A group of about 70 protesters who were arrested after the 2005 inauguration of President George W. Bush will receive at least $2,000 each, according to a settlement approved in a Washington federal court.
Police had arrested the demonstrators, claiming the group was vandalizing a Washington D.C. neighborhood.
“It’s not a reflection on all demonstrators,” Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said the following day. “But a hard-core group came to town and caused damage to property… You can’t let them destroy the city. Nobody has a right to do that.”
“They are just thugs and hoodlums who did that,” he added.
Many of those arrested said that they were just bystanders who didn’t deserve to be prosecuted. Others claimed that the police shot pepper spray directly in their eyes even after being restrained.
In 2008, U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huevelle ruled that all of the arrests were unconstitutional because police could not determine which of the people had actually broken the law.
A three-judge panel overturned that ruling, saying that the arrests were only proper if the crowd was “acting as a unit.”
The case was scheduled for a retrial on Feb. 1, but a settlement was reached on Jan. 20.
“U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle granted preliminary approval to the settlement on March 24, subject to final approval following a public fairness hearing scheduled for Aug. 1,” according to Legal Times.
The final settlement (.pdf) amount was set at $250,000. The American Civil Liberties Union and Kirkland & Ellis worked on the case pro bono and are not eligible for compensation. The Washington D.C. firm Gaffney & Schember could receive $50,000.
Two class members who claim they were assaulted by police could also receive as much as $20,000. The five class representatives are set to receive $5,000 each. The entire class, as many as 69 people, will split the remaining $160,000.