In Occupy Activist Cecily McMillan's Trial, Judge Rules NYPD Doesn't Have to Hand Over Officer's Disciplinary File

Image via Facebook
In two weeks, the last trial of an Occupy Wall Street activist will begin, when 25-year-old Cecily McMillan faces charges that she assaulted a police officer, Grantley Bovell, on March 17, 2012, during a 6-month anniversary demonstration at Zuccotti Park. In a decision issued yesterday, State Supreme Court Judge Ronald A. Zweibel decided that the information contained in Bovell's internal disciplinary file isn't relevant to the case and that the defense can't see any part of it. But McMillan's lawyer argues that this officer has assaulted and falsely arrested people before, and that the file can help them prove it.

McMillan's lawyer and her supporters say Officer Bovell was the one who assaulted her, grabbing her by the breast from behind and dragging her backwards. When she threw up her arms in an instinctive defensive gesture, they say, she hit the officer's temple. In response, Bovell and other officers beat her severely, causing her to suffer a series of seizures. (A few days later, a shaken-looking McMillan appeared on Democracy Now to describe the incident.) But the NYPD argues in their court filings that McMillan deliberately elbowed Bovell in the face while he was arresting someone else. McMillan was charged with assault on an officer, a felony that carries a maximum of seven years in prison.

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Brown University Committee Releases Report on Ray Kelly Heckling Incident

Screenshot via Brown Daily Herald
Students protest before Kelly's lecture-attempt.
It's been a full four months since then-Police Commissioner Ray Kelly headed to Brown University to deliver a lecture on "proactive policing," and instead was driven from the stage by student hecklers displeased with his policies on stop-and-frisk. Kelly has since moved on, working as a "distinguished visiting fellow" at the Council on Foreign Relations and, soon, as a special adviser to Governor Andrew Cuomo's planned new school on homeland security and emergency preparedness.

But Brown University, in the grand liberal arts tradition of discussing every single thing to death and beyond, is still parsing the meaning of the Ray Kelly Heckling Incident, even appointing a ten-person committee to explore what happened that afternoon. Last week, the committee released the first half of a two-part report, which outlines everything that happened from the moment the lecture was announced to the time Kelly touched down in his NYPD-funded helicopter to speak.

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New York City Will Pay $18 Million Settlement for Unlawfully Arresting Protesters at 2004 Republican National Convention

Screenshot via NYCLU
A police officer directs protesters during the August 31, 2004 RNC march.
This is big: the New York Civil Liberties Union announced today that the city has agreed to pay an $18 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by the NYCLU after hundreds of protesters and journalists were arrested here during a single protest during the 2004 Republican National Convention. In addition to bringing an end to a ten-year lawsuit, this is a big deal for another reason: it's the largest settlement paid in connection with a civil rights protest in U.S. history.

"No lawful protester should ever be treated like a criminal in New York City, or anywhere else in the United States," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman in a statement announcing the settlement. "This historic settlement must serve as a reminder to New York City and government across the country that the right to protest is a fundamental pillar of a fair and functioning democracy. And it is the role of government and law enforcement to not only tolerate protest, but protect and defend it."

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Charges Reduced Against Reverend Billy and Choir Director For Toad Hat-Wearing Chase Bank Protest

Photo by Kim Fraczek; image via Facebook.
Reverend Billy (white coat, Elvis hair) and Luckett (blue shirt) at a press conference with liberty-loving puppets after this morning's hearing.
In September, longtime New York activist Reverend Billy and his Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, led by choir director Nehemiah Luckett, went into a Chase Bank in midtown and made a little music. The two led a choir of eight in a musical protest against mountaintop removal, a controversial form of coal-mining that Chase helps finance. The choir sang a song, then Reverend Billy preached a sermon on Chase's fondness for fossil fuel investments. The whole thing lasted about 15 minutes, according to the choir, who had donned fetching yellow toad hats during the performance.

For their trouble, as we told you at the time, Luckett and Reverend Billy (real name William Talen) were charged with rioting in the second degree, menacing in the third degree, unlawful assembly, and two counts of disorderly conduct. The rioting and the menacing both carried a possible punishment of one year in prison. But in a hearing in Manhattan Criminal Court Monday morning, those charges were greatly reduced. According to the Manhattan District Attorney's office, the prosecution reviewed the footage and decided that the whole thing looked more like a musical protest than a riot.

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City College Lifts Suspensions Against Two Student Protesters, But Criminal Charges Still Stand

Categories: CUNY, Protestors

Image via Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee
Khalil Vasquez, left, and Tafadar Sourov
There's been a weeks-long battle between City College of New York's (CCNY) administration and student protesters angry over the closure of the Morales-Shakur Center, a hub for left-leaning campus political activity. That battle cooled down slightly on November 22, when an attorney for two suspended students negotiated their return to campus for the spring semester. They are, however, still facing a battery of criminal charges that could land them in prison for up to a year.

Tafadar Sourov, 19, and Khalil Vasquez, 22, were suspended and barred from campus in late October, after participating in a rowdy protest in which two people were arrested. Campus police say the crowd damaged a door while trying to get into the North Academic Center (NAC), where the Morales-Shakur center used to be, and a police corporal reported that Sourov shoved her to the ground while inciting the other students to rush into the center.

