Philadelphia has agreed to pay hundreds of protestors a combined $9.25 million for the city’s police response to racial justice protests in 2020.
About 350 plaintiffs who were teargassed, struck with rubber bullets, and detained by the Philadelphia Police Department in the protests following the murder of George Floyd will receive compensatory damages. Of the settlement, $500,000 will fund counseling for victims of police violence, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“We believe that today’s settlement represents a long overdue and frank recognition of the stark violence that police inflicted on West Philadelphia residents and protesters,” Charles McLaurin, a senior counsel with the Legal Defense Fund, one of the organizations that represents the plaintiffs, said.
The settlement also mandates that police officials meet biannually with West Philadelphia community members to discuss the department’s use of force.
“While this is just one step in the direction toward reconciliation, we hope this settlement will provide some healing from the harm experienced by people in their neighborhoods in West Philadelphia and during demonstrations on I-676 in 2020,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement on Monday.
On May 30, 2020 and June 1, 2020, Philadelphia police used pepper spray, tear gas, and other methods to control protestors during protests against the murder of George Floyd. Protestors sustained injuries, such as 2020 College graduate Muhga Eltigani, whose front teeth were knocked out by a police officer’s baton, The Daily Pennsylvanian reported.
Following these protests, Penn students urged the University to divest from the Philadelphia Police Department. The petition, initiated by School of Social Policy & Practice Professor Toorjo Ghose, had garnered over 9,600 signatures by June 2020, the DP reported.
On January 7, 2021, the UN issued a letter of allegation for the City of Philadelphia’s response to the protestors, seeking to investigate alleged human rights violations. Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw later released an apology for the actions of Philadelphia police officers.
“Police fired tear gas at our family’s home, leaving my 3-year-old son crying and my 6-year-old son completely terrified,” Shahidah Mubarak-Hadi, a plaintiff in the Legal Defense Fund’s case, said.
According to Mubarak-Hadi, this recent settlement is “an important step, but it does not represent full accountability for the harm that occurred.”
This settlement is the largest settlement by the City of Philadelphia surrounding protests in 2020. Previously, the city agreed to a settlement of $267,000 for three lawsuits against former Police Inspector Joseph Bologna, who was accused of attacking protestors.
According to Cara McClellan, Director of the Advocacy for Racial and Civil Justice Clinic and Associate Practice Professor of Law at Penn, the settlement “features a recognition of the damage the PPD has done throughout West Philadelphia and it communicates the importance of centering the community in a path towards healing.”