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Cecily McMillan: How A Non-Violent Labor Organizer Ended Up In Prison After Being Attacked By Police

PLEASE NOTE Some of the descriptions, images, and videos may be graphic at times.

The brutal beating and phony charges that has placed Cecily McMillan in a NY  jail could have happened to any one of us. If you dare peacefully protest about income inequality or union busting or Wall Street corruption you could just as easily been locked up in a prison cell as Cecily is. The criminal justice system is not delivering justice in this case and its seems to be viewing this case backwards. When the victim of an assault is instead convicted of a felony it shows to the extreme that the price of speaking truth to power is expensive in our country.

On March 17, 2012 a crowd of hundreds had gathered in Zuccotti Park to celebrate the Six Month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. This was a peaceful crowd which was dancing and singing and enjoying being with each other. Nearing midnight NYPD couldn’t allow this peaceful celebration to continue and suddenly Zuccotti Park had a scheduled “cleaning” that had to be performed that instant.

So NYPD entered the park with riot gear and batons to clear the park of peaceful people. What followed was the typical brutal crackdown of OWS. Over 70 arrests followed including that of  23-year-old grad school student and union organizer Cecily McMillan. Known in OWS circles as the “Queen of non violence” because of her uncompromising opposition to any violent tactics.

Cecily attacked

NYPD Officer Grantley Bovell accused  Cecely of elbowing him as he tried to escort her out of the park. Cecely maintains that Bovell grabbed her right breast from behind and startled she responded by throwing up her elbow striking the undercover officer.Basically her “crime” was reacting to being groped from someone behind her. The photographic evidence of marks on her breast seem to confirm her accusations.

What followed was her being tackled and beaten by multiple NYPD officers that left her dazed, injured bruised and going in to a frightening seizure as shown here.

Unconscionably 18 minutes past before medical help finally arrived and stabilized Cecily.

This video shows the helplessness of the crowd and the attitude of the police.  Both the NYPD and Cecily were fortunate she survived that beating.

“It was total over-policing, the use of brute force,” National Lawyers Guild Attorney Stolar said. “And that is really a hallmark of how police reacted with most Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, gatherings and protests.”(N.L.G. New York City chapter’s Web site shows a different policeman grabbing another female protester’s breasts.)

In a country that sells itself to the world as the model for political freedom how can behavior like this occur? NYPD receives substantial money from corporate giants like JP Morgan Chase (4.6 million in 2010) ,Goldman Sachs and Bank of America and they have in turn acted like the corporate police force cracking down fiercely on non violent OWS. NYPD leadership has seemed to modify their motto and “protect and serve” primarily their financial interests.  If peaceful protest against the powerful is not allowed then what kind of democracy do we actually have?

What followed next instead of police brutality charges were, astonishingly, felony charges against Cecily for assaulting a police officer. Her being groped and beaten suddenly became her fault.

Cecily was convicted on May 5th of the charges by a jury that was allowed by Judge Zweibel to only hear one side of the story. Nine of these jurors sent a letter to the judge on Thursday asking for leniency. Her sentencing hearing will be on May 19th and the whole world will be watching.

This case highlights the vast miscarriages of justice in our country where the powerful and the marginalized live their lives with a much different set of rules.

Over 20,000 people have signed this petition please add your name asking Governor Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio to pardon her. Check out the website www.justice4Cecily.com for more ways to help.

Cecily by all reports remains in good spirits and her latest advice to her supporters comes in the form of a quote from Joe Hill that we in the labor movement are very familiar with “Don’t mourn organize”

OWS Cicly



About Bill Brickley

Bill is a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers, serves on the NH Letter Carrier Executive Board as State Legislative Liaison. Also serves on the NH AFL-CIO Executive Board. Former NH Area Coordinator Amnesty International and NH Labor News Blogger Follow him on twitter @BillBrickley@NHSALC
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