By Sabrina Dhanoya
History has been made.
The protestors arrested during the national uproar for George Floyd may be reimbursed with a settlement for the wrongful treatment they received from law enforcement. It is potentially one of the biggest individual payoffs that the Police Department of New York City has ever made.
Is this class action something we should be considering a true accomplishment?
In all fairness, I believe we can agree that victims deserve to be compensated for the unsolicited abuse they’ve undergone. Victims were beaten and pepper sprayed by the police in 140 reported instances. They have the right to be enraged. They have the right to fight for the reparations they’re due.
But how much money justifies the violence inflicted upon American people? How long will we continue putting a price on police brutality?
Police brutality stands to be an ongoing social justice conflict between law enforcement and the public. We are advised to bestow our trust in these people of power, and as such, we find ourselves betrayed time and time again.
According to an article in the New York Times, Mayor Bill de Blasio, among other defendants in the lawsuit, claims officials acted within the confines of the law—despite the fact that there are many video tapings and photographs of officers acting questionably. This reveals how individuals we have put into these positions of power fail to admit fault for their actions and continue to reject all claims of abuse on behalf of the City of New York. The verdict is yet to be determined, but if the class action wins, victims can potentially receive their payments by the end of this year.
One of the attorneys, Rob Rickner, stated that the landmark settlement only represents the damage done to their community. This settlement may be a great turning point for class actions, but when reflecting on chronicles of the past, the City of Harlem is known for its renowned history regarding its violent riots and protests. Stemming back to the Harlem Race Riots, in only one of many, there were five million dollars in damages, 494 people injured, and six people dead in the time span of 24 hours.
The violence against protestors and rioters has played a prominent role in defining Harlem’s flawed justice system for the past century, where police brutality continues to be justified repeatedly.
So questions remain. Has the government of the state of New York significantly eradicated these outdated, violent forms of law enforcement training? Or at the very least, has it tried to mitigate the bursts of violence police officers protrude against society?
Not in the slightest. And we surely can’t wait for another civil rights uproar before we instill definitive change into our states’ police departments.
Within New York, and especially the City of Harlem, the police remain indifferent to the surmountable violence they create, resulting in casualties and injured civilians during protests. Depending on the verdict, this landmark settlement might be the beginning of creating a pathway towards judicious change or might be yet another breach of justice our government chooses to kick under the rug.
Time may only tell, but how much time must pass before the government finally takes responsibility for its actions? As future generations come into power, we must stop waiting for change and command it.