The Trial of Cecily McMillan

By Maria Svart

cecilymcmillan.jpg 

Over 30 years ago, my father was arrested for intervening at an anti-war rally when a woman was being roughhoused by what turned out to be a plainclothes police officer. His penalty was seven days in jail. Today, the penalty might be closer to seven years, if the case of Cecily McMillan is any indication.

On March 17, 2012, McMillan was at Zuccotti Park during a protest marking the six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. When the police began a mass arrest of the peaceful protestors, she was violently grabbed on her breast from behind — an action that, as any woman will tell you, will cause an instinctive response. McMillan’s response is what the NYPD calls an assault on their officer; the physical evidence of what prompted her action is downplayed.

But the bruising on her breast wasn’t all. After her arrest, McMillan was beaten severely by the police on her ribs and arms until she went into a seizure. She was subsequently denied medical treatment by the police, in full view of other protestors who pleaded with police to attend to her. The NYPD claim she initiated the altercation and charged her with a felony — an unfortunately common reversal on the part of the police after abusing arrestees.

Assistant district attorney Erin Choi stated in court that during McMillan’s arrest she cried out to protestors “Are you filming this?” and implied she did so out of fear of being caught on video attacking an officer. But Occupy Wall Street activists — and anyone who has ever demonstrated and seen police mistreat protestors — knows that the reason we chant “the whole world is watching” is that we want to remind the police that their actions will be documented. Unfortunately, it is a usually fruitless attempt to dissuade excessive force, as in McMillan’s case.

McMillan is just one of more than 700 protesters arrested in the course of New York Occupy Wall Street’s mass mobilization. These mass arrests during a peaceful protest resulted from a policing policy of arresting first and finding charges later — a pattern of unjust policing noted in a scrupulously detailed report <http://www.law.nyu.edu/news/GLOBAL_JUSTICE_CLINIC_OWS_REPORT>  issued by the NYU School of Law and Fordham Law School faculties. According to this report, the NYPD routinely used excessive force against Occupy protestors, with the police employing batons, pepper spray, scooters, and horses against the peaceful demonstrators. This behavior has led to the vast majority of these 700 charges being dismissed by the courts.

McMillan’s case, however, has not been dismissed. The DA’s office offered her a plea bargain: avoid jail time in exchange for pleading guilty to felony assault. A dedicated pacifist, she refused.

McMillan’s arresting officer Grantley Bovel has previously been involved in incidents involving the possible excessive use of force, as well as other possibly illegal behavior, but the judge ruled this history is inadmissable. Bovel is also currently being sued by a protestor arrested the same day as McMillan for purposefully bashing his head into the seats of a police bus while dragging him down the aisle.

I have known Cecily personally for several years. She has been an active member of both the Democratic Socialists of America and our youth section, the Young Democratic Socialists (YDS), serving as the volunteer northeast regional coordinator for YDS in 2011-2. Now, NYC activist networks should mobilize on her behalf.

Dozens of supporters have attended trial dates and it is important that the jury see that McMillan has widespread support in the next two weeks. It could be a major factor in the jury’s decision.

Let’s not let the NYPD steamroll McMillan the way they have hundreds of Occupy protestors — and the countless New Yorkers facing systemic violence every day through stop and frisk policies.

Supporters can find more information at the Justice For Cecily website <http://justiceforcecily.com/> , where you can donate to her defense fund and sign up to attend court sessions at the New York City Criminal Court (100 Centre Street, Room 1116 Part 41, on the eleventh floor) every day except Thursdays from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm and 2:00 to 4:30 pm. Check the site for the latest schedule.

Reposted from Jacobin Magazine. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/04/the-trial-of-cecily-mcmillan/

 

 MariaSvart3.jpgMaria Svart is the national director for the Democratic Socialists of America.

 

 

 

 

 

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership.

 

 

 

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 53 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 20 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 5 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion.