Monday, May 19, 2014

We Are All Related: from Cecily to All of Us #Justice4CecilySentencing

We Are All Related:  from Cecily to All of Us

Last week, I spent a lot of time riding to and from Children’s Magical Garden, a lower east side community garden, under threat of being bulldozed. Riding over the Manhattan Bridge back to Brooklyn, I saw a sign declaring, We Are All Related.  That sentiment seemed to speak to the I and thou feeling many of us have had contemplating the suffering McMillan endured in March of 2012 standing in a park, when police moved in for a raid, where people stood that St Patrick’s night.

“It could have been any of us,” other signs have declared during the rallies and solidarity actions since then. 

“Free Cecily!  Fire the Prisons!”

It’s a sentiment heard over and over, spray painted in the graffiti.  We all could have been Cecily.  One of many in the movement, she supported the movements in so many ways, opening her home for parties, organizing and opening up spaces for us to live and just be.


Unlike my peers, I have a hell of a lawyer – Marty Stolar – who made the long journey to hold my hand and promise “I will not stop fighting for you.” I also have a gifted team of friends and organizers – #Justice4Cecily – that continue to provide around-the-clock care and mobilize public support. Finally, I’m incredibly lucky to have a vast and very much alive movement at my side, sending me “Occupy Love” from across the world.
Despite how obscenely unbalanced our circumstances are, my new-found friends – who have quickly become my comrades – are outraged by my story and resolve to do their part to keep me out of prison. After lunch, they spend their free time writing letters to Judge Zweibel, defending my character and pleading for leniency.
At 6:00pm dinner, the cramped circle of ladies ask me “What exactly is social justice organizing?” Over the complex choreography of food trading I tell them about Democratic Socialist leader Eugene Victor Debs. How nearly 100 years ago he publicly criticized U.S. involvement in WWI – in violation of the Wartime Sedition Act – and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for exercising his constitutional right to free speech. “Sort of like that,” I explain, “But he’s way out of my league – he’s my hero.”
By lights out, a subtle peace has begun to wash over me. I page through a book stopping at Debs’ speech to the Federal Court of Cleveland, Ohio – I read and reread, as if a personal mantra, these opening lines -
“Your honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said it then, as I say it now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

Every once in a while a case seems to highlight everything that is wrong within our criminal justice system.  McMillan was attacked for standing in a public space.  Now she is doing jail time for being there, for being assaulted. While we are pushing back against what is happening to Cecily, the larger picture of police, the system of prisons, and corporate control is what presents the real problem, this is what we up against.  So fighting for Cecily is fighting for a better world in the here and now.

What happens in jail matters, the living theater remind us.

Kids getting arrested in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. 

Yesterday, supporters rallied in Union Square.  Number two and I talked at the rally, comparing this case with the Hunger Games and the treatment of dissent.  These stories only magnify the reality of our current moment in which those who speak out are threatened, beaten, and charged with violent crimes. 

this blogger and company at union square.
photo by jefferson siegel 

We talked about the first amendment of the constitution and the right of people to peacefully assemble to petition the government for a redress of grievances, as Occupy was doing.

The next morning was her sentencing hearing. 

As Monica and Barbara posted to public space party.


Tomorrow, Mon, 8:30am Sentencing, Noon press Conference, 6:30pm Justice Ride for Cecily Monday, 5/19:

8:30am, Meet by Occupy Guitarmy (I assume this will be right in front of the court) 

9:30am, #Justice4CecilySentencing, Part 41 (room 1116) of 100 Centre St, Pack the Courtroom, Cecily is the first person on the docket.

12:00pm, Press Conference City Hall Steps

6:30pm PSP Justice Ride for Cecily, Meet Foley Square


Here is Monica's message with important info about tomorrow and more details on sentencing, press conference and ride:

Hey all
I went to the rally today and got to check in with some of of Cecily's key support team about tomorrow's plan.
I don't know about a formal ride to sentencing.  I will be there by 9.  I will bring a bunch of patches from a stencil David and I made at the prop making.   If anyone has safety pins, that could help.  I'll buy some more too.  We can decorate our bags, bikes and clothes with them.

Unless things change dramatically with press conference after sentencing, we are planning on riding from 6:30pm to about7:30pm arriving at Zuccotti park to meet with Light Brigade and others for possible silent vigil or maybe celebration!?
We will ride slowly so please be on time so that we can ride past the court house, another stop along way? and then over to Zuccotti and get there by 7:30.  I don't think we should bring music.  Unless its a victory!  I can probably pick up the NYBD speaker if that is the case.

I will try to write some chants we can do.  And everyone else please think of some too.

