BLM rally participants will receive a $5.75M payout.
Bernadette Calvey, 22, was shot in the face with a wooden bullet by Columbus police while showing her support for the Black Lives Matters (BLM) movement. She was standing at a peaceful rally at the time it happened. Others were simply chanting slogans in support of the death of George Floyd.
“Within five minutes of me arriving the police kind of opened fire into the crowd,” Calvey said. “I was struck in my chin with a wooden bullet, and then there was a white powder that came out, so I was blinded. I couldn’t see.” Calvey is one of more than thirty plaintiffs who will collect part of a $5.75 million police brutality settlement.
The federal lawsuit was filed in July 2020 in U.S. District Court. In their suit, the BLM rally plaintiffs said they were harshly reprimanded by officers. Three of the plaintiffs said they suffered substantial injuries, including broken bones. One plaintiff was hit with a tear gas canister that fractured a leg bone. Attorney Chandra Brown said, “They came to non-violent protest [opposing] police violence and were met with police violence.”
The Columbus City Council ordered a settlement of the BLM rally victims in the form of money to be taken from the General Fund. Those affected would receive “80% of its revenue from the income taxes of those who work in Columbus,” according to court documents.
“While this has certainly been a difficult and painful moment for our community, it has yielded important, and in some instances long overdue, reforms to policing practices, policies, and oversight,” said Zach Klein, City Attorney, at the time of the settlement. Klein added. “Therefore, it’s incumbent upon the city to accept responsibility and pay restitution. This litigation highlighted serious issues that must be addressed.”
The City of Columbus also agreed in the settlement to ban officers from using “tear gas, pepper spray, flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets, wooden pellets, batons, body slams, pushing or pulling or ‘kettling,”, according to court records. “Non-violent measures that were also banned include “chanting, verbally confronting police, sitting, holding their hands up when approaching police, occupying sidewalks or streets, apart from expressways or freeways, and/or passively resisting police.”
Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley, a Democrat, had issued a temporary injunction in late April banning “non-lethal force” in a ruling in which he stated Columbus police had “run amok” in handling the 2020 unrest.
“The amounts awarded to the 32 protesters will be decided secretly by a retired Georgia judge, Gino Brogdon Sr., who will serve as special master in distributing the payouts,” one of the plaintiff’s attorneys Gittes said. “The secrecy provision was up to the plaintiffs they could change it anytime they want. Such matters can be done and will be done privately. …That’s why I was just amazed at these (plaintiffs). They really didn’t want to fight about money.”