This week marks five years since former Army officer, ex-CIA analyst and peace activist Ray McGovern was brutally ejected and arrested at George Washington University for expressing silent dissent during a speech by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in which she lectured other countries about the importance of public protest and freedom of speech. Mr. McGovern's charges of disorderly conduct were dropped.
Mr. McGovern, wearing a Veterans for Peace T-shirt, stood silently, his back turned, as Secretary Clinton read her speech. She could easily have told the police to leave him alone as they pounced on him in her plain sight. But instead of showing leadership to defend the First Amendment in the moment, she did nothing, not even pausing her prepared remarks as he was suddenly jumped and roughed up.
Documents newly released from Secretary Clinton's private email server confirm that she was well aware of the incident, even receiving photographs of Mr. McGovern's injuries. In an internal email, Clinton's adviser Sidney Blumenthal wrote "something bad happened" and recommended an apology be issued to Mr. McGovern. Clinton disclaimed responsibility and pointed the finger at George Washington University but promised "I'll see what else can be done." She didn't explain why she remained silent and did nothing while this happened in front of her.
These documents were not turned over to the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund when it sought emails related to Mr. McGovern's arrest in the wake of the incident. Instead, Secretary Clinton kept them out of the public's view.
Ray McGovern, who is represented by the PCJF in ongoing litigation against GWU, stated, "Secretary Clinton has no shortage of words on the campaign trail when asked about how she will treat and support veterans. But it has been five years since I was attacked right under her nose and she still has not said a word in public about it."
PCJF Executive Director Mara Verheyden-Hilliard stated, "Secretary Clinton's tolerance of the forceful ejection of Mr. McGovern, for merely turning his back in silent protest, foreshadowed Donald Trump's active encouragement of use of force against peaceful protestors at his events, including the ejection of a Muslim woman who stood silently just last month."
Verheyden-Hilliard continued, "If Secretary Clinton wishes to distinguish herself from these tactics, for which she has laid the groundwork, she can begin by apologizing to Mr. McGovern and promising to respect peaceful dissent even when her policies are being criticized."
The circumstances of Mr. McGovern's brutal assault were described in the Civil Complaint filed on his behalf: "As Secretary Clinton was reading from her prepared remarks regarding Egypt’s dictatorship saying, 'Then the government pulled the plug,' the then-71-year-old McGovern was forcibly and falsely arrested by GWU police officers, grabbed by the head, assaulted, and as Secretary Clinton continued undisturbed stating, 'the government ... did not want the world to watch,' Mr. McGovern was removed from public view with excessive and brutal force, taken to jail, and left bleeding with bruises and contusions."
After the brutal arrest, Mr. McGovern was then politically targeted. As the complaint states: "The Department of State issued a Be On The Lookout Alert ('BOLO Alert') for the then-71-year-old McGovern which described his 'considerable amount of political activism, primarily anti-war,' displayed his picture and directed law enforcement that if Mr. McGovern was encountered, 'USE CAUTION, stop' and question him and contact the Department of State Diplomatic Security Command Center."
The PCJF successfully obtained the relief sought against the Department of State: his removal from their Be On the Look Out (BOLO) list.
Mr. McGovern’s constitutional rights lawsuit against George Washington University and the officers who assaulted and arrested him is still going forward. PCJF attorneys have carried out depositions and discovery as the case makes its way towards trial.