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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Records Aren’t Helpful to Occupier’s Story

MANHATTAN (CN) - Four different doctors never once diagnosed the seizure an Occupy Wall Street protester claims to have suffered after she was arrested on a felony charge of assaulting an officer, she admitted on the stand Wednesday.

Cecily McMillan also conceded that her medical records do not mention a hand-sized bruise on her breast.

The admissions are damaging to McMillan's defense that she swung at New York Police Department Officer Grant Bovell because he grabbed her right breast from behind and threw her face-first into the ground while attempting to clear out Zucotti Park, the self-proclaimed headquarters of the Occupy movement, for cleaning.

During cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Erin Choi on Wednesday, the 25-year-old McMillan said she had never filed a formal complaint with the department about Bovell's treatment of her on March 17, 2012.

After going through McMillan's medical records and determining that McMillan suffered no broken bones, Choi asked: "As of March 22, 2012, no medical personnel diagnosed you with suffering a seizure?"

McMillan replied: "I was told that they couldn't, not that I didn't have one."

Clad in a pink, sleeveless dress for her latest court appearance, McMillan faces up to seven years in prison if convicted by a 12-member jury of seven women and five men.

On the night of her arrest, St. Patrick's Day and the six-month anniversary of the Occupy movement, about 200 police officers were trying to clear out the estimated 500 Occupiers when McMillan elbowed Bovell in the eye.

While prosecutors say the activist then faked a seizure to avoid arrest, defense attorney Martin Stolar claims McMillan hit her head on the pavement and suffered a seizure.

Under direct examination Wednesday, her second day on the stand, McMillan told Stolar that the 40 hours after the incident were a "visceral blur."

"I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what happened that evening," McMillan said. "I've watched all these videos in the courtroom, and none of it helped me remember any of it."

"That person may as well be a character in a movie," she added.

McMillan, who was wearing a lime-green miniskirt for St. Patrick's Day, said she had no intention of participating in any form of demonstration that night, and was only there to meet up with friends before going to a nearby Irish bar to grab some drinks.

"It was celebratory," she said of the mood in the park. "It didn't look like anything was going down. I was sort of surprised nobody was wearing green. Apparently it's something that's made fun of."

"I remember getting made fun of extensively for my attire," she added.

Then, "I heard this really loud sound," she said. It "sounded like an eruption between the police and people chanting, people screaming," she added.

She said an officer approached her and told her to clear out and that she immediately complied. "I tried to get out very quickly. I started walking. I was getting out."

After all, she said, it was St. Patrick's Day. After spending "every waking day in Zuccotti Park" over the last few months, McMillan said she was taking "one day, one day off."

She said she "immediately bolted" and then felt "somebody grab me from behind and pull me up by my right breast, pull my body backward ... and I felt my face slam to the ground."

Though McMillan allegedly doesn't remember throwing the elbow, many cellphone videos captured the incident and have been repeatedly shown in the trial. McMillan has cried at least twice during such screenings.

"I have no question that my elbow did come into contact with Officer Bovell," she said.

Prosecutors have accused McMillan of screaming into the crowd: "Are you filming this?" before throwing the elbow, then faking a seizure to avoid arrest. But McMillan says that's not possible.

"There's just no way anybody would ever want to ever be in that [situation], being filmed doing anything illegal, ever," she said. And besides, "I looked ridiculous," McMillan said, referring to the bright green miniskirt she was wearing that night. "There's one day a year you can look this ridiculous, and that's St. Patrick's Day."

After she hit the officer, McMillan was handcuffed and arrested. Bovell, the officer in question, previously testified that he fell on top of her during the arrest and that McMillan started shaking and writhing on the sidewalk.

"I woke up in the hospital," McMillan said. "My entire body was in a significant amount of pain and I had no idea why I'd been arrested. I was terrified."

McMillan said she was also covered in bruises. She apologized for the officer's injury and said she has moved on.

"It's a tiny park, things get out of hand, stuff happens," she said. "It was really unfortunate. I'm really sorry the officer got hurt, but you move onward."

Choi, the prosecutor, emphasized that nowhere in records from doctors, a social worker or a psychologist who treated McMillan in the hours after her arrest is there an allegation that a police officer grabbed McMillan's breast.

The social worker who wrote up McMillan's account also noted that McMillan "resisted" after being told to leave the park, Choi said, noting that this statement contradicts McMillan's claim that she made a beeline toward the park exit after being told to leave.

After examining the documents, McMillan agreed: "No, it doesn't say anything specific about my breast."

It was Day 9 of McMillan's trial. She is the last of thousands of protesters to move through the court system after the Occupy movement began Sept. 17, 2011, and could become the most serious conviction if prosecutors are successful.

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