The City of New York will pay $97,751 to five cyclists who were wrongfully detained and arrested during a Critical Mass ride in March 2007.
The ruling comes after a video was posted on YouTube showing one of the protesters being pushed off his bike by a New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer.
Richard Vazquez, the rider in question, said justice would not be served until officers were held accountable for their unprovoked and hostile use of force toward cyclists.
The money was split among all five claimants, each receiving an amount based on their individual circumstances. "While I'm pleased with the monetary victory for myself and the other plaintiffs, there will be no real justice until the higher-ups in the NYPD are held accountable for their actions, and it's not just the low ranking officers who are punished," said Vazquez, 55.
The five protesters filed a lawsuit against NYPD sergeant Timothy Horohoe for the excessive force he and the officers under his command used during the Critical Mass ride.
An official investigation found that the officers had done nothing wrong, but the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) reopened the case when Sgt Horohoe's statement about the incident did not correspond to the footage posted on YouTube.
Sgt Horohoe testified before the CCRB that Vazquez rode into him. However the YouTube video clearly shows Sgt Horohoe pushing Vazquez off his bike. The CCRB charged Sgt Horohoe for using force against Vazquez and for lying during an official investigation.
Video of March 2007 Critical Mass with audio from CCRB Testimony
"The plaintiffs were suing for being wrongfully arrested or detained," said Barbara Ross from Times Up, a New York-based cycling advocacy group. "They would have filed the lawsuit independent of the CCRB's findings."
Vazquez v. Sgt Horohoe is one of several cases that depict a long-term dispute between the NYPD and Critical Mass protesters reaching a boiling point. Ross sees this case as a victory for cyclists' rights.
"This validates our concerns over the years that the NYPD is wrongfully harassing cyclists, especially cyclists that choose to ride in groups," Ross said. "We believe cyclist group rides are constitutionally protected if all the rules of the road are being followed."