by Nina Ippolito
On Monday, 25-year-old Occupy Wall Street protester Cecily McMillan was sentenced to three months in jail for elbowing a police officer during her 2011 arrest in Manhattan’s Zucotti Park. Like Occupy Wall Street itself, McMillan’s case has raised more questions than it answered.
How, for instance, should we balance the public right to safe and functional streets with the essential First Amendment rights of assembly and protest? What, if anything, should McMillan and her arresting officer, Grantley Bovell, have done differently? And how can protests gain steam without raising the ire of local police departments?
Fortunately, Thurston County, Washington resident Shaun Goodman may have the provided us with an answer to all of the above: namely, replacing drum circles and mic checks with high-speed drunk driving in six-figure sports cars.
After all, nothing says, “One, two, three, four, I declare a class war!” like barreling through Lower Manhattan’s winding streets propelled by nothing but single-malt scotch, 562 horsepower, and the desire to build consensus-based activism from the ground up. Picture a glorious fire-engine-red streak accelerating from zero to 60 in 3.4 seconds as it caroms down lower Broadway, narrowly missing a street sign, a falafel cart, and and a gaggle of Ground Zero tourists. “Whose street? Our street,” indeed.
You see, Goodman, like McMillan, recently found himself in trouble with the law. He was caught driving his Ferrari at speeds of over 100 miles per hour during his seventh DUI, causing his friend to bail from the passenger side and call 911.
However, unlike McMillan, Goodman won’t be serving time; he’ll merely be on work release all day, all week—and for the next year.
Protest movements, take heed: speeding while rich, white, and inebriated is far more tolerable behavior than flinching after a police officer grabs your left breast hard enough to leave a purple and yellow hand-shaped bruise. Never mind that said officer has a history of serious misconduct, including ticket fixing and allegedly kicking an arrestee in the face.
I mean, just try downing a few shots and then elbowing an officer from the comfort of a leather-trimmed cockpit that’s being propelled by a muscular, 90-degree, mid-rear mounted V-8 engine. I promise you, it’s much harder to do.
Point of process! “Hold up just one dang minute,” you might be saying. “What do these cases even have to do with one another?” After all, Goodman, unlike McMillan, never got to find out what it would look like if he had a seizure while handcuffed. Olympia, Washington doesn’t have the equivalent of New York City’s infamous tombs (which have earned just two stars on Yelp) or the city’s 12,300-inmate facilities on Riker’s Island.
And McMillan, unlike Goodman, wasn’t granted bail for the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to attend a Super Bowl featuring the Seattle Seahawks.
True. But the truth is that McMillan, like Goodman, is privileged. She may not own a supercar or be in the 1%, and she may be serving time, but McMillan could afford to leave work and school to contest the charges against her, and benefitted from the watchful eyes of an outraged public that cried foul when it saw a middle-class young white woman (in a “slim-fitting hot pink dress and pumps,” as one obnoxious newspaper described her) facing a felony assault rap.
The injustice McMillan faces is exactly that, but her egregious case, like Goodman’s, should serve as a reminder of the unnoticed trials that parade through criminal courts across the country each day—often months delayed and with no advocacy or transparency to be seen—as poorer and more marginalized individuals battle against a justice system that’s all too happy to hold people interminably, innocence and Super Bowl tickets be damned.
That is what democracy looks like, and jokes about 9,000 rpm, fuel-injected political actions aside, it’s enough to drive someone to drink.