Jan. 14 (UPI) -- New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday filed a lawsuit accusing the New York City Police Department of "brutal" force against peaceful protesters during last year's anti-racism demonstrations.
In the complaint, James' office said the NYPD violated individuals' "basic right to peacefully protest. The court document said the department, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea and NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan failed to address an existing pattern of abuse and a lack of training.
"There is no question that the NYPD engaged in a pattern of excessive, brutal, and unlawful force against peaceful protesters," James said. "Over the past few months, the NYPD has repeatedly and blatantly violated the rights of New Yorkers, inflicting significant physical and psychological harm and leading to great distrust in law enforcement.
"With today's lawsuit, this longstanding pattern of brutal and illegal force ends. No one is above the law -- not even the individuals charged with enforcing it."
Protesters took to the streets across the globe last summer in reaction to the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd after police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for several minutes. The protests spread to New York City, where the complaint said there were "mass arrests" and interactions between police and protesters.
The complaint filed Thursday included dozens of pages of examples of alleged excessive force violations, including photos of protesters who said they were injured by police. The lawsuit says officers struck protesters with blunt instruments at least 50 times, unlawfully deployed pepper spray 30 times and used unreasonable force at least 75 times.
Instead of monetary relief, James called for systemic reforms within the NYPD overseen by an independent monitor.
Protesters demand justice in police killing of George Floyd
Demonstrators hold a sign in Los Angeles on June 14 for Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot by police in her home while she was sleeping. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo