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Detroit Will Breathe says lawsuit resolution is an "absolute victory"

Photo taken from a BLM protest in Detroit this summer
Sarah Cwiek
/
Michigan Radio

A Detroit activist group that led protests across the city in the wake of George Floyd’s Minneapolis police killing is claiming victory in a federal lawsuit against the city.

Detroit Will Breathe and some individual protesters sued the city over their treatment during protests in the summer of 2020. They said Detroit Police used violent tactics to subdue some protesters, violating their constitutional rights.

“We had folks who were pepper sprayed. We had folks who were tear gassed. We had folks who were run over by police vehicles, put in choke holds,” said Amanda Ghannam, one of Detroit Will Breathe’s attorneys.

Ghannam said the city tried various strategies to stifle the lawsuit, including a failed effort to counter-sue the protesters. Then, “We had to put up a really significant fight just to obtain things like body cam footage [and] incident reports for all of these things that happened,” she said.

Ghannam said the city has not agreed to settle. Rather, it’s made an offer of judgement, essentially conceding the case to the plaintiffs. “I believe it's no coincidence that once we obtained that evidence, the city decided to throw in the towel and forfeit the case,” Ghannam said, calling the resolution “an absolute victory” for Detroit Will Breathe.

A city of Detroit spokesman confirmed that the plaintiffs “accepted the offers that were presented.” The judgement offers Detroit Will Breathe and some individual plaintiffs a total of more than $1 million in compensation. It still needs approval from a judge and the Detroit City Council.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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