Police begin kettling people protesting against police with batons near the intersection of 136th Street and Brook Avenue on June 4, 2020. Photo: Gabriel Hernández Solano

On June 4, 2020, in the Bronx neighborhood of Mott Haven, hundreds of people were kettled during a peaceful protest in response to the killing of George Floyd. Earlier this year, it was announced that a class action lawsuit had been settled with the city for the pre-planned attack on protesters orchestrated by the NYPD in Mott Haven that night. This settlement could cost New York City nearly $8 million.

On Feb. 28, 2023, an official ruling declared that  “individuals who were detained, arrested, and/or subjected to force by police officers on June 4, 2020, on East 136th Street between Brook Avenue and Brown Place in the Bronx during the “George Floyd Protest” in Mott Haven, and all persons who also were given a summons or Desk Appearance Ticket following their arrest at that location,” were eligible to file a claim. 

As an organizer, journalist and someone who was present on June 4, 2020, I have spent the last three years thinking of that day. I’ve also spent the last three months obsessively researching any information I could find to help other people file a claim. 

Ali Frick and Rob Rickner, two attorneys representing the Mott Haven class action lawsuit, stated that applicants do not have to have been arrested in order to file a claim

“This means there is an unknown number of how many people are truly eligible,” said Frick.

They must, however, be able to prove that they were present and subjected to force by police officers on June 4, 2020. While attorneys Frick and Rickner say they’ve done a lot to get the word out, that doesn’t seem to be the experience for those most affected and eligible for this claim.

Another civil rights attorney, Wylie Stecklow, says arrestees shouldn’t fear the NYPD collecting their information.

While hosting a teach-in on ‘How to file a claim’ with Stecklow and activist Savitri D., I met two arrestees, C.J. and Taylor. They have struggled with the claims process and have also requested to remain anonymous, out of fear of retaliation from the NYPD.

A protester holding up a fist as police officers in riot gear block the passage at 135th Street and Willis Avenue, forcing protesters to turn back towards Brook Avenue. Photo: Gabriel Hernández Solano

For many people who were present in the Bronx on June 4, 2020, remembering the events that transpired is retraumatizing. Even harder is that they are being asked to stand against the very system that got away with abuse in the first place. 

Stecklow, the civil rights attorney, clarified for concerned applicants that filing a claim does not in any way set in motion a relationship with the NYPD.

In regards to the potential of retaliation from the NYPD, he said  “I do not think the police are going to have any sort of database of all the people who are participating in the settlement. With that said, I do know that they have sometimes taken protesters’ photos and put them up in their precincts with notes that say ‘These are people who are rabble-rousers’. We’re in this situation because the police were not acting properly on June 4, 2020. We wouldn’t be here right now if that weren’t the case. However, I am 99.9% sure that the NYPD won’t be collecting information about people filing a claim.” 

C.J., who uses he/she/they pronouns, says that they were asked to be a member of the Mott Haven class action lawsuit and declined. They feared that the NYPD could retaliate against them. After experiencing what can only be described as dehumanizing treatment on June 4, 2020, they feared moving forward would put them in danger. 

“I put my body in between people that were smaller than me. I was grabbed from behind and knocked down to my knees,” C.J. says about their arrest. “There was a lot of turbulence and I was struggling. A cop grabbed my hoodie causing my mask to be knocked off and then I was taken down to the ground. I fell and was on my knees and then forced to lay completely down on my stomach.”

“The worst part was when 12 of us were forced inside a five by five cell with no masks. This was the height of covid and I was scared. I asked the officer to give me a mask. He grabbed it off his desk, folded it, and slid it through the tiny hole in our cell. He said ‘If you really want the mask, you can grab it with your teeth,’ and then he laughed at us.”

They claim police also coughed on them and mocked arrestees for asking for masks. C.J. still hasn’t filed a claim. 

“I’m afraid to tie my name to a settlement where all of the legal contexts aren’t available or accessible,” says C.J., adding that they haven’t received much support or information on how to file a claim and the lack of instruction and direction has left them apprehensive. 

