NYC Mayor, Police Heads Sued For Civil Rights Violations For Response To Protesters

( Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, is being sued by the Legal Aid Society and the New York Civil Liberties Union for how they handled protesters in the city earlier this year.

Along with de Blasio, the two organizations are suing the heads of the New York Police Department. They claim the government is responsible for the “indiscriminate brutalizing of peaceful protesters” during demonstrations following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis in the spring.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Manhattan. It’s a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming the treatment of protesters by the city violated the demonstrators’ rights under the First and Fourth Amendments.

Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the NYCLU, said:

“The police response to the protests was brutal, and the wanton display of brute force against people who were out there protesting non-violently was shocking. It was harmful. It was traumatic. And it was unlawful.”

There are 11 plaintiffs in the suit, all who claim that while they were protesting peacefully between May 28 and June 28, they were sprayed with pepper spray, beaten with batons and subject to what’s called “kittling.” That’s a tactic where police hem in and charge protesters. One of the plaintiffs say their arm was broken due to this.

According to the suit, the mayor maintained a “de facto” policy of allowing officers to target protesters violently, since he approved forceful deployments of officers. The suit also claims de Blasio failed to discipline any officers for their violent actions. Dermot Shea, the city’s police commissioner, and Terence Monahan, the chief of department, are also named as defendants in the suit.

The suit claims:

“The Mayor of New York and the NYPD’s leadership condoned and even promoted that violence. As the protests continued and well documented, indisputable patterns of unlawful use of force emerged, the Mayor, the Commissioner and Chief Monahan deliberately did not take steps to prevent police from using those tactics again and again. Instead, they repeatedly praised the actions of the NYPD, promoting, authorizing, sanctioning and encouraging further violence.”

It continues that the actions of the mayor, Shea and Monahan “constitute a City policy to engage in excessive force, discriminate on the basis of viewpoint against those fighting for greater police accountability for brutality, and retaliate against people engaged in their constitutionally protected right to protest.”

De Blasio’s office didn’t respond to media requests for comments about the suit. The New York Police Department also said it would have to review the lawsuit before commenting.

One of the plaintiffs in the case, Vidal Guzman, a resident of the Bronx, said police pepper sprayed him in the face while he was participating in a peaceful protest at the end of May. He was doing so on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. When he was pepper sprayed, he claims he fell to the ground and hurt his leg.

Guzman said:

“A lot of people got injured that day. It felt more like World War III, and the people they were going against were their own citizens.”