RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The city of Richmond has reached another settlement stemming from the 2020 teargassing of demonstrators who gathered around the former Gen. Robert E. Lee monument.
The attorney who filed lawsuits on behalf of six protesters, Andrew Bodoh, confirmed Friday that a settlement was reached earlier this month but said he could not disclose the terms. In December 2021, 8News reported that Richmond had doled out nearly $300,000 to others who filed civil lawsuits alleging police misconduct during civil unrest in the summer of 2020.
While he could not share the terms that the city and plaintiffs agreed to, Bodoh did say that the settlement now makes way for his law firm to take on the claims of others who were tear-gassed by Richmond police officers at the Lee Circle in June 2020.
Protests erupted and spread across the country following the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. People seeking police reforms marched Richmond’s streets, where a curfew was implemented and protesters and law enforcement clashed in front of the city’s police department.
On June 1, 2020, peaceful demonstrators were tear-gassed near the Lee statue on Monument Avenue without warning and before the 8 p.m. curfew set by Mayor Levar Stoney. The mayor and Richmond police chief William Smith, who resigned later that month, apologized outside Richmond City Hall as hundreds of people demanded answers.
Specific details of what led to the tear-gassing have been limited, with court documents only providing some background, but Bodoh said more should be released in July.
“The judge did order that the protective order in the case would be lifted on July 1,” he said Friday. The move would shed more light on the decisions behind the tear-gassing.
A spokesperson for Mayor Stoney did not immediately respond to 8News’ request for comment.
The lawsuit that was settled claimed that Richmond police officers violated the protesters’ First Amendment, Fourth Amendment and 14th Amendment rights, a similar argument from other civil lawsuits in response to the incident.
An unknown portion of the $300,000 the city paid out last year went to settle another federal civil lawsuit filed on behalf of a man who said he was near the Lee statue before officers deployed tear gas without warning.
The civil lawsuit, which named the city and former police chief William Smith as defendants, argued members of the Richmond Police Department “used intentional, unjustified, and inexcusable force and threats of force to disperse citizens” who gathered in the area.
The lawsuit alleged the plaintiff, identified as Nathan Arries in court documents, “was blinded and felt his skin, eyes, nose, mouth and lungs burn, causing coughing and difficulty breathing” after the incident.
The suit claimed the police’s actions violated the constitutional rights of Arries, and “his federal constitutional and statutory rights and Virginia law.” The lawsuit, which requested a jury trial, sought declaratory judgment, general and compensatory damages, attorney fees and other costs of the suit.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.