I had a bad feeling about this from the first day in court (which I showed up for).
Cecily McMillan was found guilty of felony assault of a police officer yesterday. I had done a post about this a few weeks ago, so if you need context go here. The case was marked by suppression of defense–Judge Zweibel put a gag order on the defense, and had ruled inadmissable a number of defense evidentiary presentations. Friends who had attended much of the trial were especially concerned about statements by the police officer about other corroborating police witnesses who magically couldn’t be found. This is problematic insofar as the NYPD keeps fairly detailed records of assignments, and if Grantley Bovell had interaction with other NYPD as he claimed, why didn’t that particular officer step forward? The Guardian’s article from yesterday covers the story pretty well (which begs the question of why a British paper has better coverage of a NY event than the local papers).
The implications here (beyond the question of whether there will be a successful appeal) are the following:
- The compilation of video taken from the March 2012 event shows a fairly brutal day with the NYPD. This is by all accounts the SOP for the cops when confronting Occupy. I hold Bovell responsible for his actions that night (he has another case pending), but police officers do what they are told to do. They are after all civil servants, and they don’t wish to endanger that pension by going out on a limb. I’d like to see the orders that came down from City Hall on that day.
- I went to the ‘call to action’ last night at Zuccotti/Liberty, and while there was planning for future actions, the anger of the evening petered out over the three or so hours from the beginning. When a group of us went to march to the front of the court, there wasn’t much critical mass. Granted, it was short notice and it was late. But from the first day of the trial there was always the possibility that Cecily would end up convicted. There didn’t seem to be a plan B for an adverse outcome (“come to Liberty Square at 6 PM on the day of the verdict regardless of conviction or acquittal”). I’m not second-guessing anyone here (in a leaderless group, someone has to stand up and say “we should do this” and that could have been me). We’re all connected via social media. I wasn’t as involved in this as I could have been. And the sheer length of the trial made support difficult.
- This is a huge loss to nonviolent movements throughout the US. One of the points Erica Chenoweth makes in her evaluation of why nonviolence works is that as movements grow, people who are in sympathy feel they can freely engage with relatively little risk of arrest or injury. The NYPD has made sure that protest–even nonviolent protest–is no longer seen as ‘risk-free’. That’s surely the intent of the crackdown on Occupy. People who might be sympathetic to Occupy Wall Street’s message realize the stakes are too high.
I probably have more to say than this. I still haven’t sorted out my feelings.
It was a bad day.
If you want to write supportive letters to Cecily, here’s the address as of May 6.
Book & Case Number 3101400431
Rose M. Singer Center
19-19 Hazen St.
East Elmhurst, NY 11370
“When the newspapers are full of good news, the jails are full of good people”– Patrick Moynihan