FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan

by

Cecily McMillan, the New York City woman who bravely resisted an assault by an unknown assailant at an Occupy Wall Street observance, believes if a jury had been allowed to see the photos and videos of the incident, it would not have found her guilty of second-degree felony assault against what turned out to be a police officer who had grabbed her from behind.

McMillan’s was one of the most high-profile cases to come out of the Occupy Wall Street movement. But the perverse way in which McMillan was treated also is highly typical of how prosecutors in the U.S. treat victims of police violence. In this case, McMillan was sentenced to 90 days in prison and five years of probation.

Conversely, one could argue that if not for the plethora of photos and videos of the police assault, the prosecution would have sought an even longer prison term for McMillan. In a new book titled “Occupy These Photos,” McMillan writes that the judge in her case, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ronald Zweibel who is known as “a prosecutor in robes,” allowed only a couple minutes of video and only a handful of photos into the trial. The judge ruled out the majority of photos and videos as, in McMillan’s words, “too harmful to the reputation of the NYPD.”

After the trial, the media ban was lifted and the jurors were finally free to review all the facts, videos and photos that the judge did not allow in the trial. “Almost immediately, nine of the 12 drafted a personal letter to Justice Zweibel pleading for my immediate release from Rikers,” she writes in the book. “Whereas the prosecution initially planned to propose two years, by sentencing day, they instead suggested three months’ imprisonment and five years’ probation.”

If the jury had been allowed access to all of the photos and videos that McMillan’s defense wanted to present at the trial, she believes the jury would have come to a different decision, the right decision: “I would have been found not guilty and released to continue on with my life.”

Instead, McMillan was sent to prison and put on probation, while New York City Police Officer Grantley Bovell was able to continue on with his life. McMillan was released from Rikers Island on July 2, 2014, after serving 58 days. Inside Rikers, McMillan was treated poorly as are most men and women in the jail complex. She was denied prescribed medication and was allegedly assaulted by a prison pharmacist.

The 26-year-old McMillan, who has since moved to Atlanta, explains that her case is still pending appeal in New York. And every day, “I live with the constraints of felony probation,” she writes.

On the night of March 17, 2012, in Zuccotti Park, McMillan felt someone’s hand around her waist and then nearing her breast. She thought it was a stranger attempting to assault her. “There we were: moving in sync, my elbow swinging backward into his face and him flinging me forward to the ground,” she writes. In the photos and videos, McMillan saw the aftermath of Bovell’s attack as half a dozen NYPD officers kicked her and beat her body with batons.

“Without all the images captured that evening, I would’ve never really known what happened to me that night — I might’ve never really been able to move on,” she explains.

McMillan’s follow-up to her contribution to “Occupy These Photos” will be a book called “The Emancipation of Cecily McMillan,” published by Nation Books. The book, scheduled for publication in May 2016, will chronicle her journey from a trailer park home in Texas, her “emancipation” from her parents as a teenager when she went to live with one of her teachers in a black neighborhood in Atlanta, through graduate school, to the pivotal night in Zuccotti Park, her ordeal at New York’s most notorious prison, and ending back in Atlanta, where she lives now.

Since her July 2014 release from Rikers Island, McMillan has been working as a social justice organizer and advocate of prisoner rights. In a recent article, McMillan wrote about how New York City officials need to scale back their police state tactics against activists. “The policing of protest is having the opposite effect of the one intended. The time has come for our elected officials to decriminalize dissent — no matter how disruptive, disobedient or radical it may seem. A democratic society demands nothing less,” she wrote.

Mark Hand has reported on the energy industry for more than 25 years. He can be found on Twitter @MarkFHand.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 23, 2017
Chip Gibbons
Crusader-in-Chief: the Strange Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Michael J. Sainato
Cybersecurity Firm That Attributed DNC Hacks to Russia May Have Fabricated Russia Hacking in Ukraine
Chuck Collins
Underwater Nation: As the Rich Thrive, the Rest of Us Sink
CJ Hopkins
The United States of Cognitive Dissonance
Howard Lisnoff
BDS, Women’s Rights, Human Rights and the Failings of Security States
Mike Whitney
Will Washington Risk WW3 to Block an Emerging EU-Russia Superstate
John Wight
Martin McGuinness: Man of War who Fought for Peace in Ireland
Linn Washington Jr.
Ryancare Wreckage
Eileen Appelbaum
What We Learned From Just Two Pages of Trump’s Tax Returns
Mark Weisbrot
Ecuador’s Elections: Why National Sovereignty Matters
Thomas Knapp
It’s Time to End America’s Longest War
Chris Zinda
Aggregate Journalism at Salon
David Welsh
Bay Area Rallies Against Trump’s Muslim Ban II
March 22, 2017
Paul Street
Russiagate and the Democratic Party are for Chumps
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer, the Progressive Caucus and the Cuban Revolution
Gavin Lewis
McCarthyite Anti-Semitism Smears and Racism at the Guardian/Observer
Kathy Kelly
Reality and the U.S.-Made Famine in Yemen
Kim C. Domenico
Ending Our Secret Alliance with Victimhood: Toward an Adult Politics
L. Ali Khan
Profiling Islamophobes
Calvin Priest
May Day: Seattle Educators Moving Closer to Strike
David Swanson
Jimmy Breslin on How to Impeach Trump
Dave Lindorff
There Won’t Be Another Jimmy Breslin
Jonathan Latham
The Meaning of Life
Robert Fisk
Martin McGuinness: From “Super-Terrorist” to Super Statesman
Steve Horn
Architect of Federal Fracking Loophole May Head Trump Environmental Council
Binoy Kampmark
Grief, Loss and Losing a Father
Jim Tull
Will the Poor Always Be With Us?
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s “March Massacre” Budget
Joe Emersberger
Rafael Correa and the Future of Ecuador: a Response to James McEnteer
March 21, 2017
Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt
On Being the “Right Kind of Brown”
Kenneth Surin
God, Guns, Gays, Gummint: the Career of Rep. Bad Bob Goodlatte
David Rosen
Popular Insurgencies: Reshaping the Political Landscape
Ryan LaMothe
The Totalitarian Strain in American Democracy
Eric Sommer
The House Intelligence Committee: Evidence Not Required
Mike Hastie
My Lai Massacre, 49 Years Later
James McEnteer
An Era Ends in Ecuador: Forward or Back?
Evan Jones
Beyond the Pale
Stansfield Smith
First Two Months in Power: Hitler vs. Trump
Dulce Morales
A Movement for ‘Sanctuary Campuses’ Takes Shape
Pepe Escobar
Could Great Wall of Iron become New Silk Roadblock?
Olivia Alperstein
Trump Could Start a Nuclear War, Right Now
David Macaray
Norwegians Are the Happiest People on Earth
March 20, 2017
Michael Schwalbe
Tears of Solidarity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit, Nationalism and the Damage Done
Peter Stone Brown
Chuck Berry: the First Poet of Rock and Roll
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail