Right of GMU Student to Protest Military Recruiters, Commonwealth v. Khan 

The Johnson Center ("JC") is a student union-type building at George Mason University.  On the firrst floor is a large open space with a food court.  Students go there to eat or just hang out.  Along the edges of the space, tables are set up for the use of student groups.  On September 29, 2005, a military recruiting table was set up at the JC.  Tariq Khan, a GMU student, stoof about four feet from the table with an 8 1/2 by 11-inch sheet of paper reading "Recruiters Tell Lies" taped to his chest.  He was holding some pamphlets, but not distributing them except when people came up to him and asked for one.  At one point, several students harassed him, yelled at him, and tore the sign from his chest.  According to eyewitness accounts, however, he did not yell back but continued to stand quietly.  A campus police officer arrived and told Tariq to go away and that he needed a permit.  When Tariq refused, the officer roughed him up, handcuffed him and arrested him for trespass and disorderly conduct.  We represented Tariq in defending these charges.  In late October, after conducting its own investigation of the incident, George Mason University said it did not think Tariq Khan should be prosecuted in criminal court.  On November 14, 2005, the prosecution dropped the charges.  In February 2006, we asked GMU to issue an apology, revise its free speech policy, and pay monetary damages to Mr. Khan.


Rebecca Glenberg, ACLU of Virginia

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Jonathan Shapiro, Alexandria

Date filed

October 5, 2005


Fairfax General District Court