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Articles tagged Cecily McMillan


Statement from #Justice4Cecily

Posted 2 months ago on May 19, 2014, 11:21 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: #Justice4Cecily, Cecily McMillan, direct action

Today, Cecily McMillan was sentenced to 90 days in prison for being sexually assaulted by a police officer at a protest, and then responding to that violence by defending herself. We all know that Cecily did not receive a fair trial and this case will be fought in the Court of Appeals.

The sentencing of Cecily McMillan has elicited an array of deeply felt responses from a broad range of individuals and communities, and it has also created a moment to think about what solidarity means. For many of us who consider ourselves to be part of the Occupy movement, there’s first and foremost a simple and deep sadness for a member of our community who has endured a painful and demeaning physical and sexual assault, and now has had her freedom taken away from her. And it’s painfully clear to us that Cecily’s case is not special. Sexual violence against women is disturbingly common, and there is a tremendous amount of over-policing and prosecutorial overreach by the police and the courts, enacted predominantly upon black and brown populations every single day, generation after generation.

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.

At the same time we recognize that outrage is a blunt tool that can too often obscure important distinctions. Cecily’s story represents a confluence of a number of different kinds of structural and institutional oppression that impact different communities in different ways. Expressions of shock at the mistreatment and denial of justice for Cecily—a white, cisgendered graduate student—only underline how rarely we’re proven wrong in our presumptions that common privileges of race, class and gender-normativity will be fulfilled.

It’s no great secret that police brutality and intimidation and railroading in the court system are an all-too-predictable part of life for many low-income black and brown people, immigrants, and gender nonconforming New Yorkers—the vast majority of whom receive far less than Cecily in the way of legal support and media attention. And while we're furious that, in the wake of a violent sexual assault, Cecily might now be subject to the institutionalized sexual violence of the prison system, it’s only on top of our horror at the gross injustice that countless people with significantly less recourse experience daily at the hands of that same system.

While we believe Cecily’s story can provide a rallying point around which others may challenge police sexual violence and the brutal suppression of dissent, we recognize that, at best, Cecily is an awkward symbol for the broader issues of police brutality and a broken, biased legal system. This awkwardness is but one example of many awkward scenarios regarding race and privilege that played out in Occupy communities since the original occupation of Zuccotti Park. As a movement, we see in this moment a chance not to push past, but to sit with that awkwardness—to start to reach out in ways that at times may be uncomfortable and to further stretch our boundaries. To learn from communities who’ve been in this struggle long before Occupy existed: From feminist organizations who resist patriarchal domination and combat sexual violence, to anti-racist organizations who, in their struggle for justice, have been met every step of the way by a violent police force and a legal system committed to silencing dissent.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has been a catalyst for social and economic change. But, while we claim to be “the 99%”, building a movement that truly represents the diversity and strength of the people will require a principled approach in our activism centered around a love ethic. Bell Hooks describes the love ethic in All About Love as:

“The will to one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Love is as love does, Love is an act of will—namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”

To build solidarity, it’s not enough to simply be a slogan or a meme—Slavoj Zizek told us during the encampment to “not fall in love with ourselves”.

Solidarity means listening and extending ourselves when oppressed communities ask—not to try to lead, but to get our hands dirty and do the work.

Building solidarity across the 99% is the only way to effectively fight the 1%, and to create genuine change. Though Zuccotti Park changed us forever, the true work began when we went back out into the world.

Many of us are now are working in communities, figuring out how to most effectively demand justice for the 99%—from copwatch, to tenant councils that combat high rents and poor living conditions, to helping build community gardens. As we continue building support networks in our new communities, for the people who still interact with one another in the movement, we are more than friends now—we are family. We’re connected because we see in each other the strength to overcome struggles we couldn’t possibly win on our own.

A member of our support team went to Rikers Island yesterday to visit Cecily and she spoke of her experiences in prison:

“I am very conscious of how privileged I am, especially in here. When you are in prison white privilege works against you. You tend to react when you come out of white privilege by saying “you can’t do that” when prison authorities force you to do something arbitrary and meaningless. But the poor understand that’s the system. They know it is absurd, capricious and senseless, that it is all about being forced to pay deference to power. If you react out of white privilege it sets you apart. I have learned to respond as a collective, to speak to authority in a unified voice. And this has been good for me. I needed this.”

“We can talk about movement theory all we want,” she went on. “We can read Michel Foucault or Pierre Bourdieu, but at a certain point it becomes a game. You have to get out and live it. You have to actually build a movement. And if we don’t get to work to build a movement now there will be no one studying movement theory in a decade because there will be no movements. I can do this in prison. I can do this out of prison. It is all one struggle.”

As Cecily continues the struggle in prison, we will continue outside. We show that we are a family not just by words, but by our actions. Paulo Freire states in Pedagogy of the Oppressed that praxis is the "reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it. Through praxis, oppressed people can acquire a critical awareness of their own condition, and, with their allies, struggle for liberation.”