Invite people.  With Facebook, twitter, email, phone.  Let's make sure we're a big presence in the streets.
Its important. 

See you in morning or evening or all day!

Monica Hunken

11:05 PM (2 hours ago)
to Barbara, PublicSpaceWG
Hey everyone
Thanks Barbara!

That would be great.  Thank you!
See you tomorrow!  Let's hope for the best!
- Monica 

Chants for Cecily-

We are all Cecily 
Cecily is us

We don't want Incarceration!
We  want Cecily's emancipation!

Stop the Police State
Cops Do the Real CRIME

On May 5th, 25 year old activist, Cecily McMillan, was found guilty of assaulting an officer and sent to Rikers without bail. She was sexually assaulted by this NYC police officer and sent into seizures during her brutal arrest. The drawn out trial has been an excruciating and absurd affair as the judge continued to repress evidence and gag Cecily's defense team, clearly siding with the prosecution. 

The only thing that we can do in the face of such an injustice is continue to organize, and thus we will be packing the courtroom again at her sentencing hearing on May 19th. Her sentence ranges anywhere from 2-7 years and possibility of probation.

That night we will ride through the streets with signs and clear messaging, either celebrating the success of her appeal or expressing our condemnation of the verdict and demanding a change in this city's abject acceptance of police violence and suppression of activist voices.

Please join us in the morning for the hearing. It will take place Monday, May 19th at 9:30am in Part 41 (room 1116) of 100 Centre St., and the sentencing will be handed down by Judge Ronald Zweibel.

This is especially important since she has been remanded and immediately sent to Riker's until then, and it will be an opportunity for her to see how much we all still love and support her.

As usual, we must remain calm and respectful in the courtroom to set a good image for ourselves. We also ask that everyone wear business casual clothing. For more information on developments in the trial and a collection of our press attention, please check

Send Cecily mail and books!
Cecily's current address is below. She will be held in custody until her May 19 sentencing.
Cecily McMillan
Book & Case Number 3101400431
Rose M. Singer Center
19-19 Hazen Street

#justice4cecily petition

Walking over to the hearing, I had a feeling that the District Attorney was not going to follow through with sentencing guidelines calling for two to seven years in jail for such a felony.  Tyrants thrive on secrecy, not working in the glaring light, with thousands and thousands of letters, petitions, articles, and inquiries from around the world. 

Arriving at court, the there was a line up the block.

A crowd from Occupy was across the street.

So I waited, making my way through the line and up to the 11th floor for the case.  There is a feeling of being cattle in such moments. Once on the third floor, we were notified that none of us would get inside. The court was already full.

So we stood outside, greeting friends, wondering.  Monica, JC, Austin, Madeline and so many other friends were there.

And quickly enough, we heard the news that cc was being sentenced to 90 days in jail with time served, plus five years probation. That meant she would be out this summer.

While I had hoped for time served, I was still relieved to hear the news.  Certainly no one should spend time in jail after being assaulted by the police and make no mistake that is what happened, still she gets her life back after the summer. And that is a relief.

And then the struggle continues.

Dana Beal followed the mic check to remind everyone that the Yippee Museum is losing its space, the foreclosure crisis continues.

Several of us talked and talked about what this all meant.  

Monica later posted with Public Space Party. 
Public Space Party
Today we have a mix of relief and anger. Justice was not served but luckily it was not as bad as it could be. Cecily has been sentenced 90 days (minus the 17 already served) with five years probation. The court room was packed and the sidewalk overflowing with supporters. Everyone was peaceful and in good spirits. Tonight we will ride for Cecily because we should not have to accept that an innocent woman is facing time in jail for a crime she did not commit. The officer should serve time for his assault. We will not hide under the covers in fear; instead we will regroup, collectivize and be stronger. We ride for justice! Join us! (at Foley Square at 6:30 PM for a quick ride to Zuccotti to join the light brigade).

While waited for the lawyers to come speak, some of the singers from the church of stop shopping performed, inviting everyone to sing along.

And Martin Stolar, who represented me ten years ago, stood to speak, thanking everyone for their support.  Within the petitions and court support, Cecily would be spending years in jail, argued Stolar, who promised to appeal her conviction.  Yet, Cecily has spent a way to live in Rikers, to live, to organize.  And for this, she has only become more human.

New York City council member Ydanis Rodriguez followed, noting that Stolar had defended him when he was getting arrested over the issue of the US Navy bombing the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico.  He confessed that he believed that as an organizer McMillan should not spend any time in jail, that he was still happy with the leniency of the sentence.  He also suggested that the NYPD needs to reel in its approach to protest, with charging people with resisting arrest for exercising their constitutional right to free speech.  Finishing he reminded everyone that as long as the gap between the 99% and 1% remains a gulf, Occupy will be here.  It will be needed in New York City.

