit states that on one case police arrested a night watchman, Zuleyka Morales, who was wearing a badge around his neck identifying her as an essential worker. According to the complaint, Morales decides to tape a protest on her way to work after realizing police used significant force.
“As soon as she hit the record, Morales felt someone come out from behind her and attack and knock her to the ground. While she was on the ground, she saw an NYPD officer with three stripes on his sleeve showing the rank of sergeant and it tried to hold her back physically, “says the suit.
The suit states that the officer and at least two others “banged her head on the sidewalk and street” several times when she tried to explain that she was an essential worker.
“While she was on the ground, at least one police officer obstructed her breathing by kneeling on her back and neck. She said, ‘I can’t breathe.’ Morales repeated this several times and feared for her life, “says the suit.
Morales was held in place with zip ties and arrested. Hours later, she passed out and was taken to a hospital where she was diagnosed with a bruise on the head and bruises. She was taken back to police custody and released the next morning with a custodial summons for violating the curfew.
Morales is one of more than a dozen people named in the lawsuit as a victim of alleged excessive violence or unlawful detention. The lawsuit states that excessive violent violations accounted for the majority of the 1,646 police misconduct allegations reported between May 28 and June 20.
“The defendants knew, or should have known, that NYPD officials had the practice of unconstitutionally using excessive force to control and disperse protests, but failed to enforce their policies to end the practice,” the lawsuit said. “According to information and beliefs, the defendants have not disciplined the vast majority of NYPD officers who used excessive force against protesters.”
The file comes as the Democrats likened the police’s aggressive tactics used during the racial justice protests to the failed efforts to deter a crowd of supporters of President Donald Trump from angering the Capitol last week. At least five people were killed in the riot, including a US Capitol police officer.
“Nobody can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protests yesterday there wouldn’t have been – they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently from the crowd of thugs who stormed the Capitol,” said President -elect Joe Biden said in a post-DC riot address last week.
Subscribe to CNBC Pro for the TV livestream, deep insights and analysis of how to invest over the next president’s term.