When Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan headed to court April 7 for the first day of her trial, she faced up to seven years in prison for assaulting a New York police officer. McMillan claims she reacted instinctively when she felt a police officer grab her breast as she left Zuccotti Park on March 17, 2012. Police say she elbowed the officer in the face. In either case, she was beaten and suffered a seizure before being hospitalized for cuts and bruises on her back, shoulders, head and breast that night.
Coming two years after her arrest, McMillan’s trial is one of a number of cases around the country, some of which are still winding their ways through the courts, that resulted from Occupy’s heady heydays. While most of the movement’s organizers and participants are no longer involved with Occupy itself, many are still connected through a strong post-Occupy activist community.
In Oakland last month another well known Occupy protester, Scott Olsen, received a $4.5 million settlement, the third-largest the city has paid in the last 24 years. Olsen survived two tours in the Marine Corps in Iraq but was almost killed while protesting with Occupy Oakland in 2011 when the Oakland Police Department shot him in the head with a lead-filled beanbag.
When asked during a press conference if he was still with the Occupy movement, Olsen said, “I am still in contact with some of the people who were from Occupy Oakland.”
Manissa McCleave Maharawal—an Occupy participant who is now researching post-Occupy community politics in New York and California as a doctoral candidate in the Anthropology department at the CUNY Graduate Center—explains that this type of relationship is typical for Occupy activists. “People are still drawing on the networks that they had or the friends that they made or just this general idea that the people they met through this thing are people they can trust.”
This community is still fighting the state, more than two years after the apex of the protests, only this time they’re fighting their battles in the courts. While prosecutors have dropped the majority of the cases that resulted from Occupy actions across the country, some of the high profile ones, like Olsen’s, have won large payouts.
In Bellingham, Washington, on February 20, a district court dropped the 2012 case against a man who disrupted a city council meeting with the movement’s famous “mic check,” citing the witnesses’ fading memory among other reasons. In New York, Shawn Schrader received a $82,500 settlement in December, claiming he was beaten and arrested three times for his involvement in the movement. Back in Oakland the city paid $1.17 million in July to a group of Occupy protesters who were claiming they were victims of excessive force at the hands of police in 2011. In December, Oakland also settled with Army aeteran Kayvan Sabeghi, who was clubbed by police during an Occupy protest. Sabeghi was awarded $645,000, the largest Oakland settlement after Olsen’s. Even tourists were reminded of the long-lasting effects of the movement on March 26 when the New York Police Department finally removed the barricades from the Wall Street bull.