Trial of Occupy protester approaches

After nearly two years of delays, the high-profile trial of Occupy supporter Cecily McMillan is finally going to court.

McMillan, a graduate student at the New School and organizer for the Democratic Socialists of America, was arrested in Zuccotti Park by the New York Police Department on March 17, 2012, during a protest marking the six-month anniversary of the Occupy Movement.

The prosecution alleges that McMillan assaulted a plainclothes NYPD officer with an elbow to the face in the course of the arrest, having charged her with assault in the second degree, a Class D Felony in the state of New York. This classification carries a maximum sentence of seven years jail time. The New York District Attorney is pursuing this maximum sentence.

McMillan’s defense, headed by criminal defense attorney Martin Stolar, alleges that the assault was a clear case of self-defense.

“She is accused of intentionally assaulting the police officer in order to prevent him from performing his duties,” Stolar said. “There is no question that she hit him. The question is ‘How come?’ and ‘Why did she hit him?’”

The question of why McMillan reacted in a manner that can be considered assault is at the crux of this case. Videos and photos of McMillan allegedly being sexually assaulted and her subsequent brutalization and neglect by NYPD officers while she underwent a protracted seizure went viral after her arrest.

“She felt someone behind her grab her right breast and lift her up,” Stolar said. “And that’s when she reacted, startled.”

Gallatin senior Caitlin Brimmer has rallied behind McMillan following the allegations of the nature of the supposed abuse and subsequent criminal trial.

“Cecily is the prime example of the tactics used by the NYPD during Occupy,” Brimmer said. “Sexual assault was an often-employed tactic for arrests because it is a way to make people, especially women, feel vulnerable and in turn easier to manhandle and arrest.”

Gallatin sophomore Lucy Parks, who has attended various Occupy protests, said she thinks the conduct of the NYPD is appalling.

“During those protests I witnessed a great deal of police brutality, including extensive beatings,” Parks said. “I think that the NYPD handled Occupy very poorly and the fact that they’ve been able to more or less get away with it is indicative of the fact that dissent in this country is no longer a civil right.”

McMillan’s trial has been rescheduled for March 3 and will be open to the public.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 18 print edition. Rahul Krishnamoorthy is a contributing writer. Email him at news@nyunews.com. 

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