NY Occupy activist acquitted of obstructing police

AP News
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Posted: Oct 11, 2014 12:56 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — After being convicted of assaulting a police officer, an Occupy Wall Street protester who became a rallying point for activists was cleared Friday of charges stemming from another confrontation with police.

Cecily McMillan was acquitted of obstructing government administration, after her second trial this year.

It came three months after her release from jail in her earlier case, which stemmed from an encounter with police at an Occupy gathering and made the 26-year-old graduate student a celebrated figure among protesters and sympathizers.

In the latest case, prosecutors said McMillan interfered with officers who'd stopped two accused fare-beaters in a Manhattan subway station in December 2013.

McMillan claimed to be a lawyer, urged the two not to cooperate with police, hectored the officers and got in the way while shooting video when the officers took the two to a transit police station, according to police and prosecutors. Her conduct showed "utter contempt for the police and the important job they do," prosecutors said in court papers this spring.

But whatever it showed wasn't a crime, said her lawyer, Martin Stolar.

"Being annoying and obnoxious to the police is not illegal," he said by phone Friday.

The Manhattan district attorney's office had no immediate comment.

The arrest came as McMillan was awaiting trial in her first case. In that case, she was accused of elbowing an officer in the eye as he ushered her and other Occupy activists out of a park where they were marking the movement's six-month birthday on March 17, 2012.

She said she reacted instinctively after her breast was grabbed from behind, which the officer denied doing. She said police then roughed her up while arresting her as she suffered what she has described as a seizure.

The trial took on a tone of demonstration in itself, with dozens of McMillan supporters lining the courtroom audience; some shouted "Shame!" when she was convicted. Director Spike Jonze, Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon and some City Council members wrote letters asking for leniency for her, and members of the once-jailed Russian punk group Pussy Riot visited her in jail on Rikers Island.

She was released in July, after serving about 60 days, and went on to write a Cosmopolitan magazine piece about her time behind bars. She plans to advocate for inmates.

"I walked into Rikers Island as part of one movement and left as part of another," she wrote.

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Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @ jennpeltz.