New York City

NY Lawmakers File Civil Rights Lawsuit Against NYPD Over 2020 Protest Tactics

The lawmakers say officers used bikes to beat them before deploying pepper spray at a Brooklyn protest

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A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed against New York City by two state lawmakers alleging police officers use excessive force against them during the early days of protests following the killing of George Floyd.

State Senator Zillnor Myrie and Assemblywoman Diana Richardson filed a lawsuit against New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, and a number of other police officials, saying officers used excessive force against the pair, and numerous other protesters, when they gathered outside Barclays Center in Brooklyn on May 29.

In the filing, Myrie and Richardson say officers used bikes and pepper spray to violently attack the lawmakers on one of the first nights of widespread protests last year after Floyd's death.

"The experience was a painful and humiliating reminder that following the rules and complying with police orders does not protect Black Americans from police brutality, not even Black Americans who have ascended to elected office," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit claims both lawmakers made attempts to comply with officers' orders to disperse from the protest site when they were "kettled" and beaten repeatedly with bicycles. The assemblywoman had worn a "Team Richardson" face mask and the senator a t-shirt that read "Senator Myrie" on the back in hopes of being easily identifiable among the crowd.

Questions to officers regarding their tactics, including the reason for dispersing the crowd and use of force to direct protesters, went unanswered, the lawmakers allege. Myrie and Richardson allege they were each met with pepper spray while trying to flee the attacks of police bikes.

"As she was being attacked by the police, Assemblywoman Richardson heard her colleague Senator Myrie screaming her name, with terror and fear in his voice, the way you never want anyone to scream your name," the lawsuit says.

Myrie was unable to see after pepper spray was discharged into his eyes, moments before officers shouted "cuff him," and detained the lawmaker using zip ties, according to the lawsuit. He was eventually recognized by another officer and a department chief order him released to seek medical attention.

"At least one police officer was assigned to stay with Senator Myrie and Assemblywoman Richardson until they left the protest. Plaintiffs understand the officer was assigned to protect them from the actions and tactics of other police officers," the suit says.

The New York Times first reported out the lawsuit. The paper said the NYPD and city Law Department did not immediately return requests for comment.

Mayor de Blasio did not comment directly on the lawsuit during a public briefing on Monday, but said the city has learned from mistakes and become a better department.

At the end of last year, the city's Department of Investigation found "several deficiencies" in the NYPD's response to last summer's protests over the death of George Floyd, and recommended wholesale changes to how the police department responds to protests.

The scathing 111-page report says "public trust is at a low ebb" and that the police department needs major structural changes to restore that trust. The mayor then released a six-minute video on social media responding to the investigation, saying "I read this report, and I agree with it."

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