The Release of Cecily McMillan

by Jason Schulman

Cecily McMillan has been released from prison, but the American justice system has not yet allowed her to be truly free.

Cecily-McMillan.jpg

An activist in Occupy Wall Street and a member of Democratic Socialists of America, a working class native of rural Texas and a socialist-pacifist in the tradition of the young Bayard Rustin, Cecily was wrongfully convicted on May 5 of felony assault of police officer Grantley Bovell, who both assaulted her and brutalized other OWS protesters the night of March 17, 2012. Judge Ronald Zweibel prohibited key pieces of evidence from the defense. It originally appeared that Cecily would be sentenced to two-to-seven years in Rikers Island. Undoubtedly due to international outcry at the obvious injustice of her trial—even nine of the 12 jurors signed an appeal to the judge asking that she be given no further jail time—Cecily was sentenced on May 19 to a 90-day sentence and five years of probation.

While in Rikers, Cecily participated in what she called “collective action to fight for right to recreation. Corrections Officers routinely schedule meals, medication, mail, and recreation at the exact same time, thereby preventing inmates from having their daily recreation and receiving mail.” Cecily herself was forced to wait nearly three weeks before receiving a necessary prescription medication, then was denied it for two days, given it for two days, and then denied it again. As she says in an interview with jezebel.com—referring to the avoidable death of an inmate with liver cancer and Hepatitis C, among other horrors—“It's not like anyone in here expects to be treated like a human being…My biggest surprise is that more people do not die in here…”

After serving 58 days in prison, Cecily was released on July 2. That day she spoke publicly at a 1pm press conference outside the Rikers Island Gates in Queens. A transcript of her statement can be found at justiceforcecily.com. It is not about her in particular, but about the suffering of her inmates. “I am inspired by the resilient community I have encountered in a system that is stacked against us,” she says. Despite the five years of probation hanging over her head, and despite the fact that she still faces another trial over another incident in which she supposedly interfered with an arrest in December 2013, she states: “The court sent me here to frighten me and others into silencing our dissent, but I am proud to walk out saying that the 99% is, in fact, stronger than ever. We will continue to fight until we gain all the rights we deserve as citizens.” Her statement includes a number of demands for prison reform that she formulated with other women in Rikers.

(As reported by the Huffington Post, Rikers has lately been shaken by allegations that Correctional Officers were smuggling drugs and weapons to inmates, with at least 12 facing charges. The prison has also been hit by violence resulting from a lack of psychiatric beds and the deaths of two mentally ill inmates, one of whom was an ex-marine who “baked to death” in his cell.)

Cecily hopes to be allowed to move to Atlanta, Georgia and work as a community organizer. We in DSA remain in solidarity with our comrade and hope to continue working with her against the manifold injustices of American capitalist society—including its palpably unjust “justice” system.  

See the statement issued by DSA’s National Political Committee as Cecily awaited trial in March 2014.

Jason_S.jpgJason Schulman teaches political science at Lehman College in the Bronx. He is a member of New York City DSA   and is the editor of Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

 

 

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.


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Starting a Local Chapter from Scratch (9pm Eastern)

October 04, 2016 · 9 rsvps
Webinar, RSVP required for sign in information

So you are now a member of DSA, but there is no local chapter where you live. You are thinking of starting a local chapter, but you're not quite sure how to do it.

In Starting a Local Chapter from Scratch you will learn:

  • how other locals got started in recent years
  • how to find out who is already a member
  • the importance of a comrade
  • how to recruit new members
  • the importance of a mentor
  • how to become a recognized organizing committee
  • how to become a chartered local
  • what works best to bring new people in.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

Instructor:

  • Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

Training Details:

  1. Workshops are free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have preferably headphones or else speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt talt@igc.org 607-280-7649.
  5. If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt schmittaj@gmail.com 608-355-6568.
  6. You can participate in every webinar or just attend once in a while.
  7. Workshops will generally be on weekends or evenings.
  8. Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance -- by midnight Sunday for Tuesday's webinar.

NOTE: This training is scheduled for 9:00pm Eastern Time (8pm Central, 7pm Mountain, 6pm Pacific, 5pm Alaska, 3 pm Hawaii).

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DSA New Member Orientation Call

October 19, 2016 · 24 rsvps
DSA New Member Orientation

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 6 PM MT; 5 PM PT.

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