Jailed Anti-Police Protestors Awarded $700k

(RepublicanPress.org) – In January 2021, police arrested four people after a Black Lives Matter protest in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a police officer. The individuals were taken into custody and jailed for using chalk to write graffiti on a temporary barricade in Seattle. The men sued for having their constitutional rights violated and recently won.

On June 21, a 10-person jury found in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered the defendants — which included the state and four police officers with the Seattle Police Department — to pay them each $20,000 in compensatory damages and $150,000 in punitive damages. The total payout amounted to $680,000. Compensatory damages reflect the actual damages or harm caused to the suing party, and punitive damages are a form of punishment against the defendants for wrongdoing.

During the trial, the attorney for the plaintiffs, Nathaniel Flack, said tensions were high after Floyd’s murder and “animus towards [BLM] protestors” motivated the officers to arrest and jail the men. The court found that the officers and the state violated the protestor’s First Amendment rights. The men reportedly used chalk and charcoal to write messages like “Free Them All” and “Peaceful Protest.” Flack explained that officers don’t typically enforce the law banning sidewalk chalk art, and he showed evidence of a pro-police message at another location in Seattle as proof.

Neither the Seattle City Attorney’s office nor the Seattle police or the police guild responded to a request for comment after the verdict. It’s unclear if the defendants plan to appeal or if that action is even an option in this case. The officers named as defendants were Dylan Nelson, Alexander Patton, Ryan Kannard, and Michele Letizia. The individual officers will reportedly be responsible for paying the defendants.

Another attorney for the plaintiffs, Braden Pence, called the decision a “big win for free speech.”

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