By Catherine Hamilton and Daniella Espinoza
DENVER, CO – A jury has concluded that police forces violated protesters’ constitutional rights in demonstrations against George Floyd’s murder almost two years ago here, and awarded $14 million in damages, according to news reports.
After a three-week trial, the majority white jury came back with a verdict after only four hours, granting the 12 plaintiffs $14 million from the state of Colorado for damages.
The evidence they were shown included police and protester videos, which the jury deemed showed police excessive force.
During the protests, those that sued were hit with a number of things, ranging from pepper spray to “a Kevlar-bag filled with lead shot fired from a shotgun,” according to the Sacramento Bee article.
Zach Packard received $3 million, after a hit in the head caused by the shotgun blast put him in the ICU.
According to the article, one of the protesters’ lawyers, Timothy Macdonald, told the jurors to find the city liable for the damages caused by police and to send a message to the police department that the excessive force was not okay.
“Hopefully, what police departments will take from this is a jury of regular citizens takes these rights very seriously,” Macdonald said after the verdict, according to the Bee article.
During the trial, activist and lawyer Elisabeth Epps details how “the city she loves gaslighted the protestors [by] questioning their account of what happened.”
In response, the city admitted to its mistakes, citing the “unprecedented size [of protests], duration and amount of violence and destruction,” adding that while the city had planned a training for law enforcement regarding crowd control, it was canceled due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite mistakes made by officers, Denver lawyers stressed that “the violence and destruction that occurred around the community required intervention.”
At the time of the trial, the Denver law enforcement has disciplined five police officers and fired one who reportedly posted a photo of himself in tactical gear with the caption saying “Let’s start a riot.”
While the settlement was a win for protestors and advocates involved, this is not always the case on the national level.
In 2021, a federal judge even dismissed claims from advocacy groups who fought against the forcible removal of protestors when then-president Donald Trump was set to take photos at a church near the White House.
Legal experts are also noting that any settlements, such as the $14 million in Denver, are paid for not by officers involved but by the taxpayers.