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NYC sued over clashes with Floyd protesters

NEW YORK (AP) — Two civil rights organizations are suing New York City on behalf of protesters who say they were assaulted and abused by police officers because they expressed anti-police views during nightly demonstrations in the spring in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court, also accuses city leadership of doing little to curtail police conduct that included trapping protesters with a technique called kettling, hitting them with pepper spray, inflicting violence and detaining them for hours. One plaintiff suffered a broken arm as a result of the police department’s conduct, the lawsuit said.

The organizations, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Aid Society, are seeking monetary damages for 11 named plaintiffs, as well as reforms such as training officers to respect the rights of protesters and swift discipline for officers who used excessive force. They are also asking a court to declare the police department’s actions unconstitutional.

Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said it was important that the police department reform its response to protests immediately, with police preparing for possible demonstrations surrounding next week’s presidential election and advocates concerned that officers will let personal political views color their response.

“It’s imperative that there be a whole retraining of the police department that they have to respect the right to protest, and that their response to protest cannot be violence, cannot be abusive, and that they need to protect everybody’s rights,” said Lieberman.

The city is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, as well as Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, Chief of Department Terence Monahan and several police officers and sergeants.

De Blasio declined to comment Monday on the lawsuit’s specific complaints, but said there have been fundamental changes in police strategies in recent years aimed at avoiding confrontations.

“From what I’ve heard of the lawsuit’s allegation, it doesn’t sound right at all to me,” de Blasio said at his daily news briefing. “There’s been a conscious effort for seven years now to change the relationship between the NYPD and communities.”

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