May 5, 2014

This whole thing really sucks. It's obvious that the Powers That Be intend to intimidate protesters. Why else is she being held without bail?

So let's go over the rules, boys and girls. Civilians are held as fully intentional of assault when they hit back in a reflex motion while being assaulted, but an experienced police officer who involuntarily shoots and kills someone for no reason simply can't be held responsible for human instincts overriding his training. Clear now?

An Occupy Wall Street activist is facing up to seven years in prison after being convicted by a jury in Manhattan of assaulting a New York police officer as he led her out of a protest.

Cecily McMillan was on Monday afternoon found guilty of deliberately elbowing Officer Grantley Bovell in the face in March 2012. After a trial lasting more than four weeks, the jury of eight women and four men reached their verdict in about three hours.

Judge Ronald Zweibel ordered that McMillan, 25, a graduate student at the New School, be detained. He rejected a request from her lawyers for bail.

“I see absolutely no reason why a remand would be appropriate here,” Martin Stolar, her lead attorney, told the judge. “She is not likely to be somebody to cut and run.” Zweibel replied: “Remanded pending sentencing.”

Supporters of McMillan in the courtroom reacted furiously, shouting “shame” and screaming at the more than 30 police officers lining room 1116 at Manhattan criminal court. After half a dozen refused to leave the court, two were carried out by police officers.

Wearing a white dress and a beige jacket, McMillan sat still and silent as the verdict was read on her charge of second-degree assault, a felony. McMillan was placed in handcuffs by police and led out of the courtroom as supporters went on shouting. “Corruption is the fuel, the court is the tool,” one chanted. Sentencing was scheduled for 19 May. Her lawyers said she was being taken to the women’s facility at the Riker’s Island jail.

Speaking outside, Stolar described the verdict as “a terrible mistake” and criticised Zweibel's decision to detain McMillan, a first-time convict, before sentencing. “She never missed a court appearance, she has always been here, and is fully cognisant of what the consequences of a guilty verdict are,” he said.

Claiming that Zweibel had made “numerous errors” during the trial, Stolar said: “Those will be the subject of an appeal. We have optimistic thoughts about what an appeal might do, such as send it back for a new trial.”

McMillan was found guilty of intentionally assaulting Bovell in order to “prevent him from performing his lawful duty”. Her conviction is the most serious of the dozens against members of the protest movement, which sprang up in the autumn of 2011. Hers is believed to be the last of more than 2,600 prosecutions brought against members of the movement, most of which were dismissed or dropped.

Prosecutors accused McMillan of attacking Bovell, 35, as he walked her out of Zuccotti Park, in lower Manhattan, where activists had gathered on the night of 17 March 2012 to mark six months of the Occupy movement. Bovell had found her screaming at a female officer, who had asked her to leave the park so that it could be cleaned, prosecutors said.

Assistant district attorney Erin Choi told the court last month that Bovell was walking behind McMillan with his hand on her shoulder. McMillan asked people around her “Are you filming this?”, said Choi, and then “crouched down, then bent her knees, and then aimed her elbow at the officer and then jumped up to strike”.

“Officer Bovell was completely horrified,” said Choi. “This was the last thing he was expecting to happen that day.” Photographs showed that Bovell suffered a black eye. He said that he went on to experience headaches and sensitivity to light.

Prosecutors showed the jury grainy video clips of the incident, downloaded from YouTube, which they said proved McMillan deliberately struck Bovell before attempting to run away. Less than two hours into their deliberations, the jury asked if they could re-watch the video footage. They were given a laptop on which to view it in the jury room.

Stolar, who argued in court that the clips were not clear enough to prove anything, told the Guardian that he thought they were responsible for the conviction. “I think that is the only piece of evidence that a jury could hang its hat on,” he said. “On a quick glance without analysis, it looks like an assault. But it does not show what happened to Cecily.”

McMillan claimed that she swung her arm back instinctively only after having one of her breasts grabbed from behind while she was walking out of the park. Her lawyers showed photographs of bruising to her chest to support this. They said McMillan did not know that Bovell was a police officer, and did not intend to hurt him.

Stolar told the jury that on a “day off from protest”, McMillan became caught up in the chaotic scenes at Zuccotti Park, after she stopped by to collect a friend to continue St Patrick's Day celebrations with a friend visiting from out of town, which saw her dressed in bright green.

Testifying, McMillan said that she had “no memory” of the moment her elbow struck Bovell. “I’m really sorry that officer got hurt,” she said. She has said that she suffered a seizure or anxiety attack after being arrested, a claim supported by activists who say they saw her convulsing on the pavement, and subsequently received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

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