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Occupy activist found guilty of assault after NYPD officer grabs her breast during arrest

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The centre of the Occupy movement, which kicked off in the fall of 2011, was its birthplace at Zuccotti Park in New York City.

The park was often a flashpoint between demonstrators and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) as they played a cat-and-mouse game of occupations and evictions.

Zuccotti Park, which is two blocks north of iconic Wall Street, was first occupied as the movement began in America on September 17, 2011. Occupy was at first largely ignored by the mainstream media and politicians alike, who were confronted with the ideology that the public is the 99%.

Whether politicians or law enforcement officers should be considered as part of the 99% was and still is subject to fierce debate.

After repeated attempts to hold the park, occupy demonstrators were evicted at roughly 1:00 a.m. on November 15, 2011.

This of course did not stop the Occupy movement from holding anniversary celebrations and other gatherings. It was at once such celebration that America got to know the name of Cecily McMillan, who captured the world's attention as her violent arrest was being filmed and broadcast over livestream.

As Occupy activists tried unsuccessfully to re-occupy Zuccotti Park, New Yorkers were also celebrating St. Patrick's Day on March 17, 2012.

Not new to activism -- the 25-year-old woman had been involved in social justice issues for over a decade -- McMillan claims that she was simply passing by the park in order to meet up with some friends before they headed elsewhere to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

Unfortunately, the park was being raided by the NYPD that same evening in reaction to an attempt to reoccupy the location. Just as the eviction was being carried out, McMillan contends she was brutally attacked.

McMillan refers to the incident as a, "sexual assault" as she and her supporters describe how she was, "Seized from behind, she was forcefully grabbed by the breast and ripped backwards. Cecily startled and her arm involuntarily flew backward into the temple of her attacker, who promptly flung her to the ground, where others repeatedly kicked and beat her into a string of seizures."

There are numerous videos of the incident on YouTube which have been scrutinized by both her supporters and supporters of the NYPD.

In this video, you can watch McMillan's reaction to her arrest, as she was subsequently charged and found guilty of assaulting NYPD Officer Grantley Bovel by striking him in the eye with her elbow. Whether or not this was an involuntary reaction to being grabbed or a deliberate attempt to commit assault against a member of the NYPD would be the focus of her trial.

This video shows the after effects of her arrest where she can be seen exhibiting seizures to the fearful cries of her fellow activists as they attempt to rally medical support for her.

Years have passed since that fateful night in Zuccotti Park where McMillan and roughly 70 other people were arrested, though most had their charges dropped. Instead, McMillan faced the possibility of a second-degree assault charge which could carry a seven-year sentence if she was found guilty by jury of assaulting a police officer.

On April 7, 2014, her trial began in the New York City Criminal Court where her lawyer, Martin Stolar, argued that McMillan was only defending herself from what she thought at the time was a sexual assault. She testified that Officer Bovel grabbed her from behind by her right breast. She also alleged she was beaten by fellow NYPD officers, thus suffering a series of seizures.

Stolar presented evidence of her injuries to the jury, including a photo of McMillan's right breast which was extensively bruised.

The prosecution charged instead that Officer Bovell did not cause the injuries noted by the defence as well as the fact that she did not report the alleged assault when she received treatment at two separate hospitals the night of her arrest.

At the conclusion of her trial, McMillan was found guilty of second-degree assault, but nine of the 12 jurors wrote to trial judge Ronald Zweibel to express their belief that she should not be given a prison sentence.

Upon her conviction, McMillan's bail was revoked and she currently awaits sentencing at Rikers Island Penitentiary.

McMillan released a statement on May 9 ,2014, from the Rose M. Singer Correctional Facility on Rikers Island concerning the guilty verdict in her case. She writes, "Admittedly, I was shocked by the jury's verdict on Monday, but was not surprised by the events that followed. An overreaching prosecutor plus a biased judge logically adds up to my being remanded to Rikers.

I was prepared then, as I am now, to stand by my convictions and face the consequences of my actions -- namely that of refusing to forsake my values and what I know to be true in exchange for my 'freedom.'" 

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