CHEN WEIHUA Court rul­ing on pro­tester un­set­tling and un­fair

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA -

On Mon­day in New York City, 25-year-old grad­u­ate stu­dent Ce­cily McMil­lan was con­victed of a felony for el­bow­ing po­lice of­fi­cer Grant­ley Bovell in the face when he led her out of the Zuc­cotti Park in down­town Man­hat­tan on the night of March 17, 2012. New York po­lice were try­ing to clear pro­test­ers in the park that day, the six month an­niver­sary of the Oc­cupy Wall Street (OWS) move­ment.

McMil­lan said she only swung her arm in­stinc­tively af­ter her right breast was grabbed from be­hind. Pho­tos of bruis­ing to her chest were shown dur­ing the trial on Mon­day.

McMil­lan also had a seizure as po­lice of­fi­cers pinned her down. It was to­tally an as­sault on her by the po­lice of­fi­cer.

How­ever, the judge Ron­ald Zweibel or­dered McMil­lan to be held with­out bail un­til fi­nal sen­tenc­ing on May 19. She was hand­cuffed and taken to Rik­ers Is­land, a New York City jail in the East River.

Sup­port­ers for McMil­lan shouted “shame” and re­fused to leave the court­room when the ver­dict was read. Un­der the law, McMil­lan could face up to seven years in jail.

Al­though I was not a wit­ness in the McMil­lan case, but po­lice bru­tal­ity was of­ten when I fol­lowed closely the OWS in New York City in late 2011. I was one of the few people on the Brook­lyn Bridge not hand­cuffed by the cops be­cause we had an of­fi­cial press pass. A New York Times free­lancer was cuffed and taken away with some 700 pro­test­ers on the bridge when she failed to show a press pass.

On sev­eral oc­ca­sions at Zuc­cotti Park, also known as Lib­erty Plaza Park, and ar­eas around the Wall Street, I saw sev­eral po­lice of­fi­cers jump on non-vi­o­lent pro­test­ers, push them to the ground and cuff them.

Those mo­ments have for­ever changed my im­pres­sion of the NYPD and those im­ages have been lin­ger­ing in my mind for the past few years.

The night­mar­ish po­lice bru­tal­ity of those days also in­cluded the pep­per-spray­ing of peace­ful OWS pro­test­ers by NYPD of­fi­cers, as well as of­fi­cers at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Davis.

I was cer­tainly not alone. At an OWS photo show at the South Street Sea­port Mu­seum Man­hat­tan in late Jan­uary 2012, sev­eral pho­tog­ra­phers talked about po­lice bru­tal­ity and proved it with their ex­hibits.

The OWS move­ment was protest­ing against so­cial in­equal­ity with the top 1 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion own­ing an in­creas­ing pro­por­tion of the wealth. The outcry, which was largely ig­nored by many main­stream US news me­dia at that time, has in­creas­ingly be­come a con­cern in the US to­day.

Dur­ing a tes­ti­mony on Wed­nes­day by Federal Re­serve chair Janet Yellen, Se­na­tor Bernie San­ders talked about how the top 1 per­cent in the US to­day own about 38 per­cent of the fi­nan­cial wealth of Amer­ica, while the bot­tom 60 per­cent own 2.3 per­cent.

Yellen ex­pressed con­cern over the grow­ing in­equal­ity, adding that she thought it de­served more at­ten­tion from pol­icy mak­ers.

While the OWS move­ment did not suc­ceed in a way as ex­pected, some Amer­i­cans have clearly learned from its ex­pe­ri­ence and the ex­pe­ri­ence of the Arab Spring.

A group called Oper­a­tion Amer­i­can Spring, led by re­tired Col. Harry Ri­ley, is plan­ning to gather mil­lions of people to demon­strate on the Na­tional Mall in Wash­ing­ton on May 16. Their goal is to voice their dis­ap­point­ment at the lead­er­ship and to oust politi­cians they deem cor­rupt, ev­ery­one from Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to House Speaker John Boehner.

So what­ever the fi­nal sen­tenc­ing of McMil­lan is on May 19, his­tory will show that she was not guilty, and the OWS move­ment should also be rec­ti­fied. The au­thor, based in Wash­ing­ton DC, is deputy edi­tor of China Daily USA. Email: chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.

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