Two Black New York state lawmakers filed a lawsuit Monday against the New York Police Department for an incident last year in which officers allegedly beat, pepper-sprayed and arrested the legislators without cause during a protest.
According to the lawsuit, New York state Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D) and Assemblywoman Diana Richardson (D) participated in a peaceful demonstration that took place four days after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.
The lawsuit alleges that hours after demonstrators started peacefully marching near the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on May 29, 2020, NYPD officers "arbitrarily" attempted to end the protest.
"But, before giving the protestors a chance to leave, the officers advanced and attacked the crowd," the suit states.
Officers allegedly formed a circle around a group of demonstrators that included both Myrie and Richardson, preventing them from leaving. Police then rammed the protesters with their bikes "over and over again," according to the lawsuit.
Both Myrie and Richardson said they were pepper sprayed, and that a bystander dragged Richardson away while officers arrested Myrie who was in pain and could not see due to the eye irritant.
Myrie said he was wearing a neon T-shirt with the words "Senator Myrie" written on it to make him identifiable as a state lawmaker, with Richardson wearing a face mask that read "Team Richardson."
"The experience was a painful and humiliating reminder that following the rules and complying with police orders does not protect Black Americans from police brutality, not even Black Americans who have ascended to elected office," the suit stated.
The suit names as defendants New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioFederal appeals court blocks NYC teacher vaccine mandate Meghan, Prince Harry visit One World Trade Center Google to purchase Manhattan building for .1 billion MORE (D), NYPD Commissioner Dermot F. Shea, NYPD Chief of Department Rodney Harrison and multiple officers who allegedly took part in the beating. The plaintiffs are demanding a trial by jury.
The suit accuses the NYPD of multiple counts of violating the lawmakers' constitutional rights, assault, battery and false arrest. The suit asks for damages to be paid and for punitive damages to be made against all the defendants named except for the City of New York.
New York City Law Department spokesperson Nick Paolucci said in a statement to The Hill: “The NYPD has a longstanding track record of successfully protecting the right of the public to protest while ensuring public safety, and is committed to strengthening those efforts. We will review these claims.”