In a tense courtroom and nearly hidden by a group of over 50 court officers, Judge Zwiebel did the work of the powerful and sent Cecily McMillan back to Rikers Island Prison on Monday. Clearly the absurd zeal in which the prosecution has gone after Cecily is meant to send a chilling signal to all who protest peacefully against the entrenched oligarchy that currently run this country.
Though her sentence of 90 days in jail with 5 years probation was on one level a relief as a harsher sentence was thought possible considering the one-sided actions of this court throughout this process. It is still deeply troubling to see an innocent 25 year old union organizer and community activist being sent back to prison, knowing she was a victim of a sexual assault not a criminal.
Its even more troubling when you consider the executives on Wall Street who profited and caused the great recession still walk free. Not one of those corporate criminals served any jail time.They never even showed any remorse for the avalanche of economic misery they brought to millions of working people.
New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez spoke to the energetic and passionate crowd of Cecily supporters outside the courthouse and released the following statement.”The US Constitution encourages protest, free speech and a redress of grievances in cases where the government is not properly serving the public interest. This is what Cecily and so many others sought to do; so for any to end up in jail is a travesty from which our country suffers even more. We in government can serve best only when our constituency is engaged and concerned; and we should never seek to stifle dissent, especially when it is as peaceful and impassioned as Occupy was and continues to be.”
As journalist Chris Hedges said in a recent article, “The corporate state, which has proved utterly incapable of addressing the grievances and injustices endured by the underclass, is extremely nervous about the mass movements that have swept the country in recent years. And if protests erupt again—as I think they will—the state hopes it will have neutralized much of the potential leadership. Being an activist in peaceful mass protest is the only real “crime” McMillan has committed.”
The Cecily team released a statement that in part read:”On a broader level, there’s been a tremendous outpouring of public support in the wake of the verdict, for which Cecily and the team are truly grateful. We’re heartened, too, by the outrage this blatant, heavy-handed attempt to quash dissent has elicited from the public at large. The message this verdict sends is clear: What Cecily continues to endure can happen to any woman who dares to challenge the corporate state, its Wall Street patrons, and their heavy-handed enforcers, the NYPD. We certainly think outrage is an appropriate response from economic and social justice activists and allies who are concerned about the silencing of those who push for change. The DA and the courts want to make an example out of Cecily—to deter us, to scare us, to keep us out of the streets. And we won’t let that happen. This ruling will not deter us, it will strengthen our resolve.”
Standing before the Judge before sentencing yesterday Cecily was not backing down. “Whether personal or political, violence is not permitted. This being a law that I live by, I can say with certainty that I am innocent of the crime I have been convicted of,” McMillan said. “I cannot confess to a crime that I did not commit. I cannot throw away my dignity in return for my freedom.”
As a labor movement we must adopt a similar posture. We have to fight for economic justice for all – no compromises!
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