Ydanis Rodriguez later issued the following statement.

While I take issue with her sentence of jail time, I am pleased Cecily McMillan was treated with leniency. A young woman, acting within the guidelines of this country's constitution, should never be put into a situation where the actions that led to her crime could occur. Today I call on the mayor to form a commission to reinvestigate this and other cases of protesters sentenced to jail time for assault over the past ten years, as I am confident justice was not served as true as it should have otherwise been. The US Constitution encourages protest, free speech and a redress of grievances in cases where the government is not properly serving the public interest. This is what Cecily and so many others sought to do; so for any to end up in jail is a travesty from which our country suffers even more. We in government can serve best only when our constituency is engaged and concerned; and we should never seek to stifle dissent, especially when it is as peaceful and impassioned as Occupy was and continues to be.

Cecily’s support team read the following statement outside at the press conference.

Today, Cecily Mcmillan was sentenced to 90 days in prison for being sexually assaulted by a police officer at a protest, and then responding to that violence by defending herself. We all know that Cecily did notreceive a fair trial and this case will be fought in the Court of Appeals.The sentencing of Cecily McMillan has elicited an array of deeply felt responses from a broad range of individuals and communities, and it has also created a moment to think about what solidarity means.

For many of us who consider ourselves to be part of the Occupy movement, there’s first and foremost a simple and deep sadness for a member of our community who has endured a painful and demeaning physical and sexual assault, and now has had her freedom taken away from her. And it’s painfully clear tous that Cecily’s case is not special. Sexual violence against women is disturbingly common, and there is a tremendous amount of over-policing and prosecutorial overreach by the police and the courts, enacted predominantly upon black and brown populations every single day, generation after generation.  On a broader level, there’s been a tremendous outpouring of public support in the wake of the verdict, for which Cecily and the team are truly grateful. We’re heartened, too, by the outrage this blatant,heavy-handed attempt to quash dissent has elicited from the public at large. The message this verdicts ends is clear: What Cecily continues to endure can happen to any woman who dares to challenge the corporate state, its Wall Street patrons, and their heavy handed enforcers, the NYPD. We certainly think outrage is an appropriate response from economic and social justice activists and allies who are concern edabout the silencing of those who push for change. The DA and the courts want to make an example out of Cecily—to deter us, to scare us, to keep us out of the streets. And we won’t let that happen. This rulingwill not deter us, it will strengthen our resolve. At the same time we recognize that outrage is a blunt tool that can too often obscure important distinctions. Cecily’s story represents a confluence of a number of different kinds of structural and institutional oppression that impact different communities in different ways. Expressions of shock at them is treatment and denial of justice for Cecily—a white-appearing, cisgendered graduate student—only underline how rarely we’re proven wrong in our presumptions that common privileges of race, class and gender-normativity will be fulfilled. It’s no great secret that  police brutality and intimidation and railroading in the court system are anall-too-predictable part of life for many low-income black and brown people, immigrants, and gender nonconforming New Yorkers—the vast majority of whom receive far less than Cecily in the way of legal support and media attention. And while we're furious that, in the wake of a violent sexual assault, Cecily might now be subject to the institutionalized sexual violence of the prison system, it’s only on top of our horror at the gross injustice that countless people with significantly less recourse experience daily at the hands of that same system.While we believe Cecily’s story can provide a rallying point around which others may challenge polices exual violence and the brutal suppression of dissent, we recognize that, at best, Cecily is an awkward symbol for the broader issues of police brutality and a broken, biased legal system. This awkwardness is but one example of many awkward scenarios regarding race and privilege that played out in Occupy communities since the original occupation of Zuccotti Park. As a movement, we see in this moment a
chance not to push past, but to sit with that awkwardness—to start to reach out in ways that at times may be uncomfortable and to further stretch our boundaries. To learn from communities who’ve been in this struggle long before Occupy existed: From feminist organizations who resist patriarchal domination and combat sexual violence, to anti-racist organizations who, in their struggle for justice, have been met every step of the way by a violent police force and a legal system committed to silencing dissent. The Occupy Wall Street Movement has been a catalyst for social and economic change. But, while we claim to be “the 99%”, building a movement that truly represents the diversity and strength of the people will require a principled approach in our activism centered around a love ethic. Bell hooks describes the love ethic in
 All About Love
“The will to one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Love is as love does, Love is an act of will—namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”
To build solidarity, it’s not enough to simply be a slogan or a meme—Slavoj Zizek told us during the encampment to“not fall in love with ourselves”

