CLEVELAND (WJW) — The city of Cleveland is expected to pay a total of more than $540,000 to a dozen people who were “attacked” and falsely arrested, charged or jailed during protests in downtown Cleveland two years ago, attorneys said.

Protesters gathered in downtown Cleveland on May 30, 2020, to demonstrate days after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Twelve of them who claim they were arrested or jailed for peacefully protesting joined in a lawsuit against the city last year, during the administration of former Mayor Frank Jackson and former Police Chief Calvin Williams. That case was settled within the past month, attorneys from Friedman Gilbert and Gerhardstein told reporters during a Thursday media briefing on the steps of the Cuyahoga County Court House.

“They were innocent, peaceful protesters who were exercising their rights to the First Amendment under the U.S. Constitution,” said attorney Terry Gilbert. “A lot of the narrative in this case was about breaking windows and physical damage. But in the course of that day, these individuals were there passionately standing up for the family of George Floyd and seeking reforms in regards to the epidemic of police shootings in this country — particularly of young Black men.

“Hopefully, we can use this case as a vehicle to seek reform,” he said.

The settlement includes a consent decree with which the city must comply, but attorneys did not discuss its terms Thursday.

Though police claimed to be on alert after reports of provocateurs who were planning to escalate demonstrations across the country, Gilbert told reporters he thinks that narrative is “untrue” and what actually happened is simpler.

“I believe the police panicked. They couldn’t control the numbers of people who were out,” he said. “They just started throwing tear gas, [pepper-spraying], flashbangs. That set off a situation that got out of control later, where people responded — some people, not all, a very small minority — responded later in doing acts of vandalism.”

Valeri Belokon, one plaintiff against the city, told reporters he and another person went to the scene of the protest the day after.

“There were no windows being broken, there was no rioting, there was none of that,” he said. “Out of nowhere, two unmarked cars full of cops just pull up on us. Guys jump out, guns pointed at us. Vans pull up behind us. We’re thrown in jail. It was ridiculous.

“I’ve been thinking about it for two years and I can’t think about how two people walking down the street on a Sunday afternoon is necessary to restrict people’s liberty,” he continued. “The more this happens, the more cities are going to have to pay for this. … It’s important people keep coming out and keep putting this pressure. It’s the only way we’re going to see positive change.”

Photographer Alyssa Duncan said she went downtown to document the protests. She spent the next three days in jail, where she wasn’t allowed to make phone calls or even shower, she said.

“Nobody knew where I was. My pets didn’t know I wasn’t coming home. It was scary, actually,” she told reporters. “Leaving the [jail], being dropped off in the middle of Cleveland at 3 a.m. — no cell phone, nobody to call, nobody knows where I am — it was just terrifying. One of the most terrifying moments of my life.”

Duncan also drew a felony charge that hurt her business, even though she wasn’t rioting, she said.

Despite her ordeal, Shainna Bernard, a plaintiff who said she was pepper-sprayed and “brutalized” by police during the protest, urged police reform advocates not to be deterred.

“Keep coming back. This is just a stitch in the fabric of police reform,” she said Thursday. “Our goal is to combat police brutality and misconduct and that’s what we’re here to do.”

Defendants included the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County and more than 20 city and county officers and deputies identified by name or number — including a commander, a sergeant and a detective — along with more than 20 other unidentified people.

Some claims against the county have not yet been resolved, attorneys said Thursday.

FOX 8 has reached out to the city for a comment on the settlement.