By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Three people injured during protests against racial injustice and police brutality last year in Ohio’s capital have described unprovoked harassment and assaults by police that resulted in some cases lasting injuries.

Their Friday comments came a day after the city of Columbus and attorneys for 32 people injured in the protests announced a $5.75 million settlement.

Community activist Tammy Fournier Alsaada said she was allowed past a line of police to investigate reports of people being arrested when she heard a series of “bangs and pops”.

“The only thing I can describe are the sounds of war I witness on television,” Alsaada told an online press conference. “As I looked up, all I could see was arcs of smoke and canisters raining down on me and the people who were with me.”

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Alsaada was temporarily blinded, thrown to the ground, kicked by a police horse, then chased and surrounded by officers, she said.

Reverend Claressa Thompson said she was pepper sprayed and pushed down despite wearing her clerical robe and carrying a sign that read: ‘No violence – God lives.’

Bernadette Calvey said she had no plans to protest, but was walking with her housemate when she approached a scene of protesters, thinking she might join. Out of the blue, she was hit in the face by a wooden bullet, leaving a scar still on her chin. An inch or two higher and she could have lost teeth or an eye, she said.

Calvey said the injury was all the more shocking after being brought up to respect the police. “It was a very eye-opening experience to see police brutality first-hand,” she said.

People suffered permanent scarring, fractured ankles, other broken bones, severe eye injury, injury requiring total knee replacement and ongoing post-traumatic stress disorder, attorney Chanda Brown said.

“They came out to protest police brutality nonviolently and faced police brutality,” Brown said on Friday.

Payments will vary based on the extent of the protesters’ individual injuries and will be determined in a series of private meetings with a special master hired to review each case, said John Marshall, the lead attorney in the federal lawsuit brought by injured protesters.

The settlement also finalizes the details of a federal judge’s ruling earlier this year that ordered Columbus police to stop using non-lethal force such as tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on non-violent protesters who do not hurt people or destroy property.

The Columbus City Council is expected to approve the financial settlement next week.

At issue in the federal lawsuit was the city’s response to protests that began in late May after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted this year of second-degree manslaughter, murder in third degree and second degree murder. manslaughter.

The police testified to having faced chaotic and threatening situations.

“People were approaching us with bottles, opening them and throwing unknown liquids at us, screaming in our faces,” Constable Anthony Johnson said, according to court documents.

The Columbus protests lasted for several days downtown, near Ohio State University and in other parts of the city. On the first night, protesters smashed windows at the Ohio Statehouse and downtown businesses.

In a separate episode, US Representative Joyce Beatty was hit with pepper spray as scuffles broke out near the end of a protest in May.

A report released last spring said Columbus was unprepared for the scale and energy of the protests and that most police officers felt let down by city leaders during this time. The report, commissioned by the city council, also found that the city had no prior plan to handle such protests and suffered from a lack of coordination and even regular communication among city leaders once protests began. .

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