By Lee Kaplan
Friday, September 15, 2006
This week International Solidarity Movement leaders conferred on where the ISM should hold its next national conference on an american university campus. american University administrators need to know what is happening to Georgetown, the site of the last national conference.
Georgetown University became the recipient this week of an $8 million dollar lawsuit against the University and several of its administrators and employees
for physical assault and battery against a Jewish retired ex-policeman who attended the February 18th, 2006 Palestine Solidarity Movement Divestment Conference
on the Washington, D.C. campus. With legal and attorneys fees, the costs are expected to be much higher.
a brief was filed with The United States District Court for the District of Columbia
claiming that Bill Maniaci, 64, a former Nevada police officer, was physically attacked and beaten by campus officials who unlawfully beat and detained him against his will, denied him his freedom of speech, and subjected him to humiliation at the hands of Georgetown staff.
The lawsuit states that "Defendants, individually and jointly, acting under color of law, intended to deprive the Plaintiff privileges secured by the Constitution and Laws of the United States, including the right to freedom of speech and assembly, his right to be heard, and his right to be free from physical harm."
In addition to Georgetown University being named as a defendant, individual campus personnel also were named defendants including Georgetown President John F. DeGioia; David F. Morrel, Vice President for Campus Safety; Darrel K. Harrison, Director, Department of Public Safety; Eric Smulson, assistant Vice President for Communications; Todd Olson, Vice President for Student affairs; and campus police officer G. Taylor.
The complaint specified that on Saturday, February 18, 2006, Maniaci, who is described as a 64 year-old Orthodox Jewish man who was already unable to walk without the use of a cane, entered the campus event titled the "The Fifth annual Student Divestment Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement at Georgetown University" through the main pedestrian entrance and proceeded to the opening panel discussion in Gaston Hall after registering and paying a mandatory fee.
The Palestine Solidarity Movement, also known as the International Solidarity Movement(ISM), is an umbrella group of arab-american and Muslim anti-Israel activists in "solidarity" with assorted american and International communist and anarchist groups that seek sanctions against the Jewish state. Besides promoting for colleges and among individuals to divest stocks from and boycott Israel, and to boycott US businesses that do trade with Jewish state, the Georgetown Conference was arranged to develop a newer campaign for american churches to also participate in the divestment and boycott program. Controversy preceded the Conference after a letter appeared in the Washington Post from Huwaida arraf, one of the leaders of the Conference, in which she admitted the ISM openly works with terrorist groups like Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the PFLP, all recognized as terrorist groups by the US State Department. Ms. arraf was replying to an earlier article in the Washington Post criticizing Georgetown for allowing the Conference to take place after Ms. arraf made similar statements the year before at a similar conference at Duke University. The Georgetown Conference was also a planning and strategy session as well as a recruiting event for the ISM.
Israeli intelligence obtained this week photos revealing ISM activists in the West Bank sporting aK-47 assault rifles in the presence of an al aksa Martyrs Brigade terrorist that now dispute another letter written by one of the Georgetown defendants, Erik Smulson, the campus communications director, denying any links to terrorism by the ISM.
according to the 15 page brief, Maniaci, a former member of the Jewish Defense League, came to the Conference to gather information. On entering he was given a badge that he wore and was handed a pamphlet outlining Georgetown's "Speech and Expression Policy" that explained his rights at the Conference. according to Exhibit a, the document provided that "limitations" on "free speech and expression," only placed a ban on "unlawful activity, actions that endanger or immediately threaten others, or activities that disrupt or obstruct the function of the University."
The complaint goes on and mentions that after the opening panel, the floor was opened up to questions at a microphone set up in the audience. Maniaci, fourth in line, waited for his turn then asked the panelists "If you approve or disapprove of the use of suicide bombers who murder innocent Israeli citizens as a means to accomplish their goals?"
according to the brief, the panelists evaded answering the question and Vice President for Student affairs Todd Olson pointed for the next question. Maniaci raised his hand and asked, "Excuse me, but you did not answer the question," to which Olson replied he wanted to move on. Maniaci then moved to a seat due to his frail condition.
