Tag Archives: occupy wall street

Rolling Jubilee Abolishes Nearly Four Million Dollars of Student Debt, Launches New Debt Collective

Rolling Jubilee Abolishes Nearly Four Million Dollars of Student Debt, Launches New Debt Collective

[NEW YORK, NY]  On the third anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Rolling Jubilee has, for the first time ever, bought and abolished student debt: $3,856,866.11 of student debt owed by 2,761 people across the United States.

With the aim of building a broad-based debt resistance movement, the Rolling Jubilee relieves debtors by buying debt for pennies on the dollar. The project highlights the injustice of having to go into debt for things that should be publicly provided, like healthcare and education. This is the fourth announcement by the Rolling Jubilee, which has abolished over $15 million of medical bills for thousands of people across the United States since the campaign was launched and went viral in November of 2012.

While medical debt is widely available to debt collectors on secondary markets, most student debt is not, because it is guaranteed by the federal government. The debt purchased by the Rolling Jubilee is private debt from Everest College, which is part of Corinthian Colleges, Inc., a nationwide system of for-profit colleges that receives approximately 90% of its funding from federal student loans. Corinthian has been subject to numerous investigations by state and federal authorities for fraud. The company is on the verge of collapse and the Department of Education is aiding Corinthian in its quest to find a buyer for its over one hundred campuses and online operations. Strike Debt member Luke Herrine explains: “The Department of Education needs to stop acting as a debt collector for a predatory lender, and start discharging the debt of these students. It is fully within its statutory powers to do so.”

“Debt is the tie that binds the 99%, whether you are a student delinquent on your student loans or a parent struggling to pay healthcare bills,” says Strike Debt member Ann Larson. “Being forced into debt for basic social services is a systemic problem and the only solution is to respond collectively to create a new, equitable economy.”

To that end, this announcement also marks the launch of The Debt Collective (debtcollective.org), which will create a platform for organization, advocacy, and resistance by debtors. “Just as the labor movement demands jobs, higher pay, a safe work environment, and time off, The Debt Collective will challenge the 1% creditor class by empowering members to renegotiate, resist, and refuse unfair debts while advocating for real solutions including free education and universal health care,” says Thomas Gokey, a Debt Collective organizer. “Alone, our debts overwhelm us. Together, they make us powerful,” says member Laura Hanna. “We invite everyone to join us at debtcollective.org and become a part of this unprecedented effort to unite debtors. You are not a loan.”

Strike Debt/Rolling Jubilee/Debt Collective organizers are available for interview, as well as current and former Everest students.

For more information visit http://strikedebt.org, http://rollingjubilee.org, and http://debtcollective.org

Cecily McMillan Sentenced to 90 Days in Jail & 5 years Probation: Official Statement from Cecily’s Support Committee

Cecily McMillan Sentenced to 90 Days in Jail & 5 years Probation: Official Statement from Cecily’s Support Committee

[NEW YORK, NY]  After years of awaiting trial Cecily McMillan was sentenced this morning to a term of incarceration of 90 days on New York’s Rikers Island and a probationary term of 5 years for allegations that she assaulted NYPD officer Grantley Bovel. Posted below is the official statement of her support team.

Today, Cecily Mcmillan was sentenced to 90 days in prison for being sexually assaulted by a police officer at a protest, and then responding to that violence by defending herself. We all know that Cecily did not receive a fair trial and this case will be fought in the Court of Appeals.

The sentencing of Cecily McMillan has elicited an array of deeply felt responses from a broad range of individuals and communities, and it has also created a moment to think about what solidarity means. For many of us who consider ourselves to be part of the Occupy movement, there’s first and foremost a simple and deep sadness for a member of our community who has endured a painful and demeaning physical and sexual assault, and now has had her freedom taken away from her. And it’s painfully clear to us that Cecily’s case is not special. Sexual violence against women is disturbingly common, and there is a tremendous amount of over-policing and prosecutorial overreach by the police and the courts, enacted predominantly upon black and brown populations every single day, generation after generation.

