Floyd family gets $27M settlement; activists say ‘no substitute for change’

MINNEAPOLIS—By a unanimous vote of the Minneapolis City Council Friday, the city agreed to pay a $27 million settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by the George Floyd family. According to media reports, it is the largest pre-trial settlement in U.S. history.

The settlement was announced as the first week of jury selection was ending in the trial of former MPD officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of Floyd. At a press conference attended by the mayor and the entire council, Ben Crump, the lead lawyer for the Floyd family, praised the city for its cooperation, its steps toward police reform, and for its valuing of a Black life.

Crump began the press conference by returning to the day when Floyd’s life was ended. “When George Floyd was horrifically killed on May 25, 2020, it was a watershed moment for America. It was one of the most egregious and shocking documentations of an American citizen being tortured to death by a police officer by having his knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.”

“History will judge us,” he said, speaking to Mayor Jacob Frey, “not only on our words but the power of our actions.”

On actions, Crump acknowledged the city’s “extraordinary leadership in bringing justice and change out of this terrible tragedy.” Reaching this agreement would not have been possible without the “progressive and deeply moral leadership of this city council and its mayor,” he said.

Floyd family attorney Ben Crump, at podium, at the press conference Friday. At far right is Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. | AP

This city has already acted to take some “very profound police reforms.” He referred to new policies to report all physical interactions police have with a citizen, require body-worn cameras on officers, and modify regulations on the use of force. More change is needed, however, he said. In particular, he pointed to the need to negotiate the police union contract that makes it difficult for the city to fire and discipline officers—a measure, he pointed out, that will also require changes in state law.

Leaders against police violence who are seeking justice for George Floyd, however, see the city’s actions in another light.

“I am glad the family got some real justice and that an African American life was finally valued,” said Michelle Gross, of Communities United Against Police Brutality.

However, in contrast to statements at the press conference, she said, “What has been done has been almost nothing.” This settlement, while due, “cannot be a substitute for change.”

So far, when it comes to MPD officers’ misconduct and use of deadly force, “No one has had to pay except the victims and taxpayers,” she said, noting that the only officer ever convicted in the city was a Black MPD officer, Mohamad Noor, who killed a white woman.

She stressed the need to convict Chauvin and the other three officers involved in the murder of Floyd. “We have to have convictions and send them to prison.”

Will a $27 million settlement prompt the city to rise to the challenge that activists are demanding? For activists here, it remains to be seen if city officials and business and civic leaders will take effective action to stop police violence. However, it is clear by the protests this week that activists will be applying more and more pressure on the city as the Chauvin trial proceeds.

Protesters and leaders continue to demand that the city purge the department of officers like Chauvin that have long records of racist behavior and brutality. The officers responsible for using deadly force on unarmed people, like those who murdered Jamar Clark in 2015 or Terrance Franklin in 2013, are still on the MPD force, along with many others.

Leaders are also demanding the city, county, and state take steps to make it possible to re-open all the cases of police use of deadly force, make legislative changes to allow for citizen oversight of police departments, and extend the period of time for families to file lawsuits if further investigation reveals new evidence. So far, ten months after the murder of Floyd, the MPD and the city have not acted on these or any other of their demands.


Wayne Nealis
Wayne Nealis

Wayne Nealis is a left political activist and writer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, focusing on communications and strategies for social change. He was a toolmaker and union activist in a Minnesota industrial union. Nealis earned a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota and practiced journalism and public and media relations.