When Maniaci raised his hand again and asked why the question was still going unanswered, Olson ordered Georgetown campus police to remove him. Maniaci was accosted by two muscular campus police officers, including Officer Taylor. When Maniaci said he had done nothing wrong, the two officers jerked Maniaci from his seat and struck him knocking the wind out of him, causing him to drop all his papers and fall to the floor where he was dragged down the aisle all the while bumping his head and limbs as he was dragged. Maniaci hit his head again on a concrete floor and then was thrown head first through the auditorium doors where he again hit his head against the concrete floor. It was at that time that several witnesses including this writer asked Georgetown's Communications Director Erik Smulson to stop the attack. The complaint stipulates that Smulson's only actions were to try to block photographers from taking photos of what was happening and he refused to stop the beating, something I witnessed personally.
The brief continues explaining how once outside, Maniaci was unable to stand under his own power and needed two friends to keep him upright. He was surrounded again by six campus police officers and pushed against a glass window. Maniaci asked if he was being arrested to which he was told he was not, however, he was still physically blocked and not allowed to move. Maniaci, who has congestive heart failure and emphysema, began to feel ill and asked if he could rest and use the men's room, a frequent necessity due to his medications, something he explained to the officers present. another officer showed up who Manicai says forced him back up against the glass wall and prevented him from moving. That officer was followed by the campus Police Chief, David Morrel, who told Maniaci that he was barred from the Conference.
a colleague of Maniaci's who is an attorney from Colorado also in attendance at the Conference, Matt Finberg, then intervened and asked to speak with the Campus Provost, but his request was denied. During this time, Maniaci repeatedly asked to use the restroom, his requests being repeatedly denied. Finally, one officer relented and allowed him to do so, but insisted on observing the Plaintiff urinate in a single toilet room with the bathroom door wide open. During this time it was necessary for two colleagues of Maniaci's to help the retired policeman walk and get around. after using the restroom, Maniaci was approached by a Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer who had been called "by the University to escort Mr. Maniaci off the campus."
The next day, Maniaci blacked out while on a public street and was taken to Walter Reed army Medical Center where he was treated as a veteran. Doctors there informed him he had "a concussion, a sprain to his right ankle, contusions to his right abdomen, right upper arm, right wrist and abrasions to his legs," according to the complaint.
Specific charges in the complaint are that Georgetown officials ordered campus safety officers to "forcefully remove an elderly man from the premises without adequate reason" by "intentionally touching and imposing injuries on the Plaintiff."
Other specific charges were "Intentionally throwing Plaintiff through the doors of an establishment"; "Intentionally conducting harmful and offensive contact with the Plaintiff" that was "Intended to cause Plaintiff to suffer a contact and apprehension that contact was imminent" and "causing fear to the Plaintiff." The suit maintains Georgetown and staff violated his interest in "personal freedom and restraint of movement."
The complaint goes on to maintain that Georgetown's top officials because of their positions of authority should have known the officers' actions exceeded necessary force and criticizes them for failing to prevent further harm to the Plaintiff.
The complaint asks for one million dollars on each count for physical injuries and personal rights violated, Count One being for "assault, Battery, False Imprisonment, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress"; Count Two being "Deprivation to Right of Speech and assembly in violation of 42 USC code from years 1983 and 1989" and Count Three , "Violation of Civil Right to Bodily Integrity" based on the same previously mentioned legal code. an additional five million dollars in punitive damages is also sought in the complaint maintaining that Georgetown's actions were intentional, without reasonable or just cause, in violation of the Plaintiff's civil rights under the US Constitution that were "ratified by the Defendant."
Georgetown officials were not available to comment due to the Labor Day weekend holiday.