On a broader level, there’s been a tremendous outpouring of public support in the wake of the verdict, for which Cecily and the team are truly grateful. We’re heartened, too, by the outrage this blatant, heavy-handed attempt to quash dissent has elicited from the public at large. The message this verdict sends is clear: What Cecily continues to endure can happen to any woman who dares to challenge the corporate state, its Wall Street patrons, and their heavy handed enforcers, the NYPD. We certainly think outrage is an appropriate response from economic and social justice activists and allies who are concerned about the silencing of those who push for change. The DA and the courts want to make an example out of Cecily—to deter us, to scare us, to keep us out of the streets. And we won’t let that happen. This ruling will not deter us, it will strengthen our resolve.

At the same time we recognize that outrage is a blunt tool that can too often obscure important distinctions. Cecily’s story represents a confluence of a number of different kinds of structural and institutional oppression that impact different communities in different ways. Expressions of shock at the mistreatment and denial of justice for Cecily—a white-appearing, cisgendered graduate student—only underline how rarely we’re proven wrong in our presumptions that common privileges of race, class and gender-normativity will be fulfilled.

It’s no great secret that police brutality and intimidation and railroading in the court system are an all-too-predictable part of life for many low-income black and brown people, immigrants, and gender nonconforming New Yorkers—the vast majority of whom receive far less than Cecily in the way of legal support and media attention. And while we’re furious that, in the wake of a violent sexual assault, Cecily might now be subject to the institutionalized sexual violence of the prison system, it’s only on top of our horror at the gross injustice that countless people with significantly less recourse experience daily at the hands of that same system.

While we believe Cecily’s story can provide a rallying point around which others may challenge police sexual violence and the brutal suppression of dissent, we recognize that, at best, Cecily is an awkward symbol for the broader issues of police brutality and a broken, biased legal system. This awkwardness is but one example of many awkward scenarios regarding race and privilege that played out in Occupy communities since the original occupation of Zuccotti Park. As a movement, we see in this moment a chance not to push past, but to sit with that awkwardness—to start to reach out in ways that at times may be uncomfortable and to further stretch our boundaries. To learn from communities who’ve been in this struggle long before Occupy existed: From feminist organizations who resist patriarchal domination and combat sexual violence, to anti-racist organizations who, in their struggle for justice, have been met every step of the way by a violent police force and a legal system committed to silencing dissent.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has been a catalyst for social and economic change. But, while we claim to be “the 99%”, building a movement that truly represents the diversity and strength of the people will require a principled approach in our activism centered around a love ethic. Bell hooks describes the love ethic in All About Love as:

“The will to one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Love is as love does, Love is an act of will—namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”

To build solidarity, it’s not enough to simply be a slogan or a meme—Slavoj Zizek told us during the encampment to “not fall in love with ourselves”. Solidarity means listening and extending ourselves when oppressed communities ask—not to try to lead, but to get our hands dirty and do the work. Building solidarity across the 99% is the only way to effectively fight the 1%, and to create genuine change. Though Zuccotti Park changed us forever, the true work began when we went back out into the world.

Many of us are now are working in communities, figuring out how to most effectively demand justice for the 99%—from copwatch, to tenant councils that combat high rents and poor living conditions, to helping build community gardens. As we continue building support networks in our new communities, for the people who still interact with one another in the movement, we are more than friends now—we are family. We’re connected because we see in each other the strength to overcome struggles we couldn’t possibly win on our own.

A member of our support team went to Rikers Island yesterday to visit Cecily and she spoke of her experiences in prison:

“I am very conscious of how privileged I am, especially in here. When you are in prison white privilege works against you. You tend to react when you come out of white privilege by saying “you can’t do that” when prison authorities force you to do something arbitrary and meaningless. But the poor understand that’s the system. They know it is absurd, capricious and senseless, that it is all about being forced to pay deference to power. If you react out of white privilege it sets you apart. I have learned to respond as a collective, to speak to authority in a unified voice. And this has been good for me. I needed this.”

