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Atlanta City Council Approves $2 Million Settlement for Students

You are currently viewing Atlanta City Council Approves $2 Million Settlement for Students
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The Atlanta City Council has agreed to pay $2 million in settlement to two college students who were shocked with Tasers and forcibly removed from their vehicle during traffic congestion caused by protests over George Floyd’s death. The decision, passed with a 13-1 vote on Monday, settles a federal lawsuit brought by Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim. They argued that the police actions on May 30, 2020, when they were confronted while stuck in traffic, were unjustified.

At the time, Young and Pilgrim, students at historically Black colleges in Atlanta, were caught in the midst of escalating protests. Video footage of the incident spread rapidly online, intensifying public outcry in a city already deeply affected by demonstrations.

Then-Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Police Chief Erika Shields responded the following day by terminating two officers and placing three others on desk duty. Shortly after, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced arrest warrants for six officers involved.

However, the dismissals of the two officers were overturned in February 2021 due to procedural errors by the Atlanta Civil Service Board, and the charges against the six officers were later dropped in May 2022 by a special prosecutor.

The City Council’s resolution emphasized that the settlement should not be construed as an admission of wrongdoing. Attorneys representing Pilgrim and Young commended the city for agreeing to the settlement, noting the profound emotional and psychological impact on both students.

“This incident has had a lasting traumatic effect on these young adults,” said Pilgrim’s legal team, comprising Dianna Lee, L. Chris Stewart, and Justin Miller. “It has been a tumultuous journey for two innocent college students who fell victim to unjustified excessive force by APD officers.”

Mawuli Davis, representing Young, stressed the importance of healing and community awareness in the aftermath. “Resolving this civil case will enable these young individuals and their families to continue their recovery from this traumatic incident,” Davis stated. “It is crucial for them to remind the community that the struggle against police brutality persists.”

Body camera footage released by the police the night of the incident depicted a chaotic scene. It showed another young man protesting his innocence and pleading with officers as they detained him amid downtown traffic congestion. Young, seated in the driver’s seat of his halted car, was filming the events with his phone when approached by an officer who forcefully opened the door. Despite attempts to close it, officers intervened, eventually using a Taser on Pilgrim as she tried to exit, followed by her removal from the vehicle.

The footage further revealed tense moments as officers demanded Young to park the car and open the window, resorting to forceful measures like striking the window with a baton before breaking it. Amidst shattered glass, an officer deployed a Taser on Young, who was subsequently removed from the car, handcuffed, and led away while officers shouted about a perceived threat of a gun, though none was recovered according to police reports.

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