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2012-03-23

Exclusive: OWS Activist Cecily McMillan Describes Seizure, Bodily Injuries in Arrest by NYPD

Guests

Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street activist who was injured by New York City police during protests in Zuccotti Park marking six months since the launch of the movement last weekend. She is Northeast regional organizer for Young Democratic Socialists. She is also a graduate student at the New School for Social Research.

Meghan Maurus, the attorney for Cecily McMillan. She is mass defense coordinator at the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

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Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan suffered a seizure when New York City police officers pulled her from the crowd and arrested her as hundreds attempted to re-occupy Zuccotti Park on Saturday to mark six months since the launch of the movement. In her first interview since her arrest, McMillan says she has decided to speak out because of an outpouring of public support. "I have received so many emails and twitters and messages and phone calls, and people [are] just really horrified about what happened to me." McMillan has a black eye, and her body is covered in bruises, at least one in the shape of a handprint. She says she was not allowed to contact an attorney while she was taken to the hospital and transferred to a jail cell along with some of the 72 other detained protesters. Facing charges of police assault and obstructing governmental administration, she was released Monday after a judge denied a request that her bail be set at $20,000. McMillan is Northeast regional organizer for Young Democratic Socialists of America and a graduate student at the New School for Social Research. We’re also joined by Meghan Maurus, McMillan’s attorney and mass defense coordinator at the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Last weekend marked six months since the launch of Occupy Wall Street. Here in New York, a new occupation may be taking root in Union Square Park. Dozens are camping out there. Some claim the spot could be the movement’s new home base. On Saturday, hundreds rallied outside the first park the movement occupied, Zuccotti Park, now renamed Liberty Plaza. Police arrested 73 people.

Movement activists say police are adopting violent and intimidating tactics against them as they peacefully protest. They held a press conference Tuesday outside New York police headquarters. This is Occupy Wall Street activist, Jen Waller.

JEN WALLER: It is when we speak out against the 1 percent and defy them by fighting for public space that we are brutalized. On Saturday night as I simply sat in a park, I was violently arrested with my friends and watched as bloodthirsty cops stomped on their faces, knelt on their necks, pulled them by their hair, and slammed them into windows. I watched as one friend was treated as a battering ram as they carried him into an MTA bus, slamming his head on every step and seat as they went along. I watched as a young woman’s rib was broken, as she hyperventilated, convulsed and seizured in the middle of the street.

AMY GOODMAN: That was last person that Jen Waller mentions, who suffered a seizure and broken rib after she was pulled from the crowd and arrested, is Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan. Police say she elbowed an officer in the head, giving him a swollen eye. She faces felony charges of assault and obstructing governmental administration. Cecily was released on Monday afternoon after a judge denied a request from the district attorney that bail be set at $20,000, and she’s joining us now for this exclusive interview.

Cecily McMillan is Northeast regional organizer for the Young Democratic Socialists of America and a graduate student at the New School for Social Research. We’re also joined by Meghan Maurus, Cecily’s attorney and mass defense coordinator at the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Cecily, you limped in here. You’re very bruised. You have a bruise over your left eye. And I can see, with your—the scoop neck of your T-shirt, you are scratched and it is black and blue. It is—

CECILY McMILLAN: A handprint.

AMY GOODMAN: —the shape of a hand. Black and blue, the shape of a hand.

CECILY McMILLAN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: That is above your right breast. And then your arms. Your arms are black and blue around both elbows. You’ve got finger marks of black and blue on both arms. And you’re clearly—

CECILY McMILLAN: My back.

AMY GOODMAN: —in a lot of pain on your back, and we can’t show those bruises now. Your ribs—what happened?

CECILY McMILLAN: My ribs are really bruised.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened to you? You went out on Saturday, six-month anniversary of Occupy, with hundreds of other people to Zuccotti. And what took place?

CECILY McMILLAN: Like I said, I haven’t seen any of the videos yet. I ended a 40-something-hour stay in jail and ended up with all these bruises. I mean, that’s—I have an open case, so I can’t talk more about it, and I’m sure you can tell that it would be difficult for me to remember some things. But I have these.

AMY GOODMAN: Why were you there?

CECILY McMILLAN: Well, I’ve been involved in Occupy Wall Street since August, in the planning stages. I think that earlier the year before—or, earlier last year, I was involved in Madison. And growing up in the South, my grandfather is a union rep, and I’ve seen him go into work and come home and go into work and go home, and lose battle after battle. And, you know, to be in Wisconsin and to see the strength and solidarity of people who will stand and fight for each other, who will stand in solidarity for each other, that lit a fire in me.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, what has taken place, your story, the seeing you on the ground, people talking about the seizure, other protesters yelling to the police to get you help as you were flopping on the ground. What happened? Did the police get you help? And what caused all of these black and blue marks and your ribs cracked?

CECILY McMILLAN: I can’t—I can’t really explain what happened. I know that I kept waking up places.

AMY GOODMAN: So they—an ambulance finally brought you to the hospital, but then you were brought to jail?