Solidarity means listening and extending ourselves when oppressed communities ask—not to try to lead, but to get our hands dirty and do the work. Building solidarity across the 99% is the only way to effectively fight the 1%, and to create genuine change. Though Zuccotti Park changed us forever, the true work began when we went back out into the world. Many of us are now are working in communities, figuring out how to most effectively demand justice for the 99%—from cop watch, to tenant councils that combat high rents and poor living conditions, to helping build community gardens. As we continue building support networks in our new communities, for the people who still interact with one another in the movement, we are more than friends now—we are family. We’re connected because we see in each other the strength to overcome struggles we couldn’t possibly win on our own. A member of our support team went to Rikers Island yesterday to visit Cecily and she spoke of her experiences in prison:

“I am very conscious of how privileged I am, especially in here. When you are in prison white privilege works against you. You tend to react when you come out of white privilege by saying“you can’t do that” when prison authorities force you to do something arbitrary and meaningless. But the poor understand that’s the system. They know it is absurd, capricious and senseless, that itis all about being forced to pay deference to power. If you react out of white privilege it sets you apart. I have learned to respond as a collective, to speak to authority in a unified voice. And thishas been good for me. I needed this.” “We can talk about movement theory all we want,” she went on. “We can read Michel Foucault or Pierre Bourdieu, but at a certain point it becomes a game. You have to get out and live it. You have to actually build a movement. And if we don’t get to work to build a movement now there will be no one studying movement theory in a decade because there will be no movements. I can do this in prison. I can do this out of prison. It is all one struggle.”

 As Cecily continues the struggle in prison, we will continue outside. We show that we are a family not just by words, but by our actions. Paulo Freire states in
 Pedagogy of the Oppressed 
 that praxis is the
"reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it. Through praxis, oppressed peoplecan acquire a critical awareness of their own condition, and, with their allies, struggle forliberation.”
Through praxis, we learn again and again that all of our grievances are connected. Our struggles are notthe same. But our fates are tied up in each others. Solidarity is the only way we’ll see our way through. To stay involved and help Cecily while she is in prison, please go for moredetails.

Few of us were in court, as there was no room in the overflowing court room.  But Martin Stolar reminded us of her words at the sentencing.

Cecily McMillan's Sentencing Statement,
May 19th, 2014
Published by Lucy Parks

Your honor, I stand before you exhausted. I have spent 35 of the 42 months that I have been in New York City in this room trying to convince the court of my innocence. I have lost friends and family, school and work, and, most recently, my freedom. I have been exhausted of nearly everything that makes me, me, except, that is, my dignity.
 As a young girl my mother told me, “Cecy, everything you see, your home, your loved
ones, even your life, can be taken from you at will. But no one can strip you of your dignity
without your consent.” I don’t think I knew what dignity was then, but I did understand that it was
deliberate, something you had to define for yourself. And though I am still young, and still searching for answers, I have started down a path where dignity is derived from the law of love, and though it has been said that this trial is personal and not political, I maintain that the personal cannot be divorced from the political. Whereas nonviolent civil disobedience is the manifestation of my ideology, it is rooted in a love thic that is central to my identity. The law of love holds that we, all of human society, live one common life, our existence beats with one common pulse - that as we listen to one another, learn from one another, love one another - we draw closer to one another and towards our collective happiness. Therefore -whether in resistance or in retribution, whether personal or political, violence is not permitted. This being the law that I live by, I can say with certainty that I am innocent of the crime I have been convicted of. And as I stand before you today, I cannot confess to a crime I did not commit; I cannot do away with my dignity in hopes that you will return me my freedom. However, the same law of love requires me to acknowledge the unintentional harm I caused another - for this accident, I am truly sorry. And in this spirit, your honor, I ask you to halt the violence there. Consider my words as I ask you to not perpetuate one injury with yet another.

This past few weeks, I’ve reflected on the ways we live with anger and forgiveness.  MLK confessed he was siding with love as hate is too great a burden to bear.  I do hope our whole city move a little closer toward this.  Maybe this is the lesson from this story.   We are all related. Lets stick with love. 

What happens in jail matters.

See you in the streets.   

As Justice for Cecily notes:

Solidarity ride for Cecily by the good folks at Public Space Party.
Image by Owen Crowley

To collect our joy and our anger and our sorrow, we will be gathering tonight with the light brigade in Zucotti Park at 7:30pm! It will be a chance for us to figure out exactly what this verdict and sentence means to us and reflect on that, and of course for us to enjoy each others company in the midst of this difficult time. There will also be a solidarity bike ride for Cecily starting at 6:30pm at Foley Square and ending around 7:30pm at Zucotti, so join if you’ve got access to a bike and want to ride!