Through praxis, we learn again and again that all of our grievances are connected. Our struggles are not the same. But our fates are tied up in each others. Solidarity is the only way we’ll see our way through.

To stay involved and help Cecily while she is in prison, please go to www.justiceforcecily.com for more details.

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Cecily McMillan Sentenced to 90 Days: A Call to Action

Posted 2 months ago on May 19, 2014, 10:17 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: #Justice4Cecily, Cecily McMillan, direct action

No #Justice4Cecily, No Peace. Rally at 7:30PM TONIGHT, Zuccotti Park

Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan has been sentenced in New York City. Her imprisonment and botched trial are just the latest in a two-year trial of injustices that leads back to her brutal arrest on March 17, 2012 in Liberty Square. She has become another symbol of the two-tiered justice system in the United States: prisons overflowing with nonviolent offenders, whistleblowers and political dissenters while thieving executives and banksters walk free.

As Gandhi said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” The perpetrators of the crime of poverty not only walk amongst us but are elevated by a broken system to the highest offices of government and corporate power. Enough!

When we took to the streets across our country in 2011 in dignified and peaceful protest, we were brutally arrested by militarized police officers sent to destroy our solidarity and resolve. By the thousands we occupied jail cells and courtrooms and learned of the atrocities committed to the ‘other 1%’: the 1 in 100 Americans who are currently ensnared in the prison system in some form. This is the highest rate of incarceration this country, and the world, has ever seen. Enough!

We need a mass and militantly non-violent movement to bring down the broken prison system in the USA and restore justice.

This is a call to action.

Take a one-day vow of silence against their violence. Take a picture of yourself with duct tape covering your mouth and on it write the name of a prisoner you know. Post it online. Join with others at your local District Attorney’s office for a rally or direct action. Create or join a silent candlelight vigil in your community against police brutality and for freedom for all political prisoners.

You will not be alone in your silence. We will join your silence with ours and unite in a deafening roar to let the country know we will not stand by while you destroy our loved ones’ futures.

At the end of the one-day silence, we will take bold and brave direct action together to shut down the prison-industrial complex. We will have your back.

Our silence against their violence.

Justice for Cecily!

Justice for Trayvon!

Justice for Troy Davis!

Justice for Marissa Alexander!

Justice for Chelsea Manning!

Justice for Ramarley Graham!

Justice for the victims of poverty!

Justice for the victims of systemic racism!

Justice for all.

1 Comments

#Justice4Cecily Responds to @TheDailyShow Coverage

Posted 2 months ago on May 7, 2014, 4:59 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: Daily Show, Police Brutality, Cecily McMillan

Dear Jon Stewart,

The #Justice4Cecily team appreciates the attention you showed to Cecily McMillan’s case last night on The Daily Show, and we agree with your message of Justice for Some that resounds throughout the show. It has become more than abundantly clear since the financial crisis that there are two sets of laws in this country: one for Wall Street and the 1%, and another one for Occupy Wall Street and the 99%.

Unfortunately, your scoreboard of the number of arrests for both of these groups – “Wall Street: 1 - OWS: 1”, however in jest you presented it – gives the impression that somehow justice has been served for Cecily and for the millions of Occupy activists and supporters across the country and around the world. And with this we must respectfully disagree.

For Cecily, justice has most definitely not been served. Cecily was violently, and sexually, assaulted in Zuccotti Park on the 6th month anniversary of OWS in March, 2012. She sustained bruises on her right breast, ribs, arms, legs and back, underwent a seizure, had to be hospitalized, and still suffers from PTSD originating from the incident. The more than two-year delay in her criminal case has put her bright academic and political career on complete standstill.

Furthermore, the jury trial that convicted Cecily was rife with juridical missteps: suppression of key evidence, gag orders on Cecily’s attorney, and clear bias on the part of Judge Zweibel, who is well known as ‘a prosecutor in robes.’ Even the jury that convicted Cecily regretted their decision upon learning post-trial of the potential sentencing length. One juror told the Guardian:

“They felt bad. Most just wanted her to do probation, maybe some community service. But now what I’m hearing is seven years in jail? That’s ludicrous. Even a year in jail is ridiculous.”

Just as important is the lack of justice for the almost 8,000 Occupy activists who have been arrested in the last three years for peacefully protesting wealth inequality and corporate corruption of our democracy, and for the millions of people who have fallen into the 700% prison population increase of the United States since the 1970s. Cecily has been privileged to have good counsel and a support network of people to make her case for innocence, but countless others haven’t been so fortunate.

You have an important opportunity, Mr. Stewart, with this case to make a powerful statement about the need for reform of our justice system in order to serve all people fairly and blindly. Rather than leave your audience with an ambiguous answer to the question of Justice for Some? We kindly ask that you correct the record on your next show or invite a member of our team to appear and correct it ourselves.

Thank you, again, for standing up for the 99% and for justice for all.

In solidarity, The #Justice4Cecily Team

PS – We are demanding a pardon for Cecily. Please consider signing both our petitions that have started to catch fire, Change.org and Whitehouse.gov.

44 Comments