The city of Columbus, Ohio, has agreed to pay $5.75 million in damages to people injured during a wave of protests last year, according to a settlement reached Thursday.
Protests had erupted across the nation and in Columbus after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck on May 25, 2020 while Chauvin was arresting Floyd.
Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd. He received a sentence of 22 1/2 years in prison on June 25.
Some protesters had filed a lawsuit against the city in July 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, alleging the police department used excessive force against them, violating their constitutional rights.
"During the protests in Columbus, some plaintiffs were significantly injured. Therefore, it's incumbent upon the City to accept responsibility and pay restitution," city attorney Zach Klein said in a statement. "Many Columbus Division of Police officers did perform their jobs professionally during that time, but this litigation highlighted serious issues that must be addressed."
As part of the settlement, the city also agreed to a permanent injunction on the use of non-lethal force against peaceful protesters, who are not harming people or destroying property.The injunction bans the use of tear gas, pepper spray, flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets, wooden pellets, batons and more against peaceful protesters.
"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," Klein said.
A federal judge had placed a preliminary injunction on the city earlier this year ordering police to stop using non-lethal force on non-violent protesters; the permanent injunction prevents police from reintroducing those tactics.
"We have implemented significant changes in protest response and training since last year's protests," said Columbus department of public safety director Robert Clark "Before there can be healing, there must be accountability," he stated.
The settlement is conditional on the approval of the Columbus City Council, according to court filings. The funds to pay for the settlement will come from the city's general fund account.