Ohio City to Pay $5.75M to 32 People Injured During 2020 Black Lives Matter Protests

The capital city of Ohio will pay $5.75 million to nearly three dozen people who were injured during last year's protests against racial injustice and police brutality after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, lawyers and city officials announced Thursday.

The lawsuit alleges that Columbus' police response to the protests in late May featured under-trained personnel, violated protestors' constitutional rights and caused physical harm to demonstrators because of gross negligence. The filing described clashes with police in which demonstrators were beaten, fired on with wooden and rubber bullets and unlawfully arrested.

Tammy Fournier Alsaada, a community activist and lead plaintiff in the July 2020 lawsuit, was pepper-sprayed without provocation after being granted permission to walk through a line of police to discuss some arrests, according to the filing. Fellow plaintiff Terry Hubby Jr. said that he had to get surgery, 20 pins and a plate after a nonlethal police projectile shattered his knee during a May 29 protest.

At least three of the plaintiffs said that they broke bones during the protests.

The amount of the damages paid to each of the 32 injured protestors behind the lawsuit will vary based on the extent of their individual injuries. The payouts will be decided during a series of meetings with the help of a special master hired to review each case, according to lead attorney John Marshall.

Columbus BLM Protests
Ohio's capital city has agreed to pay $5.75 million to people injured during last year's racial injustice and police brutality protests, lawyers representing 32 individuals who sued the city, and city officials said on December 9. Here, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin try to intervene as Columbus Police use pepper spray on demonstrators during a protest on the death of George Floyd on South High Street near the Ohio Statehouse on May 30, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. Kyle Robertson/The Columbus Dispatch via AP

The settlement also finalizes details of a federal judge's ruling earlier this year that ordered Columbus police to stop using nonlethal force such as tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets on nonviolent protesters who aren't harming people or destroying property.

The settlement announced Thursday "mandates that peaceful protestors on city streets and sidewalks cannot be subjected to uses of force, arrests, or dispersal orders except in extraordinary circumstances," Marshall said. It also provides protections for street medics, journalists, and legal observers, he said.

The Columbus City Council is expected to approve the financial settlement next week.

Police also testified about facing chaotic and threatening situations.

"People were walking up to us with bottles and opening them and throwing, like, unknown liquids on us, yelling in our face," Officer Anthony Johnson said, according to court documents.

Gino Brogdon Sr., a retired Georgia judge, will serve as special master determining the individual payouts. Brogdon also negotiated the historic $10 million settlement the city is providing the family of Andre Hill, a Black man shot a year ago by a Columbus police officer as Hill walked out of a garage holding a cell phone. Adam Coy, the since-fired officer, who is white, has pleaded not guilty to murder and is scheduled for trial next year.

Columbus protests lasted multiple days downtown, near Ohio State University, and across other parts of the city. The first night, protesters smashed windows at the Ohio Statehouse and businesses throughout downtown.

In a separate episode, U.S. Representative Joyce Beatty was hit by pepper spray as scuffles broke out near the end of a May demonstration.

A report released last spring stated that Columbus was unprepared for the size and energy of the protests and that most police officers felt abandoned by city leadership during that time. The report, commissioned by the city council, also found the city had no advance plan for handling such protests, and suffered from a lack of coordination and even regular communication among city leaders once the protests began.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Columbus Lawsuit
The Ohio capital city will pay $5.75 million to nearly three dozen people who were injured during last year’s protests against racial injustice and police brutality after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, lawyers and city officials announced Thursday. Hearts with the names of black people who died at the hands of police are displayed on a fence as part of a protest at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, on June 6, 2020. Julie Carr Smyth/AP Photo