Federal Jury Sets the Bar at $14 Million to 12 Protesters Who Sued

Fiora Watts/shutterstock.com

In the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota, there were protests across the country. Local news networks sent in reporters to cover the story live and on scene. Independent journalists often tried to show the carnage without a swing toward making it seem like they had done nothing wrong. The liberal agenda machine vs a truly free press made for very contrasting stories for both sides.

What wasn’t contrasting was the frequency in which violence and destruction of property were caused. From police cars to luxury department stores, to the neighborhood grocery store, everything was free game. Some signs pup up “black-owned” signs in the hopes of not being broken into, but often without people willing to stand guard these stores were destroyed, something even worse than their neighbors without the sign. With all the destruction going on, the police response was absolutely necessary.

So when police responded, they did so in force, and with large numbers. They were tired of seeing property owners and business owners losing their livelihoods because people were upset. They had grown tired of the mayor getting calls from irate people in the community. Different cities used different protocols. In Denver, pepper balls and bags filled with lead were the most common tools to counter the not violent protesters.

The jury deemed this to be excessive force, a violation of constitutional rights, and awarded the 12 people who chose to file suit $14 million. With 29 pending lawsuits across the country, there is now a massive panic about how much these lawsuits could end up costing local taxpayers. A payout like this could motivate cities to settle faster and avoid the spotlight. Many winnable cases could end up just being another unnecessary taxpayer burden.

A settlement like this also can encourage others to come forward with suits of their own. The concern about frivolous lawsuits about over-dramatized or false events is huge at this point. Payouts like this tend to bring out the worst in human beings, and for every person who believes they have a case, at least one lawyer is willing to take that case on. Cases like these can unnecessarily clog the legal system for years. Even if a grand jury is convened before a trial occurs, it still costs the taxpayers as lawyers take time to prepare, and jurors need to be paid.

In the last few months, these suits have been springing up across the nation. In Austin, TX a total of $13 million has been awarded to four people over the last two months alone. Their claims of being hit in the head with beanbags by police prompted these payouts. NYC and Rochester each have lawsuits where the victims have sustained severe and lasting injuries.

One attorney from Rochester Donald Thompson plans to use the Denver payouts as the bar for what he believes his clients deserve. Some suffered the loss of an eye and scarring from being hit in the face with a tear gas canister. With the body cams and cell phone footage he believes he can present a big case. “Now people see how this policing really works. You can’t be naïve.”

The truly naïve people here are the juries who award such settlements, and the cities who chose to settle early. It is not the fault of the police to respond to violence with violence. If they want to huck rocks, bricks, and canned food at the police, a bean bag round or tear gas canister being fired back at them is the least the police can do to keep themselves safe. The owners of these businesses are not getting much if any help from the city to rebuild what they worked so hard to have. Instead, they are relying on insurance and driving those costs up even higher.