Lawmakers Sue NYPD, Accuse Police Of Beating And Pepper-Spraying Them

(Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

Varun Hukeri General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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Two black lawmakers in New York City filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Monday against the city alleging the New York Police Department (NYPD) beat them with bicycles and pepper-sprayed them during a Black Lives Matter protest in Brooklyn last year.

Democratic State Sen. Zellnor Myrie and Democratic Assemblywoman Diana Richardson accused the NYPD of violating their free speech rights, assaulting them and illegally detaining Myrie, The New York Times reported. The lawsuit named Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Dermont Shea and six police officers as defendants.

“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 lawsuit stated, according to The Times.

The two lawmakers protested George Floyd’s police-involved death during a demonstration May 29, 2020, in Brooklyn. Myrie said he had reached out to NYPD district chief Jeffrey Maddrey before attending the protest, and wore a neon green shirt with “Senator Myrie” inscribed on the back to identify him, The Times reported.

The NYPD had announced they were shutting down the protest following instances of violence outside a police precinct in Brooklyn. But the lawsuit alleged police threw department-issued bicycles at protestors, hitting Richardson in the abdomen and pelvis and Myrie in the back and legs, The Times reported.

The lawsuit further alleged that police “did not respond verbally” when Myrie asked why they were hitting him and other protestors, adding that police instead “continued to ram him with the bicycles.”

Myrie and Richardson accused police officers of pepper-spraying both lawmakers in their faces and handcuffing Myrie as he was screaming in pain, The Times reported. Richardson said their lawsuit was meant to vindicate the rights of protestors.

“We are representing the voices of many people whose voices have been lost, who don’t have this privilege and this platform, who weren’t pulled off to the side like Senator Myrie,” she told The Times by phone Sunday.

The NYPD has faced scrutiny for its response to Black Lives Matter protests last summer, which took place amid nationwide civil unrest in response to the police-involved deaths of Floyd and other black people. Police arrested more than 2,000 people in New York City during the protests, according to The Times. (RELATED: George Floyd Statues Vandalized, NYPD Investigating Possible Hate Crime)

The city’s Department of Investigation concluded many officers violated protestors’ civil rights and de Blasio personally apologized for police conduct in December 2020. But the NYPD said more than 400 officers were injured during the protests, adding that protestors caused more than $800,000 in damage to police property.

“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,” Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city Law Department, told The Times in response to Monday’s lawsuit. “We will review these claims.”