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Street Preacher Reverend Billy and Choir Director Charged With Rioting After Toad-Hat-Wearing Protest in a Chase Bank

Photo by Eric McGregor. Image via Facebook.
Reverend Billy and the choir mid-protest. Nehemiah Luckett is at left in the yellow shirt.
Two New York activists are facing a battery of misdemeanor charges, including rioting, for a fifteen-minute musical protest they staged at a Chase Bank in Midtown last month. They were wearing toad hats at the time.

For more than a decade, Reverend Billy and his Stop Shopping Gospel Choir were mostly concerned with, you know, shopping, wading into Macy's and Victoria's Secret and the Times Square Toys R Us to stage mock-religious revivals against consumerism. In recent years, the choir's activism has focused less on individual greed than on the corporate kind, with a special focus on business practices that ruin the environment.

"The shopping that matters most now is dirty coal, mountaintop removal, fracking and tar sands," Reverend Billy writes on the group's Facebook page. And for the past four years, the choir has also been staging protests at banks around the city, saying they're partly responsible for ruining the planet, particularly banks who finance that mountaintop removal, a controversial form of coal-mining.

As you can imagine, Reverend Billy gets arrested a lot.

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Two CCNY Students Suspended as Third Protest Over Closure of Morales-Shakur Center Begins [Updated]

Categories: CUNY, Protestors

Photo by CCNY student Aber Kawas
CCNY students protest outside a campus administrative building.

Update, 4:00 p.m.: It appears that CCNY's North Academic Center (NAC) has once again been placed on lockdown, with students unable to enter or leave. Protest group Liberate CUNY Front claims a student was roughed up and arrested by campus police as he tried to leave the building. More information as we have it.

Update, 5:01 p.m.: Liberate CUNY now says the student was not arrested, but detained, cited, and released. CCNY officials have not yet confirmed or denied the detainment. This video has quickly made the rounds; it appears to show campus police carrying a handcuffed man out of the NAC, into another building, and down an escalator.

On Twitter, CCNY responded directly to Liberate CUNY, denying that the lockdown had taken place: "CCNY, including NAC, have been open all day today." But other students tweeted about having to have class outside, only being able to get onto the campus through its Convent Avenue entrance, because the others were closed off, and one posted this photo, of barricades and police officers in front of several campus buildings.

Original item: Looks like the battle between the City College of New York administration and student protesters over the closure of the Guillermo Morales-Assata Shakur Center is still heating up. This morning, two students involved with the protests were abruptly suspended, just before a planned third demonstration on the lawn of an administrative building.

The MSCC, as the students refer to it, was a hub of campus political activity; it was converted into the "Careers and Professional Development Institute" on Sunday, October 22, with no warning given to the student body beforehand. The school has defended that decision, saying the room was simply "reallocated" to "provide additional services to students seeking assistance in transitioning from college to the workplace."

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State Senator Brad Hoylman and 16 Other HIV/AIDS Protesters Arrested During Last Night's March for a "Robin Hood" Tax on Wall Street

Photo by Stephen Benavides
After a relatively peaceful opening march yesterday, Occupy Wall Street's second anniversary got slightly rowdier, as State Senator Brad Hoylman and 16 HIV/AIDS activists took part in a planned arrest near the U.N. building on 47th and 2nd. The demonstrators blocked rush-hour traffic and held a banner reading "End AIDS With A Robin Hood Tax."

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Protesters From New York and D.C. Were Bused In to Support Texas' Anti-Abortion Bills

As you've no doubt heard by now, a set of draconian anti-abortion measures have been winding their way through the Texas Legislature for the past couple weeks. (Last week we explained why you, sitting here in New York, should give a shit about that.) If they pass (and oh, they will), the twin bills in the state legislature would dramatically curtail abortion access, shutting down most of the clinics in the state.

As the bills continue to get more and more national attention, the protests outside the Capitol building have become, in technical terms, a complete shitshow.

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Workers Swarm 42nd Street and Picket Across the City For Liveable Wages and Better Treatment

Jason Lewis/ Village Voice
Workers and supporters pack 42nd Street in Times Square.
Hard-hats and picket-signs flooded 42nd Street yesterday evening as thousands of workers and social activists from around the city gathered in solidarity to fight for better working conditions.

The demonstration came on the heels of last week's Fast-Food Forward protest -- where employees at different fast-food establishments across the city walked off of the job in order to demand higher wages, benefits and the right to unionize.

Fast-food strikers joined forces yesterday with other fed-up workers -- in health-care, construction, security, service industries and other marginalized sectors -- in order to let the rest of the city know that their plight will no longer be ignored.

"Like you fast-food workers, I make $8/hour, no benefits [and] no sick days. Like you Wal-Mart workers, we JFK Airport security officers are fed up too," Prince Jackson, an employee of airport security company Air Serve, told the crowd. "We're here today united because we are faced with the same challenge: 'how do we make our country [and] our economy work for working people?"

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