Occupy Activist Cecily McMillan Sentenced


Occupy activist Cecily McMillan, convicted on May 5 of second-degree felony assault of a New York cop whom she and witnesses claimed had grabbed her breast from behind, bruising it, stood her ground before her sentence was rendered, refusing the judge’s insistence that she should “take responsibility for her conduct.”


Cecily McMillan being arrested as the NYPD clears Zuccotti Park during a six-month memorial celebration of the Occupy Movement in March 2012.

Risking the possibility that Judge Ronald Zwiebel might sentence her to the maximum seven years for the charge she was convicted of, McMillan would only apologize for what she termed “the accident” of involuntarily throwing back her elbow when grabbed by behind from someone she could not even see. Insisting to the judge that she lived in accordance to the “law of love,” she said, in her pre-sentencing statement, “Violence is not permitted. This being the law that I live by, I can say with certainty that I am innocent of the crime I have been convicted of… I cannot confess to a crime that I did not commit. I cannot throw away my dignity in return for my freedom.”

It was a bold and risky stand for the 25-year-old New School for Social Research graduate student to take, given the high sentencing stakes. In the end, though, the judge, — who during the trial had blocked her defense from presenting key evidence that she had acted in her own defense against being groped by a cop (for example the police officer’s record of brutality and corruption), while allowing the prosecution to present evidence and statements normally not considered permissible in a trial (such as presenting to the jury evidence about an arrest of McMillan that had not yet been tried or adjudicated) — sentenced her to only a short term in jail.

She still has a five-year felony probationary sentence, which leaves her a convicted felon, a serious impediment to employment, and one that could leave her subject to limitations on her freedom of movement for five years.

McMillan’s many supporters nonetheless hailed the short sentence, which could see her released in as little as 60 days, as a victory, one which many attributed to the massive outpouring of support she has received since her arrest, during her trial, and since especially since her conviction. That support has included a jailhouse visit by two members of Pussy Riot, who condemned her conviction and jailing, a letter of of support from the president of the New School, support from five members of the New York City Council (but so far not a word from New York City’s supposedly leftist and former activist Mayor Bill De Blasio), an online petition signed by over 167,000 people, and an unusual letter from nine of the 12 jurors in her case calling on the judge not to sentence her to any jail time.

McMillan’s attorney Martin Stolar, said he was “relieved” that her sentence was not two years, but also said that he had appealed the conviction to the state’s Court of Appeal.

Stolar earlier complained about Judge Zwiebel’s sending a woman with no prior convictions to sit in jail on Rikers Island for two weeks while awaiting her sentencing hearing, without even granting the possibility of her posting bail. It was a complaint that is likely to be also made about the judge’s action in sending her back to Rikers while her case is on appeal. This treatment stands in stark contrast to the way the New York courts typically handle cases involving Wall Street criminals convicted of felonies, who are routinely allowed to walk out of court after conviction and even after being sentenced to lengthy jail terms to live in freedom during the long months that their cases are on appeal.

Zwiebel agreed with the position of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.’s prosecutor on this case that a sentence was needed to send a message to protesters, saying, in pronouncing his sentence, “A civilized society must not allow an assault to be permitted under the guise of civil disobedience.”

But McMillan’s supporters appear not to have learned that “lesson.” In a statement released by JusticeforCecily.com, they said: “We all know Cecily did not receive a fair trial, and this case will be fought in the Court of Appeals. The DA and the courts want to make an example 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.”

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War
Kristine Mattis
GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Science
Heidi Morrison
Well-Intentioned Islamophobia
Ralph Nader
Monsanto and Its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information
Arturo Desimone
Retro-Colonialism: the Exportation of Austerity as War By Other Means
Robert M. Nelson
Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster
Matt Peppe
Misrepresentation of the Colombian Conflict
Barbara Dorris
Pope Sympathizes More with Bishops, Less with Victims
Clancy Sigal
I’m Not a Scientologist, But I Wish TV Shrinks Would Just Shut Up
Chris Zinda
Get Outta’ Dodge: the State of the Constitution Down in Dixie
Eileen Applebaum
Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Not Tax Credits, Will Help Families
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure
“Boxing on Paper” for the Nation of Islam, Black Nationalism, and the Black Athlete: a Review of “The Complete Muhammad Ali” by Ishmael Reed
Lawrence Ware
Michael Vick and the Hypocrisy of NFL Fans
Gary Corseri - Charles Orloski
Poets’ Talk: Pope Francis, Masilo, Marc Beaudin, et. al.
Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?