Published on Monday, May 5, 2014 by Common Dreams
Cecily McMillan, who faces up to seven years in prison, was immediately handcuffed and ‘whisked away’
Cecily McMillan—the 25-year-old Occupy Wall Street organizer who was allegedly sexually assaulted and brutalized by a police officer at Zuccotti Park, is facing up to seven years in prison after—in what her supporters say is a cruel twist—she was convicted Monday afternoon of “felony assault” of the very police officer she says is her perpetrator.
“This threatens a chilling effect over protest movements going forward,” said Stan Williams, media coordinator for Justice for Cecily, in an interview with Common Dreams. “I am so sad and raw right now.”
After four weeks of trial and just three hours of jury deliberation, the verdict was issued Monday afternoon, and Judge Ronald Zweibel immediately remanded McMillan into custody pending sentencing, rejecting her lawyer’s requests for bail.
The courtroom, which was packed with McMillan’s supporters and approximately 50 police officers, erupted into cries of “Shame!” as McMillan was handcuffed. According to Williams, people who stood up were pushed down and told to be quiet, yet the crowd “continued to shout and yell.”
“You could see Cecily over the heads of police officers who lined the front of the courtroom,” he added. “She looked upset and in shock over the verdict. Then she was whisked away.”
Williams said the scene was “extremely triggering” given the brutality of the March 2012 incident around which the trial orbited. According to a statement from Justice for Cecily,
[O]n March 17, 2012, Cecily’s attendance at Zuccotti was a point of party, not protest. It was St. Patrick’s Day and as a McMillan, she vowed for this one occasion to put down the bullhorn and pick up the beer. Cecily swung by the park to pick up a friend on her way to a nearby pub. Minutes later, she was sexually assaulted while attempting to leave Zuccotti in compliance with police evacuation orders. Seized from behind, she was forcefully grabbed by the breast and ripped backwards. Cecily startled and her arm involuntarily flew backward into the temple of her attacker, who promptly flung her to the ground, where others repeatedly kicked and beat her into a string of seizures.
McMillan is described by her supporters as “a 25-year-old organizer” who “has been politically active for over a decade — most notably in the Democratic Socialists for America, the anti-Scott Walker mobilization, and Occupy Wall Street.”
She earlier rejected a deal from prosecutors, in which she would plea guilty to second-degree assault of a police officer in exchange for a recommendation from prosecutors for no prison time.
McMillan’s supporters have slammed Judge Zweibel for imposing a gag order on her lawyers and showing strong favor to the prosecution.
McMillan will soon be on her way to Rikers Island, said Williams.
According to The Guardian, “Hers is believed to be the last of more than 2,600 prosecutions brought against members of the movement, most of which were dismissed or dropped.”
McMillan’s supporters say McMillan will fight the verdict in an appeals court. According to Williams, there will be a rally Monday evening at Zuccotti Park, and there is a separate fund being collected for her commissary costs.
In a statement immediately following the verdict, Justice for Cecily declared:
We recognize that, as poorly as Cecily has been treated these past two years, she was lucky enough to have an amazing support system comprised of representation from the National Lawyer’s Guild and Mutant Legal, as well as significant financial help from supporters of Occupy Wall Street and a team of ten who tirelessly worked to bring her case to light and support her through this trying time. It’s harrowing to imagine how many unfortunate people encounter this system without the resources Cecily had, though we know countless innocent people are forced to plea to felonies and ruin their lives every day in this building.
Reactions and reports are being posted on Twitter:
Below is an exclusive Democracy Now! interview with McMillan.
Exclusive: OWS Activist Cecily McMillan Describes Seizure, Bodily Injuries in Arrest by NYPD
‘This has become something bigger than Cecily McMillan. It’s about protests and dissent.’
People across the United States responded with outrage after Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan was found guilty Monday afternoon of “assaulting” the very police officer who she says sexually assaulted her.
Over 100 people rallied in New York City’s Zuccotti Park Monday night and, according to advocates, messages of support immediately began pouring in from across the country.
“I know Cecily would be in gratitude for how much people care,” Stan Williams of support group Justice for Cecily told Common Dreams. “But this has become something bigger than Cecily. It’s about protests and dissent.”