“We can talk about movement theory all we want,” she went on. “We can read Michel Foucault or Pierre Bourdieu, but at a certain point it becomes a game. You have to get out and live it. You have to actually build a movement. And if we don’t get to work to build a movement now there will be no one studying movement theory in a decade because there will be no movements. I can do this in prison. I can do this out of prison. It is all one struggle.”

As Cecily continues the struggle in prison, we will continue outside. We show that we are a family not just by words, but by our actions. Paulo Freire states in Pedagogy of the Oppressed that praxis is the “reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it. Through praxis, oppressed people can acquire a critical awareness of their own condition, and, with their allies, struggle for liberation.”

Through praxis, we learn again and again that all of our grievances are connected. Our struggles are not the same. But our fates are tied up in each others. Solidarity is the only way we’ll see our way through.

To stay involved and help Cecily while she is in prison, please go to www.justiceforcecily.com for more details.

Cecily McMillan Found Guilty, Immediately Remanded Into Custody: Support Group Issues Statement to the Press

Cecily McMillan Found Guilty, Immediately Remanded Into Custody: Support Group Issues Statement to the Press

[NEW YORK, NY]  At 2pm EST Occupy Wall Street Activist Cecily McMillan was convicted and immediately remanded into custody by Judge Zweibel of the New York Superior Court, a sentencing hearing is tentatively scheduled for May 19, 2014. The following is the official statement from Cecily McMillan’s support committee »

Beyond Judge Zweibel, it is disgusting to see vast resources from taxpayers wasted for over two years to prosecute Cecily. Manhattan DA Cy Vance has refused to drop this case, pursuing maximum charges against Cecily while ignoring police violence and misconduct. This is unfortunately not isolated to Cecily’s case but is indicative of a system concerned not with justice but with the unrelenting harassment of dissenters and the powerless.”We are devastated by the Jury’s verdict today. It has been clear from day one that Cecily has not received a fair and open trial. The job of a judge during a jury trial isn’t to guide the verdict to fit his opinion. Judge Zweibel, who consistently suppressed evidence, has demonstrated his clear bias by consistently siding with the prosecution. In addition to suppressing evidence, he imposed a gag order on Cecily’s lawyers, which is a clear violation of their 1st Amendment Rights, and placed the burden of proof on the defense, not the prosecution. He is rightly known as ‘a prosecutor in robes’.

In the two years awaiting trial, Cecily was never offered anything less than a felony charge, a charge that would stay with her for the rest of her life. While awaiting a trial, Cecily has lived in limbo for two years, not knowing what her future would be, forced to re-live her trauma every one of those days. Beyond the sexual assault and physical injuries she sustained, Cecily suffered PTSD and has had difficulty finishing her master’s degree and continuing her work as a union organizer and activist.

Despite the chilling precedent this verdict puts forth for activists, we will not be deterred from seeking social and economic justice, as evidenced in the courtroom today. Though we’ve held our tongues throughout this trial as Cecily was personally attacked and degraded, we could not stand silent today in the face of such a gross miscarriage of justice. The people had to speak truth to power today by standing up and will continue to do so as long as this justice system continues to punish the 99% and protect the 1%.

As journalist Chris Hedges said in a recent article, “The corporate state, which has proved utterly incapable of addressing the grievances and injustices endured by the underclass, is extremely nervous about the mass movements that have swept the country in recent years. And if protests erupt again—as I think they will—the state hopes it will have neutralized much of the potential leadership. Being an activist in peaceful mass protest is the only real “crime” McMillan has committed.”

We recognize that, as poorly as Cecily has been treated these past two years, she was lucky enough to have an amazing support system comprised of representation from the National Lawyer’s Guild and Mutant Legal, as well as significant financial help from supporters of Occupy Wall Street and a team of ten who tirelessly worked to bring her case to light and support her through this trying time. It’s harrowing to imagine how many unfortunate people encounter this system without the resources Cecily had, though we know countless innocent people are forced to plea to felonies and ruin their lives every day in this building.

We will be fighting this unjust verdict in the court of appeals. Cecily’s lawyers are optimistic, given the circumstances of the case and the gross bias demonstrated throughout, that we can win on appeal. Thank you all for your ongoing support throughout this trial. We know that many share our outrage at this verdict, if you would like to get involved in jail support, please visitjusticeforcecily.com to learn more about how to best support Cecily.

Trial Resumes Monday for Occupy Activist Cecily McMillan: Faces 7yrs in Prison After Beating by NYPD Left Her Unconscious

Trial Resumes Monday for Occupy Activist Cecily McMillan: Faces 7yrs in Prison After Beating by NYPD Left Her Unconscious

[NEW YORK, NY]  After two years of delays, trial will begin for Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan.  Set for this Monday, April 7th at 9:30am at 100 Centre St Room 1116 Part 41, Cecily’s case marks the last ongoing Occupy trial.  On March 17th, 2012 Cecily was sexually assaulted by a plainclothes NYPD officer and then beaten unconscious by police when she attempted to leave a gathering marking the 6 month anniversary of the inception of Occupy Wall Street.  In the wake of this attack she endured, Cecily faces a charge of 2nd degree assault on a police officer.

The heavy-hand of Cecily’s prosecuting attorney has led some activists to speculate that her political organizing within Occupy Wall Street plays a role in the prosecutor’s unwavering position. Others attribute the city’s stance to an unwillingness to admit guilt in the grotesque display of police misconduct on the night of Cecily’s arrest. Cecily’s firm commitment to nonviolence makes these charges even more absurd.

A chilling tone has already been set by Judge Zweibel, who refused to grant a pretrial motion filed by Cecily’s attorney Martin Stolar seeking to open the personnel file of Cecily’s arresting officer.  Officer Bovell’s file (if admitted by the court) shows a pattern of reckless behavior and aversion to conduct becoming to his uniform.  Judge Zweibel’s interpretation is that Bovell’s history, albeit checkered, is ‘irrelevant’ to Cecily’s case and subsequently Judge Zweibel is setting a troubling precedent for all activists and victims of police brutality. Marty Stolar submitted a second argument of the motion, calling Zweibel’s decision too narrow.

Supporters of McMillian are calling on activists and friends to #PackTheCourts and serve as witnesses each day of the proceeding. Supporters will be gathering before court April 7th with free breakfast provided by the Cargo Bike Collective and Occupy Guitarmy starting at 8am and a press conference with Cecily’s attorney Marty Stolar at 9am.

COURT SCHEDULE:
Room 1116, Part 41 @ 100 Centre St.
(All Sessions from 9:30am-4:30pm)
PRESS CONFERENCE AT 9AM EST 4/7*

You can stay up to date with Cecily’s support by texting  ”@CecilysTrial” to 23559, or by visiting http://JusticeForCecily.com, updates are also regularly posted via Facebook HERE.

According to the National Lawyers Guild, McMillan’s case is one of the last court cases stemming from Occupy Wall Street remaining on the docket.  It may also be one of the most consequential.

More information on how to support Cecily McMillan can be found HERE. Journalists who would like to obtain comment from McMillian or her legal team can contact Stan Williams at 256-323-1109 or via email at t4swillia3@gmail.com as well as Lucy Parks at 540-810-5531 or via email at wegrewuptwofast@gmail.com Members of Cecily’s support team, including her attorney Marty Stolar can be reached at the following: Lauren Wilfong at lmw337@nyu.edu & 413.207.4207, Drew Mitchell at drew.mitchell@fandm.edu & 203.722.1524 and Attorney Marty Stolar mrslaw37@hotmail.com & 917.225.4596

Trial Begins for Occupy Wall Street’s Cecily McMillan: Activist Faces 7yrs in Prison After Beating by NYPD Left Her Unconscious

Trial Begins for Occupy Wall Street’s Cecily McMillan: Activist Faces 7yrs in Prison After Beating by NYPD Left Her Unconscious

