Occupy Wall Street Activist Cecily McMillan Found Guilty of Assault After Being Beaten by the Police
The 25-year-old grad student's story is a grim, bizarre postscript to the Occupy story—you can't help but think that the authorities were out to make an example of her.
Occupy Wall Street protesters are led away by police in early October 2011. Photo via Flickr user Adrian Kinloch
On Monday Occupy Wall street protester Cecily McMillan was found guilty of felony assault on a police officer in a New York City courtroom. The way McMillan tells it, on March 17, 2012, during a protest in Zuccotti Park that marked the six-month anniversary of the cops violently clearing that space of activists and their tents, she elbowed officer Grantley Bovell in the face because he grabbed her breast from behind, surprising her and leaving a bruise in the process. McMillan says she was beaten and arrested along with 70 fellow protesters, then was hospitalized after having a seizure—something doctors couldn’t officially confirm. Bovell suffered a black eye, and, he says, a continued headaches.
The conviction seems stunning and ridiculous to many who have been following the trial closely, including the Guardian's Molly Knefel, who wrote:
“In the trial, physical evidence was considered suspect but the testimony of the police was cast as infallible. Despite photographs of her bruised body, including her right breast, the prosecution cast doubt upon McMillan's allegations of being injured by the police—all while Officer Bovell repeatedly identified the wrong eye when testifying as to how McMillan injured him.”
The judge, Knefel noted, also refused to allow evidence about Bovell’s past behavior, including discipline problems and his involvement in a ticket-fixing scandal. It’s a bizarre and grim postscript to the story of the Occupy Wall Street movement—few activists have been charged with any wrongdoing, and some even won settlements after being the victims of police brutality. But McMillan, a 25-year-old grad student and advocate of nonviolence, is now facing up to seven years in prison because she refused to plead out to lesser charges and thought she could win a fight against city hall.
You can’t help but wonder if the authorities looked at her case as the chance to set an example. As her attorney told VICE News in March, “It sends a chilling message to those who are engaged in non-violent protests… It says, ‘Watch out. You could be snatched up and sent to jail for a long time.’”
Now for the rest of this week’s bad cops:
-On Thursday, police in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Police Department announced their plan to live-tweet a prostitution sting sometime this week, provoking a ton of backlash because it seemed like a creepy publicity stunt meant to shame sex workers, who are hardly dangerous criminals. In response to the negative reaction on the internet, the department clarified in a follow-up post that their vice squad “will target those who choose to solicit a prostitute, not prostitutes themselves. The intent all along has been to put on notice and/or arrest the very people who exploit women and even young girls in our community.” Still, as the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf noted, it’s a bit aggressive to shame people who haven’t been convicted of a crime—and anyway, “Given all the serious crime that happens in Prince Georges County, involving clear-cut victims, are low-level johns and prostitutes really the criminal element that calls for a shaming campaign?”
-Speaking of the puritanical instincts of cops, on Saturday in North Las Vegas, officer Regina Coward, president of the Nevada Black Police Association spoke—in uniform, gun at her side—at a “Choose Purity” event held by her church, where 125 parents and kids were told that premarital sex could lead to meth abuse, sex trafficking, rape, gang violence, and other horrible things. Basically, Coward and a few other cops who volunteered their time helped tell a bunch of children that if they have sex they’ll die. This type of fearmongering is always going to be present in America, but it is too much to ask that the police don’t use their badges and uniforms to lend some authority to messages like these? Apparently, it is.
-Here’s something pretty bad: Two reportedly drunk off-duty New York City cops shot two people in two separate incidents. On Tuesday night officer Brendan Cronin fired his service weapon 13 into a truck lingering beside him at a stoplight, hitting a man six times. Cronin, who obviously had no business driving, much less randomly firing his weapon at strangers, was arrested for the assault he claims to be too drunk to remember. Several hours later, around 3 AM, Sergeant Wanda Anthony shot at least one round at her ex-boyfriend and his new lady outside a New Jersey strip club before fleeing by car and getting picked up by local cops. Both officers were suspended for a month while the events are investigated. (Normally, if someone shoots someone else six times, he’s immediately arrested. It's sometimes pretty sweet to be a cop.) These shootings happened less than a week after an NYPD detective shot his partner in the wrist after throwing back a reported 11 drinks. NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton told the press that he is “very disturbed about...a long-term problem of inappropriate use of alcohol” among his officers, but the bigger problem is probably the inappropriate shooting of people. Maybe NYPD officers should take a class on why it is not appropriate to drink until you black out and drive around with your gun looking for a fight.
-On February 20, 2013, Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Quiles ran a stop sign and plowed his patrol car into 25-year-old Tanya Weyker’s car. Weyker suffered a fractured neck during the accident, and was too injured to take a breathalyzer test, but nevertheless she was charged with drunk driving. Blood tests soon showed that she was sober, however and a surveillance video revealed that Quiles lied when he said he had come to a full stop at the stop sign—still, the charges weren’t dropped until ten months had passed. Weyker may file various lawsuits in order to pay her enormous medical bills and hopefully get some of the officers involved in this mess fired.
-Mother Jones just came out with an article that details how in 2009 the American citizen Naji Mansour was repeatedly harassed and detained in Kenya and South Sudan because of loose ties to terrorism—ostensibly all of this happened at the command of US officials. Mansour was repeatedly prevented from traveling and eventually held in South Sudan for 37 days. His mother, brothers, and grandmother (some of whom who live in the US) were also allegedly interrogated. If the man had substantial ties to terrorism, he should have been arrested and charged; harassing an American citizen’s family as a way of blackmailing him into doing dangerous work for the FBI is an abuse of power (albeit a not particularly surprising one, given how the federal agency operates).
-Video from last week shows Nye County, Nevada, Assistant Sheriff Rick Marshall taking down signs supporting his opponent in an upcoming race for sheriff. (The signs technically supported “Anybody but Rick” which might be the reason Marshall was so pissed.) The footage was shot by Marshall’s opponent, Steven Lee, who also filmed deputies arresting their boss for possession of stolen property. (Marshall, who swears he had permission to remove the signs, also got hit with a resisting arrest charge when he began kicking and blocking the police cruiser door with his foot.) Unfortunately the current sheriff, Tony DeMeo, will not release—or even watch—dashcam video of the event, and he told a CBS affiliate that he still supports Marshall in the race to take over for him. If nothing else, this story explains why there’s a need for an “Anybody but Rick” campaign in the first place.
-A police officer in Calumet City, Illinois, saved the life of a six-month-old infant on Thursday, making him our Good Cop of the Week. Officer Adam Zieminski was the first responder to a house fire on May 1, and in response to the crying mother’s pleas to save the child, he crawled, then ran inside without any protective gear and grabbed the baby. Zieminski was treated for smoke inhalation, and the infant is reportedly fine.