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Statement from #Justice4Cecily

Posted 4 months ago on May 19, 2014, 11:21 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: #Justice4Cecily, Cecily McMillan, direct action

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 not receive 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 to us 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 verdict sends 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 concerned about 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 ruling will 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 the mistreatment and denial of justice for Cecily—a white, 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 an all-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 police sexual 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 as:

“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 copwatch, 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 it is 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 this has 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 people can acquire a critical awareness of their own condition, and, with their allies, struggle for liberation.”

Through praxis, we learn again and again that all of our grievances are connected. Our struggles are not the 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 to www.justiceforcecily.com for more details.

32 Comments

32 Comments


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[-] 6 points by Sinde (24) 4 months ago

So typical that this should happen to a woman,(tho it easily could of been a man) that the 'prep' would be a cop, that what serves as justice is anything but (where Wall Street criminals are given a pass) and Snowden/whistleblowers, and protests are treated as the most despicable forms of criminal acts. Zietgeist, that condition, moment, energy (magic dust) when the Current just takes over and moves thru, it All BeComes. Will, is Always a difficult notion for me. When I hear the word 'Will' , I notice it seems to always be a man saying it. Love ~ Is An Alignment. If one does it consciously, cultivates it, as lovingly as any garden, one moves thru the world that way. Love brings forth the 'Dreaming' . Since I am going for the higher condition here of Healing/Protection/Recognition, etc. of this Planet, All Her Children/All the Beings, of All life, of Each Other (of Her Life Blood/The waters of Life, Her Breath/The Airs, Her Body/Her Flesh, etc.) We have tremendous potential. The nightmare that has been occurring Is Because for too long we have been asleep!!! The Dream that Could Be, Needs Us To Dream It,To Be Awake Within It ~ or the Nightmare will continue to persist. My husband calls the current state of things "Windigo Politics'. As one of my old friends from way back would say: KEOA = Keep Each Other Alive

Justice For Cecily!!!

[-] 1 points by 99nproud (2327) 3 weeks ago

Deaths in custody/during arrest data, critical if we intend to succeed at prison/police reform.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/08/26/1324758/-Colorado-officials-didn-t-report-inmate-death-for-over-a-year?detail=email

http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/another-much-higher-count-of-police-homicides/

Why this data is not compiled should inform our understanding ofthis crises.

Justice for ALL

[-] 5 points by Axis116 (57) 4 months ago

First, Solidarity with Cecily McMillan!!!

I found the statement regarding love via Bell Hooks book strange, however. I know love as a primal desire, desire being organic and "deeper" than "will." My understanding is that "will" is driven by one's conceptual and perceptual reality. I do not understand love as an "ethic." I strongly suspect we do not "...choose to love", though perhaps we can, and often do, choose "not to love."

I would consider this, my own comment, tangential and irrelevant to the outrage, injustice and symbolism of the #Justice4Cecily struggle if this article's throwing Bell Hooks understanding of "love" into the middle of the it was not equally tangential.

I think I might lose hope if I did not understand love to be inherent and organic and had to rely of human beings "choosing" to love. I don't remember ever having "chosen" to love. People do choose not to love...and, by the way, it is not "evil" to love owns own self as well. Most people have a very difficult time loving themselves in any truthful way.

Cecily McMillan, I stand with you. Occupy stands with you. We stand with you and ALL who have been brutalized, abused and felled by this system of corruption, brutality and institutional criminality.

With our Wills we will struggle for justice for you and all like you...and yet, you do Live in our Hearts and within our Love. You are not forgotten, sister!

[-] 4 points by 99nproud (2327) 2 months ago

Cecily released!! Her fight for justice,& our fight for freedom to protest without police misconduct/abuse continues.

http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2014/07/02/activist-cecily-mcmillan-released-from-prison-reads-statement-from-women-of-rikers-island/

Solidarity

[-] 5 points by aquitane (8) 4 months ago

So let's see, a young lady who sacrifices her time, energy and well-being to make this a better world is now sentenced to prison while those corrupt people who have caused so much pain and misery throughout the world roam free with huge bonuses to boot.

[-] 3 points by 99nproud (2327) 1 month ago

excessive/militaristic, unfair police profiling is the problem.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/08/police-shootings-michael-brown-ferguson-black-men

No justice, No peace!

[-] 3 points by 99nproud (2327) 1 month ago

Fighting for Justice always, & in all ways.

http://www.thenation.com/blog/180753/were-arresting-poor-mothers-our-own-failures

Solidarity

[-] 2 points by TruthOMeter (1) 4 months ago

We need to stop giving these judges and the state so much control over our lives.

That being said, good job raising hell over it. The pussy riot visit was huge, surely made judge dredd think a bit.

[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 4 months ago

Solidarity @ Cecily McMillan !!! Solidarity to the other unjustly incarcerated !! Solidarity too to the justly convicted but inhumanely incarcerated !

Consider Closely : That The Private Prison Industrial Complex ... Requires The Constant And Increasing Incarceration Of Human Beings .. As That Is The Business Model !!! Further consider ....

''Movement moments like Occupy, Yotam Marom points out, "don't come from nowhere. There is no such thing as spontaneous. They come through hard organizing and conditions and some magic dust that you can't really explain." What happens next depends on how prepared people are to choose a direction, and how ready they are to push.'' Finally consider ...

'NYPD' = Not Your Police Department !!! OWS showed that they were JPMorgan's security guards !!

  • ''10 Arrests in 83 Minutes : A Close Analysis of NYPD Crowd Dispersal Tactics'', by Paul Sullivan : http://vimeo.com/74606365 [10:15m]

Pretty much required viewing for ANY OWS supporter in NYC or beyond, I suggest. Please do watch !

fiat justitia ruat caelum ...

[-] 3 points by aquitane (8) 4 months ago

Good links, Thanks. Sadly we are at the point in our history that it s a misnomer to call what we now have, The Criminal Justice System. Rather it is much more accurate to call it The Criminal Profiteering Corporation.

I read that last link (Post Occupied) when Leo put it up earlier. The people that I know in Occupy Sandy and Strike Debt are the best of the best.

[-] 3 points by shadz66 (19985) 3 months ago

''10 Arrests in 83 Minutes : A Close Analysis of NYPD Crowd Dispersal Tactics'', by Paul Sullivan : http://vimeo.com/74606365 [10:15m] & again bringing your attention to that short video. Also do see ...

amor vincit omnia ...

[-] 2 points by 99nproud (2327) 1 month ago

Fight for change of 'IN'justice system!!

"In 2009, of 576,394 stops and frisks [that] were performed . . . 84 percent of them were on blacks and Latinos. This is astronomically high, given that black and Latino compose roughly 26 and 27 percent of the population, respectively. The harassment that men of color often undergo via the police is a constant pressure. When walking through Harlem, I routinely see black boys approached by undercover officers and forced to submit to "random searches."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/18/killed-by-the-nypd-black-men_n_5600045.html

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/24816-the-criminalization-of-black-youth-interviews-with-kai-wright-and-allen-nance

Better?

[-] 2 points by 99nproud (2327) 1 month ago

Cecily on Prison reform :

http://us3.campaign-archive2.com/?u=3000ba396484a7eda281a3946&id=fd3f3ab0ce&e=9e169484bc

Join her, sign her petition.

Peace

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[-] 1 points by 99nproud (2327) 1 month ago

And a big part of oppression/racism & a conscious societal self destructive effort.

Millions of otherwise taxpaying workers are pushed into crime and a life of dependency.

What a waste

[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 2 months ago

"Fifty nine days ago, The City and State of New York labeled me a criminal. Millionaires and billionaire–who had a vested interest in silencing a peaceful protest about the growing inequalities in America–coerced the justice system, manipulated the evidence, and suddenly I became dangerous and distinguished from law-abiding citizens. On May 5th, the jury delivered its verdict, the judge deemed me undesirable, and officers drove me across that bridge and barred me within. On the outside, I had spent my time fighting for freedom and rights. On the inside, I discovered a world where words like freedom and rights don’t even exist in the first place. I walked in with one movement, and return to you a representative of another. That bridge right there, that divides the city from Rikers Island, divides two worlds – today I hope to bring them closer together. Crossing back over, I have a message to you from several concerned citizens currently serving time at the Rose M. Singer Center. "

http://www.alternet.org/activism/i-watched-woman-cough-blood-till-she-died-cecily-mcmillan-shocking-conditions-rikers-island

Prison, as I've said, is a form of torture.

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[-] 2 points by 99nproud (2327) 2 months ago

I Agree that ending wealth inequality would create prison reform, I accept that "it makes more sense" to you. I'm sure others too, Many probably, maybe most.

Simply a short, (for the comments section at right) thought provoking (hopefully) statement to tempt a read of the important thread related info of police/justice/prison inequity.

No justice! No peace!

[-] -2 points by ApexPredator (9) 3 months ago

You lot did not protest very much, did you?

[-] 2 points by 99nproud (2327) 3 weeks ago

More protests are needed.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/19/agitators-have-hijacked-ferguson-protests.html

But we don't have to defend/prove/measure/submit for your approval our protest experience. So...

Peace

[-] 2 points by 99nproud (2327) 2 months ago

OWS court record:

http://interoccupy.net/natgat2014/natgat3-resource-occupy-court-cases-come-out-on-the-side-of-justice/

Protesting, & challenging injustice system!

All non violent tactics are welcomed

[-] 2 points by 99nproud (2327) 2 months ago