On Wednesday, the City of New York reached a settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by George Floyd rioters, agreeing to pay $13.7 million in damages. The lawsuit claimed that the New York Police Department had violated the rights of the protesters through the use of “unlawful” tactics during the 2020 riots in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Under the terms of the settlement, the city will pay approximately $10,000 to each of the 1,380 individuals who were either arrested or subjected to force by NYPD officers during the protests. While some involved in the lawsuit had indeed been arrested, many others simply alleged that their First Amendment rights had been hindered.
Lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Elena Cohen, stated that the goal of the lawsuit was to protect people’s rights to protest and express their views without fear of physical harm. She emphasized the importance of enabling New York City residents to voice their opinions about the government freely and without repercussions.
However, the city’s lawyers argued that many of the protests were not peaceful, pointing out instances of looting and rioting. They highlighted the significant violence directed towards law enforcement officers during the demonstrations, including the destruction of police cars, vandalization of precinct houses, and attacks on officers with rocks, bricks, bottles, and other weapons.
From a conservative perspective, it is crucial to balance the protection of free speech rights with maintaining law and order during protests. While peaceful demonstrations are a fundamental aspect of American democracy, violent acts and destruction of property undermine the rule of law and pose risks to public safety. The city’s decision to settle the lawsuit might raise concerns among conservatives, who could argue that it sends a message that unlawful behavior during protests will be financially rewarded.
Moving forward, conservatives may advocate for measures to ensure that peaceful protests are protected while deterring and addressing violent elements that seek to exploit these events for destructive purposes. Striking the right balance between upholding First Amendment rights and maintaining public safety remains a complex challenge for policymakers and law enforcement agencies in cities like New York.