[NEW YORK, NY]  Trial began in Manhattan Criminal Court Monday for Occupy Wall Street activist, Cecily McMillan, who faces 2nd degree assault charges stemming from a 2012 encounter with the NYPD that left her beaten and unconscious.  Trial has been postponed until March 3rd due to the introduction of illuminating new evidence.  McMillan was brutally arrested on the evening of March 17, 2012 at an event marking the 6-month anniversary of the group’s occupation of Zuccotti Park. The series of events leading up McMillan’s beating was documented extensively by the press, and began with a plainclothes male NYPD officer forcibly grabbing her right breast. McMillan was 23 years old at the time.

McMillan, over the course of her arrest, sustained a violent beating resulting in bruised ribs, a seizure, and myriad cuts and bruises across her body. McMillan was hospitalized for these injuries.

McMillan was later charged with felony assault of a police officer, Assault 2nd degree, a Class D felony in NY, which carries that sentence of up to 7 years in prison. Prosecutors, upon approaching trial, have indicated that they will ask the judge for a maximum sentence of 7 years. Many activists speculate that McMillan’s work as a political organizer has played a role in the prosecutor’s unwavering position. Others attribute the city’s stance to an unwillingness to admit guilt in the grotesque display of police misconduct on the night of McMillan’s arrest.

cecily arrest

Supporters of McMillian are calling on activists and friends to fill the courtroom to witness each day of the proceeding.
*

COURT SCHEDULE
Room 1333, Part 31 @ 100 Centre St. (All Sessions from 9:30am-4:30pm)

Trial resumes on MARCH 3, 2014
*
You can stay up to date with Cecily’s support by texting  “@CecilysTrial” to 23559, or by visiting http://Justice4Cecily.com, updates are also regularly posted via Facebook HERE.
*

Cecily McMillan had her first day in court on Monday, after nearly two years of delays. On March 17, 2012 Cecily was attacked from behind by a police officer, and brutally beaten by several officers on duty at Zuccotti Park. An out-of-uniform police officer grabbed her right breast from behind, and Cecily instinctually raised her arm, making contact with the officer. She was thrown to the ground by the officer and then suffered blows from several other police officers nearby; following the attack, Cecily went into a series of seizures.

The District Attorney is looking to discredit Cecily’s account of the night through questioning the veracity of her medical conditions, in spite of video and eyewitness accounts supporting the seriousness of her injuries. The prosecution is also trying to depict this as an isolated event – not connected to mass-arrests and grotesque police brutality exhibited by the NYPD throughout the night.

Per the testimony of the officer in charge of Cecily’s arrest, the police detail assigned to Zuccotti Park night were informed in advance that the end-goal was to “clear out the park.”

Contrary to the prosecutor’s assertion that there was no context for Cecily’s arrest, there was a obvious goal of violent mass-arrests: 72 others were arrested that night and many more were man-handled by the NYPD.

During a break between some of the pre-trial motions, McMillan’s lawyer Marty Stolar said, “I believe 100% that we will win, because absolutely no crime was committed.”

Interview w/ Cecily McMillan’s attorney, Martin Stolar | Courtesy of Jeffrey Durkin

“The main issue here,” says Martin R. Stolar, McMillan’s attorney, “is the heavy-handed, over-policing by the NYPD during the Occupy Wall Street protests, which lead to crimes where none existed.  It was a normal reaction for a woman to react, to be startled after having her right breast grabbed.”  Rebecca Heinegg will be co-counsel with Stolar at trial.

According to the National Lawyers Guild, McMillan’s case is one of the last court cases stemming from Occupy Wall Street remaining on the docket.  It may also be one of the most consequential.

More information on how to support Cecily McMillan can be found HERE. Journalists who would like to obtain comment from McMillian or her legal team can contact Stan Williams at 256-323-1109 or via email at t4swillia3@gmail.com as well as Lucy Parks at 540-810-5531 or via email at wegrewuptwofast@gmail.com