BEATEN, BLINDED BY pepper spray, corralled like animals, and indiscriminately arrested for marching against police violence and racial injustice. Such was the fate hundreds of people suffered at the hands of New York Police Department (NYPD) officers in late May and early June of 2020, as thousands of people across the United States protested the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
Three years later, a class action lawsuit has resulted in the City of New York agreeing to pay $9,950 each to some 1,380 protesters as part of a settlement. Costing taxpayers more than $13 million, it’s the largest amount paid to protesters in US history, according to the legal team behind the class action suit.
Lawyers secured the settlement with the aid of a little-known tool that helped them quickly categorize and analyze terabytes of video footage from police body cams, helicopter surveillance, and social media. “We had multiple weeks of protests. We had protests spanning the city of New York. We had thousands of arrests,” says David Rankin, a partner at the law firm Beldock, Levine & Hoffman who was part of the protesters’ legal team. “We had tens of thousands of hours of body cam footage, we had text messages, we had emails, we had just an absolute truckload of data to get through.”