SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Testimony is starting in the lawsuit filed against the New York State Police by American Indians who claim they were beaten by troopers breaking up a protest on an upstate highway nearly 20 years ago.

The Post-Standard reports ( ) opening statements were made Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Syracuse. Sixteen plaintiffs remain involved in the lawsuit. The rest of the original 98 plaintiffs settled with the state in June for $2.7 million.

The remaining plaintiffs say troopers used excessive force while breaking up a demonstration alongside Interstate 81 just south of Syracuse in May 1997. About 100 people had gathered along the highway to protest the state collecting sales tax on cigarettes and gasoline sold on Indian territory.

State police say troopers had to end the demonstration after protesters walked onto the highway.

Information from: The Post-Standard,