Dear Gov. Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio,
Pardon Cecily McMillan NOW!
We live at a time in which it is widely perceived that the wealthy have completely rigged the system and enjoy outsized protection, while the weakest are marginalized, preyed upon and subjected to the whims of a corrupt penal system dependent on churning up the forgotten. A harsh conviction like this is exactly why so few have any faith left whatsoever in the justice of our legal system.
This young lady was groped and beaten by another of NY's Finest, by an officer whose record is rife with misconduct, fraud and violence, all of which the judge refused to submit to the jury. The whole thing would be completely absurd and far-fetched, if it wasn’t a serious travesty of justice.
How is it justified that she now faces years in prison for elbowing a police officer, a reflexive reaction to being aggressively and sexually grabbed, yet Wall St CEO’s luxuriate in endless taxpayer bailouts, continue to flout the law and use that money to further render our elections meaningless while at the same time bulking up their holdings – and not one has been criminally charged and convicted, but instead are permitted to settle out of court and admit no wrong-doing?
That the City of NY allocates resources to prosecuting a protester on flimsy charges while Wall St committed rank criminal fraud on a massive scale is absolutely farcical, and can only be taken in its conclusion to be a stern warning that protest will not be tolerated by the oligarchy.
This while the gap between the wealthy and the working class gets wider and wider, the middle class is still being pummeled by staggering student debt, failing equity, joblessness and downward mobility. There's a miniscule number of the world’s population laughing all the way to the bank. Those numbers are so diabolically imbalanced - and more and more people are starting to become aware of that fact. There will be an inevitable breaking point, especially if more and more feel they can not find justice in the rule of law.
It’s brazenly obvious to all who care to see: The Land of Liberty and Justice For All has been replaced by a two-tiered justice system that appears mostly to operate in the protection of the vested interests of the wealthy.
If you’re well-connected with money, you’re off the hook and your property will be guarded. If not and especially if you are perceived a threat to the status quo of corporate and banking dominance, you’re just a number.
This verdict was not about justice; it was a mockery of justice.
This was about crushing dissent.
This was calculated to strike fear into the hearts of would-be protestors. Dissent is what formed this country. The debacle that took place yesterday in a NYC courtroom begs intervention at the highest levels. It begs of those entrusted with ensuring justice and democracy to answer the original call of their vocation, which is to uphold their civic duty and honor the rights of the peacefully assembled to petition their grievances to the government.
Kangaroos cannot be permitted to run our courts. Once belief in that system is shredded there’s little left to tether the already slender threads keeping our society together.
I strongly urge you to rescind this outrageous injustice, by reminding yourselves, and thereby the rest of the country, that dissent is indeed the highest form of patriotism.
Please consider signing the Change.org petition, to which this letter was submitted:
For more on who Cecily McMillan is::
McMillan, who spent part of her childhood living in a trailer park in rural Texas and who now is a graduate student at The New School for Social Research in New York, found herself with several hundred other activists at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan in March 2012 to mark the six-month anniversary of the start of Occupy Wall Street. The city, fearing the re-establishment of an encampment, deployed large numbers of police officers to clear the park just before midnight of that March 17. The police, heavily shielded, stormed into the gathering in fast-moving lines. Activists were shoved, hit, knocked to the ground. Some ran for safety. More than 100 people were arrested on the anniversary. After the violence, numerous activists would call the police aggression perhaps the worst experienced by the Occupy movement. In the mayhem McMillan—whose bruises were photographed and subsequently were displayed to Amy Goodman on the “Democracy Now!” radio, television and Internet program—was manhandled by a police officer later identified as Grantley Bovell. [Click here to see McMillan interviewed on “Democracy Now!” She appears in the last 10 minutes of the program.]
McMillan’s journey from a rural Texas backwater to a courtroom in New York is a journey of political awakening. Her parents, divorced when she was small, had little money. At times she lived with her mother, who had jobs at a Dillard’s department store, as an accountant for a pool hall and later, after earning a degree, as a registered nurse doing shifts of 60 to 70 hours in hospitals and nursing homes. There were also painful stretches of unemployment. Her mother, from Mexico, was circumspect about revealing her ethnicity in the deeply white conservative community, one in which blacks and other minorities were not welcome. She never taught her son and daughter Spanish. As a girl McMillan saw her mother struggle with severe depression and, in one terrifying instance, taken to a hospital after she passed out from an overdose of prescription pills. For periods, McMillan, her brother and her mother survived on welfare, and they moved often; she attended 13 schools, including five high schools. Her father worked at a Domino’s Pizza shop, striving in vain to become a manager.For more on the trial:
Racism was endemic in the area. There was a sign in the nearby town of Vidor, not far from the Louisiana state line, that read: “If you are dark get out before dark.” It had replaced an earlier sign that said: “Don’t let the sun set on your ass nigger.”
The families around the McMillans struggled with all the problems that come with poverty—alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic and sexual violence and despair. Cecily’s brother is serving a seven-year sentence for drug possession in Texas.
“I grew up around the violence of poverty,” she told me as she lit another cigarette while I interviewed her Thursday night in an apartment in Harlem. She smoked nearly nonstop during our conversation. “It was normative.”
She attended Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., under a scholarship. After graduating, she worked as a student teacher in inner-city schools in Chicago. She joined the Young Democratic Socialists. She enrolled at The New School for Social Research in New York City in the fall of 2011 to write a master’s thesis on Jane Addams, Hull House and the settlement movement. The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations began in the city six days after she arrived at the school. She said that at first she was disappointed with the Occupy encampment in Zuccotti Park. She felt it lacked political maturity. She had participated in the political protests in Madison, Wis., in early 2011, and the solidarity of government workers, including police, that she saw there deeply influenced her feelings about activism. She came away strongly committed to nonviolence.
“Police officers sat down to occupy with us,” she said of the protests in Madison. “It was unprecedented. We were with teachers, the fire department, police and students. You walked around saying thank you to the police. You embraced police. [But then] I went to Occupy in New York and saw drum circles and people walking around naked. There was yoga. I thought, what is this? I thought for many protesters this was just some social experiment they would go back to their academic institutions and write about. Where I come from people are hungry. Women are getting raped. Fathers and stepfathers beat the shit out of children. People die. ... Some people would rather not live.”
“At first I looked at the occupiers and thought they were so bourgeois,” she went on. “I thought they were trying to dress down their class by wearing all black. I was disgusted. But in the end I was wrong. I wasn’t meeting them where they were. These were kids, some of whom had been to Harvard, Yale or Princeton, [who] were the jewels of their family’s legacy. They were doing something radical. They had never been given the opportunity to have their voices heard, to have their own agency. They weren’t clowns like I first thought. They were really brave. We learned to have conversations. And that was beautiful. And these people are my friends today.”