Cecily McMillan’s sentencing: the state gets what it wants

Cecily McMillan, in front of 100 Centre Street Court. From Change.org.

Monday, when it was all said and done, Cecily McMillan received a three month prison sentence plus five years probation after being convicted of assaulting a police officer during an Occupy Wall Street demonstration on the six-month anniversary of the original occupation of Zuccotti Park. Many believe that any sentence including  jail time–indeed any sentence at all –was unjust. And by ‘many’, I include the majority of the people who sat on her jury. Her attorney Martin Stolar will now begin the appeals process in an attempt to get the verdict overturned. 

Some comments (and you know the drill: I am the simple performance artist, etc).

This was a stage-managed trial and sentence. Cecily McMillan was looking at three to seven years’ prison time, in front of a judge who was called a prosecutor in a robe and ended up with 90 days behind bars. I am glad she didn’t get a longer sentence, though she shouldn’t have been convicted at all. However– A ninety day sentence isn’t the rallying point a longer sentence would be. By the time Cecily’s case winds its way through the appeals process, it will be something of a moot point–she will (ostensibly) be out and free by then, with the only issue for the appeals court being the five years’ probation. And NY officialdom didn’t want to make Cecily McMillan a martyr, really. They wanted one felony conviction tied to Occupy Wall Street. While nationally, the law enforcement establishment has already been able to send the NATO 3 protesters and the Cleveland 4 ‘bombers’ to prison, those cases looked (at least to people paying attention) like one-off’s. The Cleveland anarchists convicted of attempting to bomb a bridge had broken off from Occupy Cleveland because its responses weren’t radical enough, and the NATO 3 beat at least some of the charges.

Cecily McMillan’s case is different. Her actions (even if you think the prosecution of her case was valid) were not premeditated, and there was no fiery rhetoric in her past about ‘offing the pigs’. She was one of the hundreds of Occupy Wall Street activists bullied by police here in NYC over the past three years, and the city was able to put together a winning case against her. That was what the NYPD and the Mayor’s office wanted–a conviction. The sentence was not what they cared about. The tell here (at least in my opinion) is the total silence of the NYPD and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association regarding the sentence–one of their favorite judges just handed out a three month jail sentence for a felony assault of a fellow officer and nobody is voicing outrage.

Now the pressure is on Governor Cuomo. Obviously he’s no fan of the Occupy movement, but he’s also running for a second term as governor. His Republican opponent is probably going to be someone who doesn’t come off as nuts, and there’s more than a little dissatisfaction with him from his left flank. My understanding is that he is not assured the ballot line for the Working Families Party. What is the election-year calculus of pardoning Cecily?

Watch this space.






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