New Criticals

Cecily McMillan, sentenced on May 19 to 90 days at Rikers and five years of probation, is only one more woman activist to state that, while she was exercising First Amendment rights, a cop assaulted her breast. (She was convicted of the felony charge of second-degree assault, for elbowing police officer Grantley Bovell in the eye.) Nearly a century after the passage of women’s suffrage in the U.S. and U.K., we remember the photos of decorously hatted ladies; we see them patiently, politely bearing banners, until their efforts were met by constitutional and social recognition. On the contrary, the suffragists’ nonviolent tactics were often met by police and mob violence. Opponents released rats at rallies, threw eggs, and used bellows to blow cayenne pepper into the women’s faces, presaging the contemporary use of pepper spray. Suffragist Hannah Mitchell wrote of a 1906 Manchester rally, "The mob played a sort of Rugby football with us...two youths held on to my skirt so tightly that I feared it would either come off or I should be dragged to earth on my face.”