Following ACLU Action, Virginia University Drops Charges Against Student Arrested for Protesting Campus Military Recruiters

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
November 14, 2005 12:00 am

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RICHMOND, VA – The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia announced today that government lawyers in Fairfax County have agreed to drop their case against Tariq Khan, a George Mason University student who was arrested while protesting the presence of military recruiters on campus.

“Mr. Khan stood quietly in a public place expressing his opposition to actions taken by our government,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “This is precisely the kind of expression the First Amendment was designed to protect.”

The incident leading to Khan’s arrest occurred on September 29 in the Johnson Center on the GMU campus. Khan, a Pakistani-American and a U.S. Air Force veteran, positioned himself several feet from a military recruiting table. He wore a small sign reading “Recruiters Tell Lies” taped to his chest and held leaflets that he passed out upon request.

Despite harassment from fellow students, Khan remained quiet, the ACLU said in legal papers. When told by a university official that he needed a permit to “table” in the Johnson Center, 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.

After conducting its own investigation into the incident, university officials asked Fairfax County prosecutors not to proceed with the case. The university has also announced that it will be reevaluating its campus speech and protest policies to ensure that they comply with the First Amendment.

The ACLU said it will be reviewing the campus speech policies. “This arrest should never have occurred,” said Willis. “The next step for us is to make certain that GMU does not do this again.”

ACLU of Virginia cooperating attorney Jonathan Shapiro and ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca K. Glenberg are handling the case.

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