Pussy Riot Members Visit Jailed Occupy Activist Cecily McMillan

McMillan awaits sentencing for assaulting police officer who grabbed her breasts.

Photo Credit: Photo provided by Kevin Zeese

Cecily McMillan, the Occupy Wall Street activist convicted of assaulting a New York police officer, received a celebrity endorsement of sorts on Friday when two members of the Russian punk collective Pussy Riot visited her in prison.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, who spent almost two years imprisoned in Russia after their group performed a “punk prayer” attacking President Vladimir Putin at an Orthodox cathedral in Moscow, met McMillan at Riker’s Island jail in New York, where she is being held awaiting sentencing.

McMillan, 25, faces up to seven years in prison after being found guilty of deliberately elbowing Officer Grantley Bovell in the face as he led her out of a protest at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan in March 2012. She was denied bail and is due to be sentenced by Judge Ronald Zweibel on 19 May.

A spokesman for McMillan’s support group said on Friday afternoon that Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina had spent about an hour with McMillan inside the prison.

They said at a press conference in Washington last week that they were “appalled and saddened” about McMillan’s case, and suggested that she was a “political prisoner”. They added on Twitter: “We are hoping that Manhattan court will not convict Cecily McMillan to prison term. Anyway, it's time to start your own, american Pussy Riot.”

According to a statement issued by Occupy Wall Street earlier on Friday, the Pussy Riot pair “identified with Cecily’s plight, especially the disproportionate sentencing she faces” and “were very interested to learn about the injustices in this case”.

The Guardian reported on Thursday that nine of the 12 jurors who convicted McMillan have written to Zweibel, asking him to show leniency and not punish her with a prison sentence.

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Jon Swaine is the Guardian's U.S. correspondent based in New York. He previously covered the U.S. for the Daily Telegraph.