“Honestly, I’m willfully procrastinating on filing. I’m just waiting for another news update to tell me something has changed or what to do next,” they said. C.J. fears there are more people in the same boat as them, and says they have barely received any information from the ‘powers that be’ on what this settlement is. 

Taylor, another eligible arrestee, says that the fear he experienced as a result of that day kept him from applying for years. While some of his friends submitted claims with lawyers immediately following June 4, 2020, Taylor’s experience with the NYPD was so frightening that he waited until this year to finally file a claim.

“They were stepping on cars, they maced us, they kettled us. They were attacking everybody. It was extremely violent,” recounts Taylor. 

Volunteer medical and legal brigades provide assistance at the Mott Haven protest on June 4, 2020. Photo: Gabriel Hernández Solano

Taylor described being kettled as“the most horrific part of my experience.” He went on to say, “You start experiencing everybody’s flight and fight responses. Some people were saying ‘let’s run over the police’ and others were saying ‘we have to get out of here.’ All of that energy was confined and it was very panicked, and intense. That was very scary.”

Taylor, who is a Bronx native and an EMT worker also said that “as a medical professional, it was disgusting to see so many people not receiving medical attention, who desperately needed it that day.” 

However, it was what happened after the protest that left Taylor in fear for his continued safety. Taylor claims that after he was released, unbeknownst to him, the police officer who processed him kept his ID. 

“I had to go to three different precincts across three different boroughs before I got my ID back. I was scared,” he says. “That cop had my address, he knew where I lived. It put me in a very dark place and it made me not want to go forward with filing a claim. I kept thinking what if this cop came to my doorstep and tried to kill me and just got away with it.”

Taylor complained that the settlement funds are coming from taxpayer dollars. “I wish it was coming from the NYPD budget instead,” he adds.“Money will never undo the suffering that everyone experienced that day.” 

How to file

Those people who did not receive a claim form in the mail or were not arrested are being directed toward the Did Not Receive A Claim Form tab on the settlement website. 

You’ll be required to share the following information about yourself. 

  • Full legal name
  • If you used a different name on June 4, 2020, the full name you used as of that date
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number
  • A complete description of what happened to you on June 4, 2020. You must include as much detail as you can, including where you were located when you were detained, arrested and/or subjected to police force; the names of any police officers you can identify; the names of any people with you; if you were arrested, where you were taken after your arrest; whether you were given a summons, Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT); and any other information concerning your arrest or your injuries.
  • A copy of a current government-issued photo ID. If you do not have a current photo ID, please submit a photograph of yourself for identification purposes.

Photographs and videos showing the applicant being present during or around the protest, along with screenshots of text messages from that night describing the abuse are a few examples of evidence that can help support applicants’ claims. A letter from a mental health counselor who can confirm the applicant’s experience from that night, or receipts from therapy appointments directly related to the evening are helpful forms of evidence as well.

It’s important to note that the settlement form does ask applicants to provide a social security number. However, at the bottom of the document and on the settlement website, it ensures that applicants are allowed to leave that question blank and do not need to provide their social security number. According to the class action attorneys, “immigration status will not affect anybody’s ability to file an eligible claim or receive a class payment.”

According to the settlement terms, “the City has agreed to make payments of $21,500 to each Settlement Class Member; an additional $2,500 to each Settlement Class Member who was given a Desk Appearance Ticket (“DAT”) as a result of their arrest on June 4, 2020.”

Arrestees have until August 30, 2023, to file a claim. That deadline is now fast approaching. If eligible arrestees don’t file their claim in time, they may be forfeiting their right to their entitled compensation. 

While the language leaves the overall eligibility number a bit murky, Frick and Rickner confirmed that of the 320 people who were arrested that day, 115 have settled with the city separately from the Mott Haven class action suit. 

There is an ‘unknown number’ of people who were subjected to police force, yet the lawyers involved say with certainty that 200 people (those who were arrested) do fall within the eligibility criteria for the suit. According to attorney Frink, “over one hundred claims have been filed” since the settlement was announced. This could mean that nearly 50% of certainly eligible people still haven’t filed a claim. 

If you or someone you know is eligible for the Mott Haven settlement and needs support filing a claim or has any questions regarding the process, please visit the Mott Haven settlement website for support. 

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