ACLU of Virginia Demands Apology and Damages for Student Arrested for Protesting Campus Military Recruiters

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
February 17, 2006 12:00 am

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Civil Liberties Group Also Seeks Revision of Campus Free Speech Policy

FAIRFAX, VA — In a letter sent to George Mason University officials, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia today demanded that school officials apologize and pay $50,000 in damages to Tariq Khan, a GMU student who was arrested for protesting the presence of military recruiters on campus.

“This was a lone student standing in public space at a state university peaceably expressing his opinion against a government policy,” said Kent Willis, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia. “If that’s not protected by the First Amendment, then one has to wonder what is.”

The ACLU said in the letter that campus police used excessive force and committed assault and battery in arresting Khan. The ACLU is also seeking revisions to GMU’s free speech policy to ensure that constitutional 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. Khan positioned himself several feet from a military recruiting table. He wore a small sign that read “Recruiters Tell Lies” taped to his chest and held leaflets that he passed out upon request.

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 Willis.

The ACLU letter to GMU officials is online at

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