McMillan’s supporters on Monday filled a New York court room with cries of “Shame!” when the 25-year-old organizer was handed a guilty verdict and then promptly handcuffed and taken away to Rikers Island, where she is currently detained pending sentencing. In a Democracy Now! interview Tuesday morning, Martin Stolar, criminal defense attorney affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild and co-counsel for McMillan’s case, derided her felony verdict—that could land her a sentence of two to seven years with a chance of probation—as “ridiculous” and vowed an appeal.
McMillan was one of approximately 70 people detained late the night of March 17/early morning March 18, 2012, when police violently cleared a memorial event marking the six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. McMillan, who had stopped by the park to meet a friend, says she was sexually assaulted by police officer Grantley Bovell while she attempted to leave the area. “Seized from behind, she was forcefully grabbed by the breast and ripped backwards,” according to a statement by Justice For Cecily. “Cecily startled and her arm involuntarily flew backward into the temple of her attacker, who promptly flung her to the ground, where others repeatedly kicked and beat her into a string of seizures.” Following the attack, McMillan underwent treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Yet, despite numerous allegations that Bovell has inflicted excessive force while on duty, as well as his previous involvement in a ticket-fixing scandal, it was McMillan who was put on trial for felony charges of assaulting Bovell.
According to McMillan’s supporters, what followed was a trial riddled with injustice, in which Judge Ronald Zweibel showed repeated favoritism towards the prosecution and imposed a gag order on McMillan’s lawyer.
Facing photographic and video evidence of McMillan’s bruises following the attack, including a hand-shaped bruise on her chest, as well as the testimony of dozens of witnesses, the prosecution went so far as to claim that McMillan had imposed the injuries on herself.
“In the trial, physical evidence was considered suspect but the testimony of the police was cast as infallible,” writes journalist Molly Knefel, who was present the night of McMillan’s arrest. “And not only was Officer Bovell’s documented history of violent behavior deemed irrelevant by the judge, but so were the allegations of his violent behavior that very same night.”
“To the jury, the hundreds of police batons, helmets, fists, and flex cuffs out on March 17 were invisible – rendering McMillan’s elbow the most powerful weapon on display in Zuccotti that night, at least insofar as the jury was concerned,” Knefel added.
Yet, according to Kristen Iversen writing for Brooklyn Magazine, McMillan’s verdict is not just the outcome of one unfair trial, but rather exposes “systemic” failures of justice: “The failure is that McMillan was given the exact kind of trial that our system is set up for, one that supports the police no matter how wrong their behavior, one that dismisses victims of sexual assault in astonishing numbers.”
Lucy Parks, field coordinator for Justice For Cecily, told Democracy Now! that McMillan’s supporters are busy figuring out next steps, with plans to organize petitions, call-in days, and other mobilizations in the works.
“We’re also trying to bring together communities of U.S. activists and anyone who feels strongly about this trial to try and heal and move forward and broaden the conversation about the justice system to talk about more people than just Cecily,” Parks added.
Reactions and reports are being posted on Twitter:
Cecily McMillan jurors tell judge Occupy activist should not go to jail
- theguardian.com, Thursday 8 May 2014 17.42 EDT
A majority of the jurors who this week convicted an Occupy Wall Street activist of assaulting a New York police officer have asked the judge in her case to not send her to prison.
Cecily McMillan was on Monday found guilty of deliberately elbowing officer Grantley Bovell in the face, as he led her out of a protest in March 2012. She was convicted of second-degree assault, a felony, and faces up to seven years in prison. She was denied bail and is being detained at Riker’s Island jail.
However, nine of the 12 jurors who unanimously reached the verdict have since taken the unusual step of writing to Judge Ronald Zweibel to request that he not give her a prison sentence on 19 May.
“We the jury petition the court for leniency in the sentencing of Cecily McMillan,” they wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Guardian. “We would ask the court to consider probation with community service.
“We feel that the felony mark on Cecily’s record is punishment enough for this case and that it serves no purpose to Cecily or to society to incarcerate her for any amount of time.”
The letter, which was signed by juror number two, Charles Woodard, was copied to all other members of the panel and to McMillan’s attorney, Martin Stolar.