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Seattle will pay $10 million to protesters who said police used excessive force during 2020 protests

Smoke rises around large humvees with officers wearing tactical gear and protesters in the distance.
Ted S. Warren
Smoke rises as police clash with protesters during a Black Lives Matter protest near the Seattle Police East Precinct headquarters, July 25, 2020, in Seattle.

Seattle has agreed to pay $10 million to 50 demonstrators who sued over the police department’s heavy-handed response to racial justice protests in 2020, in a settlement announced by attorneys from both sides Wednesday.

The protesters were among tens of thousands who rallied downtown and in the Capitol Hill neighborhood for weeks following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police — a period that saw Seattle's police department abandon its East Precinct building as well as the establishment of the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest,” a six-block zone taken over by protesters.

The police department — led by then-Chief Carmen Best — used aggressive techniques to disperse the crowds, including flash-bang grenades, foam-tipped projectiles and blast balls that explode and emit pepper gas.

At some points during protests, people in the crowds did cause damage, including burning police cars and trying to set a fire at the East Precint. But a federal judge ordered the department to stop using chemical and other weapons indiscriminately against against peaceful demonstrators.

When police used them even after Best and then-Mayor Jenny Durkan promised they would stop, the City Council voted unanimously to bar officers from doing so.

Among the plaintiffs in the lawsyit was Aubreanna Inda, who was standing in the middle of a street before a phalanx of officers in riot gear when a blast ball hit her in the chest and exploded, causing her to go into cardiac arrest. Volunteer medics and other protesters performed CPR and brought her to a hospital.

Others included a teenager whose finger was partially blown off, a disabled veteran with a cane who was tear-gassed and tackled and dozens who suffered hearing loss, broken bones, concussions, severe bruises, PTSD or other injuries, according to the lawsuit.

The case involved more than 10,000 videos, including police body-worn camera recordings, and hundreds of witness interviews.

“Historians should review what we collected and write the true story of the shameful behavior of our City against the Peaceful Protesters,” Karen Koehler, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement Wednesday.

City Attorney Ann Davison said in a statement that lawsuit had resulted in a “significant drain” on time and resources and Seattle is not admitting liability in the settlement, which was signed Tuesday.

“This decision was the best financial decision for the City considering risk, cost, and insurance,” Davison said.

A three-month trial had been expected to begin in May.