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New York AG sues NYPD over excessive force at Black Lives Matter protests

New York AG sues NYPD over excessive force at Black Lives Matter protests
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New York state Attorney General Letitia James is suing New York City's police department, citing widespread excessive use of force from the country’s most recognizable police force during this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.

Spectrum News New York first reported the news Thursday morning. According to the network, this is the first time that the Empire State’s top prosecutor has sued the NYPD.

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The civil suit calls for the NYPD to be given a court-appointed monitor to “eliminate ongoing unlawful policing practices and their effects.”

At a press conference Thursday, James called the NYPD’s actions unacceptable, but “nothing new.”

She said that since May her office has received more than 1,300 complaints and pieces of evidence stemming from the NYPD’s conduct.

“We found a pattern of deeply concerning and unlawful practices that the NYPD utilized in response to these largely peaceful protests,” James said. “We found that the NYPD arrested or detained hundreds of protesters, legal observers, medics and others without legal justification … in total, we found over 155 incidents of officers using excessive and unreasonable force against protesters.”

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Protests erupted nationwide following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis.

Several videos of NYPD actions went viral, including one in which a police cruiser was driven into a crowd, prompting outrage from numerous New York congressional lawmakers such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezHouse Democrats unveil spending bill to boost staff pay, maintain lawmaker pay freeze Five takeaways from New York's primaries Ocasio-Cortez says she ranked Wiley first, Stringer second in NYC mayoral vote MORE (D).

Thursday’s complaint, which was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, comes after a probe by the city’s Department of Investigation found that “NYPD’s use of force and certain crowd control tactics to respond to the Floyd protests produced excessive enforcement that contributed to heightened tensions.”

Three protesters who were victims of excessive force during last summer’s demonstrations spoke at Thursday’s press conference. One of the protesters, Andrew Smith, recounted how an NYPD officer pulled down his mask, which he was wearing due to the pandemic, and then pepper sprayed him.

“It is clear to me that the foundation of the police force in our legal legal system was not intended to recognize and protect the rights of Black people,” Smith said. “My hands were high up in the air. I was no threat. I was not being aggressive or hostile, but somehow I was still assaulted by the police officer who is supposed to be a part of the police force sworn to protect and serve.” 

The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

Updated at 12:28 p.m.