Pussy Riot Launches Petition for Leniency in Sentencing of OWS Protester Cecily McMillan
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A number of artists including Shepard Fairey, Kim Gordon, Spike Jonze, JD Samson, Lauren from Chvches and Justin Vivian Bond have joined Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokonnikova in petitioning for leniency in the sentencing of OWS protester Cecily McMillan. The letters encourage Judge Zweibel towards leniency in the Monday sentencing of Ms. McMillan.
Pussy Riot members Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina visited Ms. McMillan last week at Rikers Island with Lucy Parks who is also an Occupy Wall Street activist, and Hunter Heaney, Executive Director of The Voice Project, a group that works at the intersection of art and activism. The Voice Project was the primary organization funneling international support to the Pussy Riot members during their trial and almost two year incarceration in Russia.
"The goal is to get some earnest messages of support to Judge Zweibel as he makes his sentencing decision. Cecily faces the same potential sentence as Nadya and Masha did in Russia, and prison time here will really serve no one. As the majority of jurors have petitioned, with the felony conviction on her record, probation, community service and time served, that should really be enough and that's the outcome we're hoping for."
"People are invited and encouraged and post messages and handwritten notes to Judge Zweibel which will be delivered to both him and Cecily's legal team at The Voice Project's website (voiceproject.org/cecily). Emails can also be sent via the JusticeForCecily.com," says Hunter Heaney.
Some letters to Judge Zweibel follow.
Hon. Ronald Zweibel!
I'm writing to you as woman who spent two years in prison on protest related charges, and who faced the same seven year sentence that Cecily does. I can tell you that prison is not the best place for 25 year old person like Cecily McMillan.
I visited Cecily at Rikers Island. Cecily is fantastic - she is so brave, so smart, so sharp, so purposeful. I believe that people like Cecily will develop your country for the better. That's one reason it would be so wrong for her to spend several years in prison. It would be cruel and it would be useless.
If one wants to change her political views, they would not be able to do it by putting Cecily in prison. I've talked with Cecily only for a one hour, but it was enough for me to understand that after her prison sentence she only grow strong in her ideology, and her ideology is strongly intertwined with non-violent protest.
As Aristotle said, "we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts." And compassionate by showing compassion, as we can in the case of Cecily.
I would like to stand with the 9 of 12 jurors who are asking you for leniency in Cecily's sentencing, they don't want you to imprison Cecily as I don't, as so many don't.
Thank you for your time,
Nadya "Pussy Riot" Tolokonnikova
May 16, 2014, Moscow
May 14, 2014
Dear Honorable Ronald Zweibel,
I understand that Cecily McMillan has been convicted of assault by a group of her peers. I also understand that Ms. McMillan is a non-violent person and her behavior in question is out of character. Good people sometimes make poor decisions when under duress.
I plead with you to show Ms. McMillan leniency because I believe she has already suffered in many ways from the ordeal of her case and there could be no societal benefit from her incarceration. I have personally experienced unprovoked police aggression, with no accountability or negative consequences for the officers. I strongly believe that our justice system should deter violence, but I also think that a harsh sentence for Cecily McMillan sends society the message that there is a different standard for law enforcement than there is for an activist civilian. Please show compassion in your sentencing of Cecily McMillan.
To Honorable Ronald Zweibel,
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I write not as a political activist but as a concerned citizen of the United States. I'm embarrassed to say to my Russian friends, that yes this sort of thing happens in America. Where the right to exercise freedom of speech can turn a young enthusiastic person in to a victim of the system thru dramatic character assassination. Cecily McMillan strikes me as a constructive well meaning person that would serve society best not behind bars but taking this experience of conviction with hopefully a lenient sentence out in the world.
May 14th, 2014
Dear Hon. Ronald Zweibel,
I can't pretend to know how complicated and busy your job is so excuse me for offering my opinion, but for what it's worth I feel compelled to share my thoughts regarding Cecily McMillan.
I'd like to join in asking for leniency in her sentencing. I know she was convicted by a jury and I know that they are asking for leniency, as well.
I'm sure we all feel that the world we are living in would benefit with more compassion and tolerance. And I hope in this particular case that you feel the same way.
Hon. Ronald Zweibel,
I plead with you to use your heart.
I ask you to follow the direction of our people, the 12 jurors, and not put Cecily McMillan into prison.
Thank you for your time.
Justin Vivian Bond
Dear Hon. Ronald Zweibel,
I am writing today to ask you to please show leniency to Cecily McMillan and to not send her to prison as, it is my belief, her imprisonment would ultimately be beneficial to neither society or to the aggrieved party.
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration in this matter.
Mx Justin Vivian Bond
Lauren Mayberry (Chvrches)
Dear Judge Zweibel,
Please accept this letter as an indication that I stand in solidarity with Cecily McMillan and ask you to strongly reconsider any further incarceration of a peaceful protester exercising her first amendment right to assembly.
"Justice delayed is justice denied."
Please find the original letters and more information on how to participate at http://voiceproject.org/campaign/cecily-mcmillan/.