16 May 2014

Occupy Protester Faces Seven Years

Overturn Conviction of Cecily McMillan!

NEW YORK CITY—One of the early organizers of Occupy Wall Street, Cecily McMillan, was convicted on May 5 of felony assault of a police officer. The supposed assault was, in fact, the reflexive elbowing of a cop who had grabbed her breast from behind during the NYPD’s breakup of a 2012 Occupy gathering. The latest victim of the state crackdown unleashed on the populist movement, McMillan was remanded to Rikers pending sentencing on May 19. She faces up to seven years in prison and her conviction is the most serious among the thousands of arrests at Occupy protests.

In the course of a brutal police attack, McMillan was groped, beaten and kicked at a 17 March 2012 event in Zuccotti Park to mark six months of Occupy. After she was arrested and put in handcuffs, she went into seizures, only to be denied medical attention. Footage shows the police were more concerned with preventing people from filming than with calling the paramedics. When Cecily appeared on Democracy Now! a few days later, she was limping and still in substantial pain from her ordeal. Clearly visible were several sizable bruises, including one over her right breast that was hand-shaped. In the interview she described how, in the 40 hours between her arrest and arraignment, she was taken from jail to hospital and back again several times without being told where she was or being allowed to contact anyone.

The cop who groped and beat McMillan, one Grantley Bovell, sustained a black eye from her elbow, but his “injury” did not prevent him from brutalizing other protesters that night. One such was Austin Guest, who has filed a suit alleging that Bovell dragged him down the aisle of a bus while “intentionally banging his head on each seat” of the MTA bus commandeered to transport arrestees that night. Bovell has faced several previous allegations of violence according to the London Guardian (4 April), but the jury in McMillan’s trial was not permitted to hear any details of the wrongdoing except for his involvement in a 2010 parking ticket scam in the Bronx.

More than the dirty work of a single cop, the whole apparatus of the capitalist injustice system was out to railroad McMillan. The Manhattan District Attorney refused to allow McMillan to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and insisted on the felony charges. The prosecutor boldly contended that McMillan had acted out the seizures and subsequently bruised herself. The judge placed a gag order on her lawyers and repeated the prosecutor’s case as fact during the trial, leading McMillan’s supporters in Justice4Cecily to aptly describe the judge as a “prosecutor in robes.” Her lawyers want a new trial and are preparing an appeal. After the trial, many jurors expressed shock when learning from the media of the likely prison term. Nine of the 12 have since signed a letter appealing to the judge for leniency.

Cecily McMillan joined the tamely reformist Democratic Socialists of America at college in Wisconsin and argued from the first that Occupy should embrace nonviolence. She was preparing her master’s thesis on her political hero Bayard Rustin, a social democrat who was central to maintaining the nonviolent road of the liberal-led civil rights movement. During her testimony, she stated: “I’m a completely nonviolent activist and I’ve been through extensive training to make sure that no part of my body could ever be used to hurt others.”

Such an honest declaration means nothing to the cops and courts, whose job is to enforce the capitalist order of exploitation and oppression, and who have been ferocious against any form of social protest. This is clearly a trophy conviction for the city and its thugs in blue. All leftists and other targets of the NYPD must demand: Free Cecily McMillan Now!

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1046, 16 May 2014)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.