Seattle Becomes Latest City To Shell Out Millions to BLM Protesters

Rioting in Seattle in June 2020 (Getty Images)
January 26, 2024

Seattle on Wednesday became the latest city to give out millions of dollars to Black Lives Matter protesters who alleged they were injured by police in the summer of 2020.

The city agreed to pay $10 million after a more than three-year-long legal battle with a group of over 50 plaintiffs who said police mistreated them during the 2020 protests, which erupted in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

"This decision was the best financial decision for the city considering risk, cost, and insurance,"  city attorney Ann Davison said in a statement. "The case has been a significant drain on the time and resources of the city and would have continued to be so through an estimated three-month trial that was scheduled to begin in May." The city admits no wrongdoing in the settlement.

Injuries to the protesters who sued the city included a woman who suffered a heart attack when a tear gas blast ball hit her in the chest, a teenager whose finger was partially blown off by a tear gas ball, and a cane-using veteran who attorneys said was "gassed and tackled because he didn’t retreat fast enough," according to the Seattle Times.

The judge presiding over the case rejected the city's argument that the plaintiffs assumed the risk of injury when they chose to peacefully protest, the Times reported. Karen Koehler, who represented the plaintiffs in the case, argued the city "should have said, ‘We’re sorry that we were punks and brutalized peaceful protesters.'"

Koehler said the decision to settle was "torturous," per the outlet.

Koehler said her team had "a feeling that $10 million is a good start; that $10 million is an acknowledgment of, ‘We kind of screwed up’; that $10 million means that we can begin to heal," according to the Times. She claimed that police "dehumanized" protesters and responded violently at the "smallest provocation or suspicion," adding that they allowed officers to use weapons they were not trained to deploy. Koehler also said police at one point tricked protesters into thinking members of the right-wing extremist group the Proud Boys were approaching.

Seattle is one of more than 19 cities to give money to Black Lives Matter protesters who have claimed harm by police. In July, New York City agreed to pay $13 million to about 1,300 protesters whom police arrested or allegedly beat. Denver agreed the next month to pay $4.7 million to over 300 protesters police arrested for violating the city's curfew.