May 14, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Union members certain that 25-year-old Occupy Wall Street protester Cecily McMillan is being unjustly prosecuted for taking part in demonstrations at Zuccotti Park two years ago – are calling on their brothers and sisters in the labor movement to urge sentencing Judge Ronald A. Zweibel to set the young woman free.
CWA Local 1180 staffers Ryan Bruckenthal and Nadya Stevens both worked with McMillan when the Occupy Wall Street protester also served as an organizing volunteer for the Organization of Staff Analysts (OSA).
On Monday morning, the Local 1180 workers joined with New York City Councilmembers Ydanis Rodriguez [D-10th District], Helen Rosenthal [D-6th District], Laurie Cumbo [D-35th District] and Robert Cornegy D-36th District], as well as members of TWU Local 100 and others, at City Hall to support McMillan – and to denounce bad policing throughout the city.
Despite advocates who insist that evidence – including a graphic photo of McMillan’s badly bruised chest – proves that cops actually brutalized the former union volunteer during the police crackdown of Zuccotti Park on March 17, 2012 – Judge Zweibel earlier this month found McMillan guilty of deliberately striking Police Officer Grantley Bovel.
McMillan has been repeatedly denied bail and continues to languish in a Rikers Island prison cell awaiting a May 19, sentencing date that could keep her in jail for seven years.
Stevens emphasized the need for labor to support McMillan – calling her a “fun and happy person" committed to social justice, who has also demonstrated "remarkable courage" and "bravery" throughout her ordeal in the prison system.
“Little people coming together have a bigger voice,” Stevens said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here. And that’s what all the unions should be doing as well. Unions are supposed to stand up for social justice – and it’s obvious that Cecily is innocent.”
Bruckenthal was at Zuccotti Park two years ago, and said he witnessed the “police brutality” and “absolute militarized use of force in order to eliminate a political movement” first-hand.
“In addition to the violence against Cecily, I think this is really relevant to us because of the violence many of our members witness in their communities from police,” Bruckenthal said.
Councilman Rodriguez was also arrested and charged with assault during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. Unlike, McMillan, however, the councilman and chair of the Transportation Committee, was not found guilty and sent to jail.
“These types of assault [cases] are playing with the people’s minds,” the Manhattan councilman said. “Cecily is a role model when it comes to fighting for social justice. When they look at her, they want to send a message to everyone fighting for social justice that if you join a protest, if you defend your rights, you will be charged with assaulting a police officer.”
A representative for Councilman Jumaane Williams, said that the Brooklyn representative is “deeply concerned about finding a protester guilty from an unclear video – while clear videos and pictures of overly aggressive officers do not yield much result.”
Councilwoman Cumbo, chair of the Committee on Women’s Issues, framed the confrontation between Officer Bovel and McMillan as “the brutality of yet another woman.”
“This is a time when we have to make sure our women are treated with dignity and respect,” Councilwoman Cumbo said. “We have to make sure law enforcement respects women and all individuals. We can’t continue to have our women attacked in ways that are harmful, and unconstitutional. We have to say, hands off our women. We can’t have those that are stronger than us, brutalize us or attack us.”
Councilman Cornegy recently learned that McMillan is actually one of his Brooklyn constituents.
“If the judge gives the proper context that led to her arrest, Miss MacMillan will be sentenced to community service and allowed to return to my district to continue to raise her voice in support of the needs and rights of the masses," Councilman Cornegy said.
Others, however, including Councilwoman Rosenthal, are calling on Judge Zweibel to scrap the verdict against McMillan entirely.
"We should vacate the verdict," Councilwoman Rosenthal said to roaring support.
Robert Croghan, chair of the OSA, as well as a former auxiliary police officer, said that he is keenly aware of how volatile and chaotic demonstrations can be.
“All kinds of things can happen,” Croghan said. “But they are most especially well solved with an apology – not by being put in jail.”
Most of the jurors on McMillan’s case have already written to Judge Zweibel urging leniency.
Sadly, Todd Gitlin, a teacher at Columbia University, said that McMillan “stands at the receiving end of a cascade of injustices.”
A rally for McMillan will be held at Union Square on May 18. Visit here for more information.