Cecily McMillan is taken down the bus steps and falls as she's let go from stairs during the night of her arrest in New York City on March 17, 2012.
When Mashable asked 25-year-old Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan if she felt cheated by the American justice system, she responded while laughing, “abso-f*cking-lutely.”
On Monday, McMillan will be sentenced for assaulting New York police officer Grantley Bovell during a March 17, 2012, Occupy Wall Street anniversary protest at Zuccotti Park. She faces anything from probation to seven years in prison.
McMillan's lawyers said she was willingly leaving the park that day and elbowed the officer only after he grabbed her right breast from behind.
I wonder what #CecilyMcMillan's #myNYPD moment would be. #Justice4Cecily. @BilldeBlasio pic.twitter.com/iC1KXQ2RrU
— Liuba GrechenShirley (@lgrechenshirley) May 6, 2014
The prosecution suggested that McMillan had given herself the bruises pictured on her breast, and a Manhattan jury of eight women and four men unanimously convicted her of felony assault against the police officer. But in an odd turn of events since her conviction, nine of the 12 jurors later wrote a letter to Judge Ronald Zweibel, urging him to forgo imprisoning the activist after learning she could face up to seven years behind bars. A letter-writing campaign to Judge Zweibel spearheaded by The Voice Project and Pussy Riot also encouraged a lenient sentencing for McMillian.
Mashable had a rare opportunity to speak briefly via phone with McMillan as she awaited sentencing at New York's Rikers Island jail. We discussed her personal ideology, standing up for what you believe in and her future beyond prison:
Q: What are you expecting on Monday and what are you prepared for?
A: Two years in prison.
Q: How does that make you feel?
A: Um, I’m not even really sure the word (inaudible) applies to me anymore.
Q: How are you viewing this jail time, do you think it was all worth it?
A: Um, yeah, I mean I feel like your dignity is the only thing that is worth it. I think that the value is in the morals that you set up for yourself are the only things that can’t be taken away – I think they’re the only thing that nobody can take away. You know, jail is just another micro-society. It just happens that here, the problems are far more out in the open, we don’t live with the facades of lies that democracy or capitalism creates for us.
Q: And when you say you’re prepared for two years, are you prepared for seven if it is seven?
A: Oooof, um (laughs), I mean, I guess it doesn’t really matter does it? (Um, oh, there’s a fight) Um, but uh, I mean, I guess I’m prepared to face the consequences of my actions, um, if that means standing up for what I believe in, um, standing up for especially what I consider not a political ideology but a personal ideology, non-violence and honesty, the only two things that allow me to live in such a violent and inhumane world. Without that dignity and without those values, uh, it would be impossible for me to tolerate or deal with the violence of the world around me. So it’s not really choice.
Q: Do you feel cheated by the American justice system?
A: Uh, yes (laughs) abso-f*cking-lutely (laughs). Like, I am so appalled, but it’s also very humbling because everybody that I am in here with, I mean, for them, this isn’t normal, this isn’t expected, they don’t even think about going to trial. Um, what it’s called here is ‘blowing trial’ you ‘blew trial’, there’s not like this idea of your peers – the democratic process that exists is that people blow trial and you don’t go to trial, I mean, I think that I had more justice than almost everybody else here.
Q: Do you ever think there will come a time when you’ll run for political office?
A: No. Absolutely not. I think that there are some people who are very suited for that, um, I myself, uh, prefer to maybe to be the bridge between social movements and political offices, but putting pressure on political office.
Despite facing a potential seven years in prison, McMillan seemed in good spirits. We'll see if all the letters of support had an impact on Judge Zweibel after today's sentencing.