Racial justice org Detroit Will Breathe accepts $1 million settlement after police use of force

Detroit Will Breathe lawyer Amanda Ghannam said one plaintiff allegedly suffered from fractured ribs and a perforated lung.

Detroit Will Breathe has agreed to a $1 million settlement offer from the city to conclude a federal lawsuit that lasted two years and claimed the use of excessive police force and the infringement on the First Amendment rights of its members.

In 2020, members of the racial justice organization took part in demonstrations for more than 100 straight days to express their outrage following the recorded killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers on May 25 of that year.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Detroit Will Breathe’s lawsuit contended that during the protests, police employed excessive force without probable cause, including the use of chokeholds, mass arrests, rubber bullets, flash grenades and sound cannons.

Detroit Will Breathe
Members of Detroit Will Breathe demonstrate for the 100th straight day after the 2020 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The racial justice organization filed a federal lawsuit accusing Detroit police of using excessive force during the protests and has now agreed to a $1 million settlement. (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube.com/WXYZ-TV Detroit)

In late July, the Detroit City Council offered the group $1,035,000 to settle the case. The group receives $5,000, and the lawsuit’s 14 individual plaintiffs receive the remaining funds, which range from $15,000 to $250,000 per person.

The plaintiffs claimed that the use of force by the police led to hospitalizations, concussions, injured nerves, brain bleeding, plus fractured bones like broken ribs and cracked skulls.

Amanda Ghannam, a lawyer for Detroit Will Breathe, said the city chose the settlement amount per plaintiff, perhaps based on the severity of injuries. One person allegedly suffered fractured ribs and a perforated lung due to severe police beatings.

Ghannam said the organization gathered evidence throughout the litigation, including body camera footage and incident reports from protests. She added that publicizing the information could bring justice that monetary compensation cannot.

“The public, and city council people who are making decisions about funding the police receive, the way that the police operate, they’ll be able to see what actually happened,” she said, according to the Free Press. She added that if people see that officers “acted with impunity and extreme, uncalled-for violence” perhaps “we’ll be able to do something to change that. That was always the goal of this case, and that’s going to continue to be the goal.”

In addition to the $1 million, the city would pay $860,000 in agreed-upon legal fees and expenses, subject to city council approval.

The Detroit Police Department has repeatedly dismissed claims that officers used excessive force during the protests and opposed the idea of compensation.

“Our officers overwhelmingly acted appropriately time and again to protect free speech while also maintaining public safety,” Deputy Chief Mark Bliss said in July, the Free Press reported.

TheGrio has reached out to Detroit police for comment.

Detroit Will Breathe said the settlement resolves the lawsuit in its favor but does not bring adequate justice to those harmed by police or deliver the necessary systemic changes.

“The road towards liberation is not linear,” the organization said, according to the Free Press. “While we don’t see the daily marches of a few years ago, the struggle has taken on new forms — strikes have rippled across the country and student walkouts are a regular occurrence. See y’all in the streets.”

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