New York police sued for using excessive force on peaceful protester

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) joined with several other legal entities in a lawsuit Tuesday accusing New York Police officers of race discrimination, police brutality and violating the free speech of a peaceful protester.

The lawsuit, filed against the City of New York, the mayor of New York, the Police Commissioner, and two officers, states that Andrew Smith was attacked by an NYPD officer during a peaceful protest against racial inequality last year. Smith alleges that the officer forcibly removed his mask, which was being worn to protect against COVID-19, and sprayed him in the face with pepper spray.

The suit specifically alleges that Smith’s First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by the NYPD officer’s actions:

During the incident, the City of New York (“the City”) and members of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) subjected Mr. Smith to, among other things, the excessive use of force, unlawful search and seizure, civil assault and battery, interference with his right to free speech, racial discrimination, and constitutionally deficient supervision and training of NYPD employees.

Smith alleges that the attack occurred while he had his hands in the air to show that he was protesting peacefully and that other, white protesters were left alone. The suit accuses the City of being aware of a history of excessive force against peaceful protesters but doing nothing to end this “unlawful, repressive, and violent practice before or during the Floyd-Taylor protests, nor did the City discipline the NYPD officers who carried out this unlawful practice.”

In response to these allegations, Smith is requesting that the court award him with compensatory and punitive damages, coverage of legal costs and attorney’s fees, equitable and injunctive relief, and any other relief that the court finds proper.

A similar suit was filed last year against the City of New York and the New York police, and that case is ongoing.