MINNEAPOLIS — The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has reached a settlement with the city of Minneapolis for police mistreatment of protesters, which includes a $600,000 payment and numerous reforms. The U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota today accepted the agreement and entered an injunction, ending the class action lawsuit brought by ACLU-MN, Fish & Richardson P.C., and Gustafson Gluek PLLC on behalf of 12 protesters who were injured during peaceful demonstrations over the murder of George Floyd.
The agreement prohibits the city from arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force including but not limited to chemical agents, flash bang/concussion grenades, and foam-tipped bullets against people engaging in lawful protests, assemblies, or demonstrations. The injunction also limits the use of chemical agents by police to disperse peaceful protests and requires that officers deployed to protests have their body-worn cameras recording and unobstructed. The $600,000 payment will be split among the plaintiffs.
“People who are demonstrating peacefully should never be met with police violence as they were in Minneapolis during protests over MPD’s murder of George Floyd,” said ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson. “Tear gas, foam bullets and pepper spray became weapons for intimidating and hurting protesters, making it dangerous for people to exercise their First Amendment rights. We hope this settlement sends a message to law enforcement across Minnesota that this violation of our constitutional rights will not be tolerated.”
“We are grateful for the outstanding work of our legal team in achieving this important and unprecedented outcome,” said plaintiff Nekima Levy Armstrong. “As plaintiffs in this case, our primary focus was on holding the city accountable for the abuse and mistreatment of peaceful protesters by MPD. It’s our hope that the injunction will result in greater protection for protesters and fewer incidents of harm and bodily injury.”
This settlement and injunction resolve two lawsuits filed in 2020 (and later consolidated into one) against the City of Minneapolis, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, and various Minneapolis Police Department officers. The settlement dismisses claims against individual officers.
The lawsuits alleged that the Minneapolis police used unnecessary and excessive force to suppress protesters’ First Amendment rights to assemble peacefully and speak out against injustice. Peaceful protesters alleged that they were tear-gassed and shot with foam and rubber bullets to intimidate them and quash the protests. They also alleged that law enforcement officers often fired without warning or orders to leave.
The plaintiffs suffered injuries including bruising from less-lethal munitions, lingering respiratory issues from tear gas, and psychological trauma that has chilled their desire to protest in the future.
“Never has there been a time since the Civil Rights Movement, and perhaps even the Civil War, when our democracy has been in such peril. The day when citizens cannot peacefully protest an unjustified murder at the hands of police is the day that the democratic pillars of our constitution are in danger of collapsing,” said Fish & Richardson Principal Ahmed J. Davis. “This matter is equally about relief and justice for our named plaintiffs as it is about the necessity of preserving the rights of all concerned citizens to peacefully assemble, protest, and speak. I commend the plaintiffs for their bravery during the protests and in pursuing action against the City of Minneapolis for its grave and repeated miscarriages of justice.”
“The settlement provides historic relief. The City of Minneapolis has agreed to an injunction enforceable in federal court,” said Gustafson Gluek partner Josh Rissman. “Anytime the Minneapolis Police Department unlawfully uses rubber bullets, mace or tear gas against peaceful protesters, we can immediately seek to enforce the injunction. In the past, any misconduct required years of litigation to reach a resolution. While we appreciate there is a desire to reform the Minneapolis Police Department, this settlement provides a crucial accountability mechanism with respect to peaceful protests.”
“With this settlement agreement and subsequent injunction, I feel the public has more ways to ensure the Minneapolis police department is held accountable when they are at fault,” said plaintiff Jordan Meyer. “Our right to peacefully protest should never be met with military-style crowd deterrents from the police, and this agreement is a big step towards keeping peaceful protesters safe from police violence. I hope other police departments across the country see this outcome and proactively adopt these same policies and standards.”
The ACLU-MN is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to defend the civil liberties of all Minnesotans through litigation, lobbying and community engagement. Learn more at www.aclu-mn.org.