The key witness for the government, Officer Bradley Bovell, was the main focus of attention all week in the Cecily McMillan trial. Since this is a one witness case, his testimony and credibility are critical to the result. This week it also became evident which side of the trial Judge Zweibel is on – he’s almost like having another prosecutor in the room. Throughout the cross-examination the prosecutor objected to defense attorney’s line of questioning, people in the court room say there were scores of objections. The judge ruled for the prosecutor and prevented Stolar from providing any context to what was occurring in Zucotti Park and in the conflict between Cecily McMillan and Bovell. Judge Zweibel is worrisome. In the pre-trial phase he urged Cecily to plea to a felony, telling her if she were found guilty the sentence would be more severe. Now, he is carrying that pro-prosecution attitude into the trial.
The malignancy of mass incarceration did not arise from a sudden epidemic of crime. Nor did it result from people making poor personal choices. Instead it arose from cold political calculations made in response to the massive and heroic struggle for the rights of Black and other minority peoples that took place in the 1960’s and 70’s, and in response to the enormous economic and social changes brought about by globalized production. This cancer of mass incarceration has been, from the beginning, nothing but a new Jim Crow in place of the old one. Like the old Jim Crow, it drew on, fed off and reinforced the deep-seated roots of the racism that grew up with slavery. Like the old Jim Crow, it has been, from the beginning, unjustifiable, utterly immoral and thoroughly illegitimate. This must stop – NOW! Not the next generation, not in ten years, not any time off in some promised future that never seems to come. NOW!
On Friday, opening arguments indicated this is a case of the credibility of two witnesses Office Grantley Bovell and Cecily McMillan. There are two different stories of the incident and no witnesses to confirm either version. A video tape of the incident is so unclear that both sides say it proves their case. McMillan has corroborating evidence for her story, photographs taken by her doctor that show bruises on her body, most importantly bruises showing fingerprints grabbing her right breast. McMillan’s version is that Bovell violently grabbed her breast from behind and she instinctively reacted throwing her elbow around to hit her assailant. Bovell’s version is that Cecily was screaming at a female police officer when he arrived and he went over to escort her out of Zuccotti Park. He will testify, according to the opening argument, that Cecily asked her if the cameras were on, then knelled down, came up quickly and threw her elbow into his face.
he Halifax Media Co-op has acquired a copy of the ‘Tactical Troop Operational Plan’ for the RCMP’s October 17th raid of the anti-shale gas encampment along highway 134 near Rexton, New Brunswick. Aside from being an interesting glimpse into the mentality of police who prepare such raid plans – where portable toilets are considered to be ‘not insurmountable’ fortifications, for example – the operational plan also contains valuable and heretofore unknown information. For example, a working group, led by an ‘Independent Third Party Negotiator’, was engaged in creating an agreement that would have seen SWN, the Houston-based gas company who’s equipment had been blockaded inside a compound since September 29th, be “allowed to remove all their vehicles and equipment from the compound.”
The trial of Cecily McMillan – a prosecution that should not even be taking place – is in recess today and about half way through jury selection. “We are now up to 7 jurors, and we only need 9 more (the jury is 16 people – 12 jurors and 4 alternates). Cecily’s lawyers were able to once again bring up their desire to mention Officer Bovell’s history of violent conduct and gained permission to question him about it, which is really good for us. Just like anyone, there are good police, and there are bad police… and this one is pretty bad.” Bovell’s history is critically important because the prosecution is essentially a one witness case. Cecily’s case has finally gotten some major mainstream media coverage. The New York Times published a fair story that described Cecily as “a labor organizer, was a nanny and a graduate student at the New School when she was arrested. She has said she went to Zuccotti Park that night to meet a friend, not to join the protest.”
Human rights activists are calling on the government to grant amnesty and unconditional freedom to all political prisoners incarcerated because of COINTELPRO, a secret federal law enforcement program that destroyed Black and dissident organizations in the 1960s and 1970s. Men and women who sacrificed their lives so others could enjoy civil liberties and human rights in America are now aging and suffering failing health as they languish in prison, some for 40 years, and many in solitary confinement cells, unfit even for dogs, said their advocates. It is imperative that those they fought for remember and fight for them, said the activists. J. Edgar Hoover, former head of the FBI, began the covert, illegal CounterIntelligence Program in 1956 to destroy militant organizations.
Cecily McMillan, accompanied by approximately 50 supporters, was back in court April 7th for pre-trial motions. Judge Zweibel upheld hisprevious decision on motion 50-4(a), denying access again to Officer Grantley Bovell’s personnel files, on the grounds that this previous history of excessive force and corruption are not relevant to the case at hand. The DA argued that none of these cases were substantiated due to the recommendation from the internal affairs bureau, an arm of the NYPD. Approximately 50 supporters showed up to court this morning. Many were wearing a pink hand over their right breast, signifying solidarity with Cecily, who was sexually assaulted in this exact manner by Officer Bovell the night of M17. Judge Zweibel ordered that these signs of solidarity would be forbidden in the court room, as the claim of sexual assault is “unsubstantiated.”
