AUSTIN — Seventeen people who were pepper sprayed by police officers on Nov. 4, 2008 while celebrating Barack Obama's election as president on Chicago's West Side should share a $395,000 settlement, aldermen recommended Tuesday.
The full Council is expected to approve the settlement Wednesday, the latest in a series of large payments approved by aldermen to compensate people injured by Chicago Police officers.
The lawsuit alleged that while the peaceful celebration took place on sidewalks, porches and backyards in Austin, officers ordered people to return to their homes without cause. Some officers began shouting expletives, and using pepper spray — which contains a chemical mix designed to irritate eyes and cause tears and pain — on the crowd.
The plaintiffs said one officer sprayed the gathering while in his car, which officers denied, according to court records.
Officers spent most of that night responding to overturned cars, celebratory gunfire and bottles and rocks thrown at police, attorneys said. Officers formed a caravan to quash the incidents, officials said.
Officers were investigating rocks thrown at the caravan when they followed suspects into the backyard at 167 N. Latrobe Ave. where a barbecue was taking place, city attorneys said. Two men were arrested and charged with obstructing a police officer, although those charges were later dropped, they added.
One man was taken to the hospital after he had trouble breathing after being doused with pepper spray, city attorneys said.
The settlement includes attorney's fees.
One of the plaintiffs told the Tribune a few weeks after the incident that he saw an officer using his baton to beat a person who was celebrating Obama's victory while another said he witnessed an officer using his Taser on another person who was celebrating.
Blake Horwitz, the attorney representing the victims, has said that he believed the incident was racially motivated because officers were angered by the sight of the black plaintiffs celebrating the election of America's first black president.
Ald. Ed Burke (14th) said the case and settlement had already been approved by a federal judge.