CECILY McMILLAN: Uh-huh.

AMY GOODMAN: And held for how long?

CECILY McMILLAN: I don’t know how long. I mean, there weren’t clocks. We were in a very—

AMY GOODMAN: Were you able to call family or a lawyer?

CECILY McMILLAN: No.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you ask?

CECILY McMILLAN: I asked probably about three times every hour that I was in jail.

AMY GOODMAN: Altogether, you were away for more than what? Something like 40 hours?

CECILY McMILLAN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: You asked to speak to a lawyer. You couldn’t. Did you—when they brought you back to jail from the hospital, did you ask to go back to the hospital?

CECILY McMILLAN: Yeah. And they tried to dissuade the paramedics from taking me for about an hour and a half, until I was able to go back to the hospital. And then I went to the hospital and then the jail, and then the hospital and then the jail, and then another jail. And I couldn’t call a lawyer, or I—they wouldn’t tell me what my charges were. And I didn’t know where I was.

AMY GOODMAN: You went back into the—this was all on Saturday. Sunday, Monday, you’re arraigned. And the judge said he would—

CECILY McMILLAN: This was into Sunday.

AMY GOODMAN: Into Sunday.

CECILY McMILLAN: So I was just being moved around in various police cars and—

AMY GOODMAN: You went back to the hospital yesterday?

CECILY McMILLAN: Oh, I’ve been to the hospital every day.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did they say yesterday?

CECILY McMILLAN: They finally cleared me of a concussion, so that I can be prescribed sleep aids, because up until last night I had been waking up every 15 minutes to half-an-hour sweating and with night terrors. So, it was very maddening.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ve also turned off the monitors, because you said you couldn’t see the footage. Why?

CECILY McMILLAN: The footage?

AMY GOODMAN: Any kind of footage, you didn’t want to see.

CECILY McMILLAN: Well, my friends had told me that I might want to refrain from watching it, because some of them had cried or even gotten sick when watching it. And my therapist has said that if I were to watch any of the footage, it might trigger further psychological damage.

AMY GOODMAN: Meghan Maurus, how is it that your client, that Cecily McMillan, was not able to call a lawyer from jail, that she was in hospital, she was in jail, she was then sent back to the hospital, but she is not in communication with—basically held incommunicado?

MEGHAN MAURUS: Sure. I mean, you know, and we’re still—I think, from both of our ends, we’re piecing together exactly not only the specific time line, but what exactly happened. From our end, I am both a private attorney, but I also am working for the National Lawyers Guild, and we track every arrest. So we knew of Cecily’s arrest and spent much of Sunday and Monday trying to find her and trying to get a hold of her. So, it was not without effort on the part of myself, as the attorney, and one person working with me, as well as the National Lawyers Guild, to get a hold of her. So the specifics of who refused that and why and when, we’ll have to piece together later, but—

AMY GOODMAN: This was a peaceful protest.

CECILY McMILLAN: Yeah, and I’ve had—I mean, I have been an activist, for at least some time now. I’ve been active since my first—the first anti-Bush protest in Atlanta my senior year, with Student Political Action Club. And I’ve always had a longstanding commitment to peaceful protest. And I released a statement yesterday reiterating my commitment to nonviolent civil disobedience and affirming my innocence. And I really have cautioned people to remain nonviolent, and not only that, but for activists to undergo nonviolent trainings, such was done in the civil rights movement, not because anybody at Occupy is violent, but because I think it’s very easy to manipulate circumstances to make you seem so. And I think that it’s—if we’re going to continue to garner the strength of the public, as we saw with the Million Hoodie March—that night was, I mean, phenomenal—then we’re going to have to remain nonviolent, because that’s the only way that we have unity.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you afraid to go into a protest like the Million Hoodie March after what had happened to you? That was just a few days after this weekend.

CECILY McMILLAN: Torn. I mean, the way that I have always gotten through the difficulties of the world that we live in is by committing myself solely to activism. And so, in this time, it’s so hard for me to sit and recover, sit and recover. But—

AMY GOODMAN: When you see the lines of police officers?

CECILY McMILLAN: Yes, when I saw the lines of police officers, I had to do what my therapist said—you know, the grass is green, the sky is blue—and reconfirm my place in reality and center myself. Yeah, no, I mean, there—I have come to the opinion that police are scary.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did you decide—this is an exclusive interview, you’re speaking out for the first time publicly—to do this?

CECILY McMILLAN: To come and speak?

AMY GOODMAN: To speak, yes.

CECILY McMILLAN: Well, I have received so many—so many emails and twitters and messages and phone calls, and people just really horrified about—

AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.

CECILY McMILLAN: —what happened to me, and I didn’t understand. But I just wanted to say that everybody keeps doing this to me. And I just want to do this to everybody.

AMY GOODMAN: Giving you a heart sign.

CECILY McMILLAN: Occupy love.

AMY GOODMAN: We are going to leave it there. Cecily McMillan, a Occupy Wall Street activist, injured by New York police as she protested on the six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. And Meghan, thanks so much for joining us.

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