The city of Columbus, Ohio, Thursday reported that it had struck an agreement to pay $5.75 million to 32 plaintiffs who claimed that members of the city’s police division injured them and violated their constitutional rights during social justice protests in the summer of 2020. Following the killing of George Floyd last year, the plaintiffs were among many in Columbus who took part in nationwide protests. The plaintiffs claimed that officers with the Columbus Police Division used excessive force against them and violated their constitutional rights in a lawsuit filed last year in the US District Court in the Southern District of Ohio.
For the injuries the plaintiffs sustained while protesting downtown, the suit names former Police Chief Thomas Quinlan, a Columbus police commander, three lieutenants, seven sergeants, and 14 officers, as reported by the Columbus Dispatch. Once approved by the City Council, the funds will reportedly come from the city’s general fund.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit alleged that their First Amendment constitutional rights were violated during the summer protests, which took place largely in downtown Columbus. The plaintiffs alleged that several officers used pepper spray without provocation and rammed demonstrators and passers-by with bicycles, citing video footage of the incident as evidence.
“While this has certainly been a difficult and painful moment for our community, it has yielded important, and in some instances long overdue, reforms to policing practices, policies, and oversight,” Zach Klein, the city attorney, said in the statement. “This settlement is a good step forward for both the Division of Police and for the entire community because it sets defined parameters and clear expectations for all when exercising and protecting First Amendment rights in Columbus.”
Moreover, in late April, Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley granted a temporary injunction barring Columbus police from using “nonlethal force, including tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, wooden pellets, and more on nonviolent protesters.” The City will agree to a permanent injunction as part of this agreement. Hence, the City of Columbus agreed to permanently prohibit police officers from deploying tear gas and wooden bullets to disperse nonviolent protesters. Before engaging in any interaction with protesters, they must now ensure that body cameras and vehicle dash cameras are turned on and functional.
Notably, as Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced in September, the DOJ will review the conduct of the Columbus, Ohio police department in response to a series of fatal police shootings of Black people.