Occupy activist exposes Riker’s Island

New York — Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan was released from the Riker’s Island Correctional Facility on July 2. McMillan had been sentenced to 90 days in jail this spring after being convicted of assaulting Grantley Bovell, a New York Police Department officer.

McMillan and her supporters say Bovell sexually assaulted her and that her response was a startled reaction. At the trial, key evidence was suppressed. Prior to her sentencing, nine of the 12 jurors wrote a letter to the judge requesting she not be jailed. McMillan was also sentenced to five years on probation.

McMillan spoke to the press in a Queens parking lot near the bridge that leads to the New York City correctional facility on Riker’s Island. She described how early that morning she had been awakened at 4 a.m., taken from her cell and placed in a car with tinted windows. She was then dumped on a corner in Long Island City, with only a small package containing her belongings and a Metro card for a subway or bus ride.

“I had no idea where I was,” she said. This is the common manner in which prisoners are released from the Riker’s Island facility. In her statement to the press, McMillan described the conditions within the Rose M. Singer Center, a facility on the island for female prisoners. She described how her cellmates at first did not trust her, but she gradually gained their respect.

One of her cellmates, a Latina she called “Judith,” died after the authorities denied her medical care. McMillan described how she and her cellmates loudly demanded Judith be taken to the infirmary, but the guards refused, even though she was covered in blood.

McMillan described how the drug treatment programs at Riker’s Island are ineffective. Rather than offering actual treatment, they simply provide religious indoctrination. She also raised the fact that guards rarely follow the rules laid out by the Department of Corrections and often brutalize and mistreat the inmates. McMillan was singled out for harsh treatment due to her status as a political prisoner. Much of her mail was not delivered, while her visitors were harassed.

McMillan is still in the process of appealing her conviction and said that sending her to jail was part of an effort by “millionaires and billionaires” to suppress the Occupy Wall Street movement.

She still faces criminal charges related to an incident in which she confronted NYPD officers in Manhattan’s Union Square subway station. Her supporters fear she may be jailed once again in the next few months.

She says that while she remains in New York City, she will be working with Copwatch, a community organization that monitors police brutality in the Bronx and other parts of New York City where it is rampant.

McMillan is committed to continuing her activism, but is hoping to relocate to Georgia, where her political work with the Democratic Socialists of America began. She said her life will be much more difficult because she is a convicted felon and “society has labelled me a criminal.”