Police officers in Denver violated the rights of protesters during the huge 2020 protests over the killing of George Floyd, a federal jury said Friday. As a result, 12 protesters were awarded a total of $14 million in damages after a three-week trial that lawyers involved in the case characterized as the first trial in a lawsuit that challenged police tactics during the 2020 protests that broke out across the country after the killing of Floyd.
Lawyers in the trial argued that police officers violated the constitutional rights of the 12 protesters who sued by striking them with a variety of non-lethal weapons and chemical munitions even though they were all peacefully expressing their views. The attorneys argued that the aggressive response to the protesters, and the injuries they suffered as a result, were a direct consequence of how the city failed to properly train and supervise police officers. Zach Packard, who ended up in intensive care after he was hit in the head by a Kevlar-bag filled with lead that was fired from a shotgun, received $3 million, which was the largest damage amount.
During the trial, attorneys called on the jurors to send a message not just to police in Denver, but across the country, that the rights of protesters should be taken seriously. “You have the ability to send a message to the Denver Police Department and to departments across the country,” Tim Macdonald, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, told the jury in his closing argument.
Denver acknowledged after the verdict that “some mistakes were made” and said it had already instituted changes to the police department after what it described as “unprecedented” protests in 2020.