It’s not just right-wing or military regimes that are leading the assault on hard-fought popular freedoms. In Brazil, the ruling Workers’ Party announced this week that it would send the army into Rio’s favelas to pacify the slums ahead of the World Cup. Ostensibly targeted at violent drug gangs, this pacification scheme has led to a situation in which hundreds of slum dwellers are killed by state troops every year. Under President Rousseff — a former Marxist guerrilla who was tortured and imprisoned by the military dictatorship — state brutality against the “unruly” poor and excluded remains the order of the day. Just last week, Brazilian military police were caught on camera after shooting and killing a 38-year-old mother of four and dragging her lifeless body 200 meters down the street in their police van. It is no coincidence that the intensification of long-standing patterns of state repression appears to be particularly acute in the countries that experienced large-scale street protest in the past three years.
Thousands gathered in the center of Barcelona in an event the organizers dubbed “Disobedience 2014”in protest of government austerity measures. The protesters marched under a large banner saying:“Disobedience 2014. They can’t control us if we disobey. Let’s stop [Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon’s] laws!” The demonstration turned violent when the police moved in to try and stop protesters from reaching Barcelona’s Cataluna Square. Activists tussled with police, while others smashed the windows of banks and financial institutions and set fire to bins. The idea behind the demonstration is to protest austerity and cuts through “acts of mass civil disobedience,” one of the organizers told Spanish newspaper La Nacion. “Through disobedience we will rebel against a system that is dragging us into an abyss and replace it with one that respects people,” said Luis Lopez who was holding a flag representing a Spanish anarchist group.
An informant who secretly recorded conversations helped FBI agents foil a bomb plot where an undercover agent supplied the would-be bridge-bombers with fake plastic explosives, authorities have said. A federal appeals court Friday upheld the sentences of four men in the case, including the addition of extra time because of the terrorism factor. The court also said Akron federal judge David Dowd correctly added time to the sentence of defendant Douglas Wright as the group’s leader. The ruling by a panel of three judges unanimously upheld the 11 ½-year sentence for Wright, of Indianapolis; the more than 9-year sentence of Brandon Baxter, of suburban Cleveland; and the 8-year sentence of Connor Stevens, of Berea. The panel ruled 2-1 to uphold the 6-year sentence of Anthony Hayne, of Cleveland.
Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies, estimates that SWAT teams were deployed about 3,000 times in 1980 but are now used around 50,000 times a year. Some cities use them for routine patrols in high-crime areas. Baltimore and Dallas have used them to break up poker games. In 2010 New Haven, Connecticut sent a SWAT team to a bar suspected of serving under-age drinkers. That same year heavily-armed police raided barber shops around Orlando, Florida; they said they were hunting for guns and drugs but ended up arresting 34 people for “barbering without a licence”. Maricopa County, Arizona sent a SWAT team into the living room of Jesus Llovera, who was suspected of organising cockfights. Police rolled a tank into Mr Llovera’s yard and killed more than 100 of his birds, as well as his dog. According to Mr Kraska, most SWAT deployments are not in response to violent, life-threatening crimes, but to serve drug-related warrants in private homes.
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. Stolar, McMillan’s attorney, calls the judge’s decision “disappointing.” “Internal affairs investigated him and lawsuits were filed,” he says of Bovell. “That’s sufficient allegations that tell me something is going on, and that he did get some internal discipline on some of them. The judge basically says that unless you can make a showing that there’s something in the file that shows your client is innocent, you can’t have the file.”
Mr. Olsen had only been at the demonstration for a matter of minutes before OPD commanders gave the order to use munitions on the assembled crowd. He was shot 18 seconds later. Lederman explained, “The commanders knew the teargas and flashbangs would cause people to panic and run, yet they elected to shoot SIM into the densely packed crowd and it is only a matter of luck that more people weren’t injured as severely as Scott Olsen or killed. If the police had done sufficient planning for the demonstration and followed their own Crowd Control Policy, the use of weapons could have entirely been avoided. After all, no other Bay Area city responded to Occupy with SIM or teargas and no other city has incurred the enormous costs that the people of Oakland have as a result.” “The cost is not only money,” added Olsen. “If people can’t speak out without fear of being shot we don’t really have democracy.”
After spending hours in a Montréal police kettle on late winter afternoon, your heartbeat is quick and your mind is racing, full of reflections on the inherent institutional violence of the police. Taking the streets today for the annual protest against police brutality was an obvious and necessary choice. Over recent months Montréal has seen a growing wave of police killings that target the most vulnerable in society. Transmitting the tragedy involved in these police killings, for the ones lost, their loved ones and community is impossible to convey with one protest, or in these simple words. Until today there is no justice for all those killed by Montréal police, no serious legal process or public accounting on this horrifying wave of police killings in our city.