New York AG Sues NYPD, NYC Over Alleged Excessive Force Against Floyd Protesters

January 14, 2021 Updated: January 14, 2021

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the New York City police department and city officials over their treatment of protesters during the riots and demonstrations following George Floyd’s death.

James alleged in a complaint in a federal court that officers from the NYPD had used excessive force and other tactics to control protesters and crowds during the protests against police brutality mid-last year.

The protests and riots under the Black Lives Matter movement erupted following the death of Floyd, an African American man who died while in Minneapolis police custody. His death sparked outrage across the nation and renewed debates over police reform and systemic racism in U.S. institutions. Many U.S. officials at the time denied the existence of systemic racism but have acknowledged that there was room for improving the relationship between law enforcement and the African American community.

James’s office said that since May 30, 2020, it had received over 1,300 complaints and pieces of evidence of police misconduct when violent clashes broke out between the NYPD and protesters.

Among the allegations was the repeated use of batons, pepper spray, bicycles, and a crowd-control tactic known as “kettling” against protesters. Police officers have also been accused of indiscriminately arresting legal observers, medics, and other workers performing essential services without probable cause and in violation of executive orders from Mayor Bill de Blasio.

A police officer shouts at Associated Press videojournalist Robert Bumsted
A police officer shouts at Associated Press videojournalist Robert Bumsted, in New York City on June 2, 2020. (Wong Maye-E/AP Photo)
Police Shooting Brooklyn
New York Police Officers work a scene on Church Avenue, in the Brooklyn borough of New York on June 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The lawsuit (pdf) is seeking injunctive relief by asking the court to set aside NYPD policies and practices that could amount to excessive force and false arrests and limit free speech and press reporting.

James is also asking the court to order the NYPD to take “affirmative steps” to make systemic reforms to the NYPD and prevent unlawful conduct by officers in the future.

“There is no question that the NYPD engaged in a pattern of excessive, brutal, and unlawful force against peaceful protesters,” James in a statement. “Over the past few months, the NYPD has repeatedly and blatantly violated the rights of New Yorkers, inflicting significant physical and psychological harm and leading to great distrust in law enforcement.”

george floyd protests
Police try to contain protesters during a rally at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York, N.Y., on May 29, 2020. (Frank Franklin II/AP Photo)
Epoch Times Photo
A vandalized New York Police Department vehicle is seen after a protest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody, in New York City, N.Y., on May 30, 2020. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

The NYPD responded to the lawsuit in a statement to The Epoch Times saying that it “welcomes reform and has embraced the recent suggestions by both the city’s Department of Investigation and city’s Law Department.”

“As the Mayor has said, adding another layer does not speed up the process of continued reform, which we have embraced and led the way on,” a department spokesperson said.

The lawsuit was filed against the city’s police department, the City of New York, de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, and NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan.

While many protests were peaceful last summer, some cities saw rioters engage in violent acts, looting, and rioting, leading to the widespread destruction of public and private property, as well as injuries, and deaths. New York City saw police property set on fire and destroyed during the riots.

Hundreds of individuals were federally charged over the protests that lasted for months.

A separate but related movement known as “Defund the Police” was born out of the Floyd protests. It calls for the reallocation of funds away from police departments to other social programs. The movement claims that police departments are systemically racist and that police funding can be better used to help African American communities.

One of the prominent groups who pushed the movement to defund police is Black Lives Matter, whose leaders claim to be “trained Marxists.”

Nearly $1 billion was shifted from the NYPD budget following the protest.

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