Denver Jury Awards $14 Million to Protesters Injured in May 2020 Riots
© REUTERS / ALYSON MCCLARANDemonstrators wearing protective face masks raise their fists as they sit in silence for nine minutes in a peaceful protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, at 19th and Broadway in Denver, Colorado, U.S., June 1, 2020
© REUTERS / ALYSON MCCLARAN
After the murder of Minnesota resident George Floyd by a local police officer in May 2020, Denver, Colorado saw some of the largest protests against police violence that occurred across the United States.
A Colorado jury ordered the city of Denver to pay $14 million in compensation to 12 protesters that were injured by police officers during the mass unrest in 2020 against police brutality and racial injustice, the Denver Post reported on Friday.
Over the three-week civil trial, the jury analyzed body camera footage, expert testimony and first-hand accounts from police and protesters. The jurors ruled in favor of the plaintiffs after hearing testimony alleging that police officers injured the protesters and failed to “coordinate during the law enforcement response.”
According to the 12 plaintiffs, police officers violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights by "shooting them with pepper balls and sponge rounds, and subjecting them to chemical munitions,” during the protests. Their attorneys had asked for $17.5 million in compensation.
"I think we established that when there are people committing acts of violence, what the police should do is take action against those people. What you can't do is take it out on the peaceful protesters," Tim Macdonald, attorney for seven plaintiffs, told Fox News.
According to Macdonald, the jury was persuaded by the “extensiveness” of the violent acts against “peaceful protesters” and the fact that Denver hasn’t provided any evidence that the plaintiffs themselves acted violently.
Meanwhile, the Denver Police Department has called the riots over George Floyd’s murder “unprecedented,” saying “the city had never seen that level of sustained violence and destruction before.”
“We were prepared for a worst-case scenario, but we weren’t fully prepared for what transpired,” the Denver Department of Public Safety said in a statement to Fox News.
The department admitted that some “mistakes were made,” stressing that all law enforcement officers have since undergone additional training on rapid deployment tactics and responding to mass civil unrest.
While testifying, police officers said that it was difficult to determine who was “throwing projectiles or causing property damage.”
“In 40 years, I never saw such anger against police,” Patrick Phelan, the now-retired Denver police commander who oversaw the protest response, said during his testimony, the Post reported.
One of the protesters said she received bruises during the mass riot and was attacked by police for recording officers. “It shouldn't be a weapons-first policy against peaceful protesters by the police and unfortunately, at least in significant respects, that is what happened here," the plaintiffs' attorney said.
Thousands of protesters participated in demonstrations in Denver in May and June 2020. Hundreds of participants were injured, as well as 70 officers. Despite the fact that the plaintiffs claimed they protested “peacefully,” property damage in the city was assessed at more than $5 million.