Violent Suppression of Occupy Wall Street Continues with Conviction of Cecily McMillan

May 26, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Correspondence from Travis Morales

The violent suppression and brutality unleashed on the whole of the Occupy movement and specifically Occupy Wall Street continued on May 19 with the sentencing of non-violence advocate Cecily McMillan to 90 days in jail and five years probation for felony assault on a police officer. Her crime? Reflexively elbowing NYPD pig Grantley Bovell in the temple when he came up from behind her and grabbed her so hard by her breast that bruises were left on her body in the form of a handprint! She was flung to the ground and repeatedly kicked and beaten by other cops, causing her to have a seizure. If this was not outrage enough, she was then charged with assaulting the cop who had brutally assaulted her!

Police use pepper spray to attack Occupy UC Davis protesters while blocking their exit from the school's quad in Davis, California, November 2011. Photo: AP

Cecily had gone to Zuccotti Park, home of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, to meet a friend on March 17, 2012, the day marking six months since the beginning of OWS. Hundreds had gathered. The police moved in on us, beating people and arresting over 70 that night. As Cecily turned to leave the park she was assaulted.

The trial was a further outrage. The jury was not allowed to hear testimony about what the police did that night or at any other time. Only 52 seconds of a 10 minute video documenting what happened that night before, during and after this incident were allowed in the court. The judge refused to admit testimony about the history of brutality carried out by Officer Bovell. On Democracy Now!, Cecily’s attorney, Marty Stolar said, “The judge prohibited us from questioning the police officer who was assaulted about the lightness of the injury, because later that night, a couple hours after he was given the black eye that led to this conviction, he was banging some Occupy Wall Street protesters’ heads on the stairs of a bus, a guy who was in handcuffs. The judge wouldn’t let us ask about that.” Further, as reported by the Village Voice, the judge ruled, “that the information contained in Bovell’s internal disciplinary file isn’t relevant to the case and that the defense can’t see any part of it.” In 2010, Bovell was riding in an unmarked police car that ran down a young Black man while he was riding his dirt bike. In his motion, Stolar also alleged that Bovell had been filmed on video surveillance kicking a man on the floor while arresting him in a Bronx bodega in 2009.

No wonder the judge ruled that Bovell’s disciplinary file was irrelevant or that the defense could not ask him about banging a protester’s head on the stairs of a bus! Time after time, millions of people have seen video of the NYPD pepper-spraying Occupy protesters in the face, beating people, firing tear gas canisters into people’s heads, and arresting people for simply marching, speaking, or just standing—and this was a big part of people taking notice and coming to support the Occupy movement.

The Occupy movement came together to protest inequality and injustice—and such protest is supposed to be legally guaranteed. Yet, nationwide, in city after city, the state planned and unleashed naked—and illegitimate—violence and repression against people. Now with this conviction, the systematic repression against those who dared to step out and raise their heads continues.

A wide array of people came to support Cecily and demand that she not be sent to prison. She was facing seven years. After her conviction, before sentencing, two members of the Russian feminist punk rock protest group Pussy Riot visited her where she was jailed pending sentencing, at Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail. After learning that Cecily faced seven years, nine of the twelve jurors that convicted her wrote to the judge, “We the jury petition the court for leniency in the sentencing of Cecily McMillan. We would ask the court to consider probation with community service.”

Cecily McMillan of Occupy Wall Street is going to jail. How much longer will those who protest be brutalized? How much longer will dissent be criminalized and crushed? How much longer will the NYPD and every other police force beat and murder with impunity? How much longer will the United States reign over a nightmare for humanity of endless wars, grinding poverty, an epidemic of rape and horrific oppression and degradation of women, the destruction of the environment and countless other crimes? Sisters and brothers in Occupy, I challenge you once again, check out the work of Bob Avakian. Yes, it is going to take revolution, nothing less.

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