The lawsuit was filed on behalf of more than 50 protesters who claim to have suffered serious injuries during the Seattle Police Department’s “brutal” crackdown on demonstrations.
Seattle has agreed to pay more than $10 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that Black Lives Matter demonstrators were injured by law enforcement while protesting police brutality and the 2020 murder of George Floyd.
According to the Seattle Times, the lawsuit was first filed in King County Superior Court nearly three years ago. In the time since, it has cost the city millions of dollars in legal fees and expert witness expenditures.
The Times notes that the complaint listed more than 50 plaintiffs. Among them was a woman who had a heart attack after being struck in the chest by a “blast ball,” and a man who went into a coma after officers “gassed and tackled him” for not retreating “fast enough.”
Other plaintiffs included a teenager whose finger was partially blown off by a blast ball, and “dozens of others who suffered permanent hearing loss, broken bones, concussion, wounds, bruising and emotional damage,” all purportedly inflicted by Seattle Police officers.
In a statement, Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison said that resolving the case “was the best financial decision for the City considering risk, cost, and insurance.”
“The case has been a significant drain on the time and resources of the City and would have continued to be so through an estimated three-month trial that was scheduled to begin in May,” Davison said, emphasizing that the terms of the tentative agreement include no admission of wrongdoing or fault.
“This settlement resolves the majority of the remaining claims arising out of the 2020 demonstration period and is a big step toward allowing the City to focus on the important work of today, while moving forward from events four years ago,” she said.
Although Seattle attorneys had argued that protesters assumed some risk of injury when engaging in protests, Karen Koehler—the plaintiffs’ lead counsel—said that demonstrators had simply “engaged in a First Amendment speech and activity against the very police brutality they were met with.”
Koehler, writes The Seattle Times, continued to criticize the city after announcing the settlement on Wednesday.
“They should have said, ‘We’re sorry that we were punks and brutalized peaceful protesters,” she said.
Koehler said that, although the decision to settle was “torturous,” her clients felt that “$10 million is a good start; that $10 million is an acknowledgment of, ‘We kind of screwed up;’ that $10 million means that we can begin to heal.”
The settlement money, Koehler said, will be proportionally distributed among the plaintiffs.