Civil liberties group also seeks revision of campus free speech policyFairfax, VA - In a letter sent earlier today to George Mason University, the ACLU of Virginia is demanding that school officials apologize and pay $50,000 to Tariq Khan, a GMU student who was arrested for protesting the presence of military recruiters on campus.
The ACLU is also seeking revisions to GMU’s free speech policy to ensure that constitutionally permissible protests by students are protected in the future.
Khan, a Pakistani-American and a U.S. Air Force veteran, was arrested on September 29, 2005 at a GMU student center after positioning himself several feet from a military recruiting table. He wore a small sign reading “Recruiters Tell Lies” taped to his chest and held leaflets to give to individuals who requested them.
Despite harassment from fellow students, Khan remained quiet. When told by a GMU official that he needed a permit to “table” in the area, Khan responded that he was not using a table, but merely standing quietly and expressing his opinion.
After refusing to move, Khan was handcuffed by campus police, dragged to a police vehicle, and transported to a Fairfax County police facility where he was booked for trespass and disorderly conduct. The ACLU of Virginia provided legal representation, and all charges against Khan were dropped.
“This scenario is almost hard to imagine in a nation built on the principle of free speech,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis.
“This was a lone student standing in public space at a state university peaceably expressing his opinion against a government policy,” added Willis. “If that’s not protected by the First Amendment, then one has to wonder what is.”
A copy of the letter sent from ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca K. Glenberg to George Mason University Counsel Thomas Moncure, Jr. is available at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20060217-GMU-Free-Speech-Demand-Letter.pdf.
In her letter, Glenberg says that campus police used excessive force in violation of Khan’s Fourth Amendment rights, and committed assault and battery under Virginia law.
Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director and Rebecca Glenberg, Legal Director, 804-644-8022