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Virginia ACLU Seeks Change in Recruiter-Protester Policy

by NewStandard Staff

Feb. 22, 2006 – A student arrested by private police for protesting military recruitment on a college campus has obtained the backing of a civil rights group and is demanding an apology, compensation and a change in policy.

Charging that the wrongful arrest of a student protestor portends larger problems, the Virginia arm of the American Civil Liberties Union last week sent a letter to George Mason University officials demanding changes to school protest policy. The organization also asked that the university pay Tariq Khan $50,000 and apologize for violating his free-speech rights.

Campus cops arrested Khan on September 29, 2005 after he refused to end his one-person protest of a nearby Marine Corps recruitment table. The ACLU alleges that campus police used "excessive force" in arresting Khan, a Pakistani-American and US Air Force veteran. The Nation reported that a quickly formed crowd exhorted officers to pummel Khan, and one college staffer tackled him to assist the arrest.

Reportedly, Khan stood near the recruitment table holding a sign reading "Recruiters lie. Don’t be deceived" and handed out flyers to passersby. When he refused a university official’s demand he halt the protest, campus police arrested Khan and transferred him into Fairfax County custody, where he was booked on trespassing and disorderly conduct charges, the ACLU said.

There were no reports of a verbal or physical confrontation between Khan and the recruiter. George Mason officials reportedly requested that the charges be dropped.

Khan’s case illustrates a growing conflict on college campuses across the nation as the US seeks to recruit more troops in the face of strong opposition from anti-war groups and college students.

Under the ten-year-old Solomon Amendment, schools that receive government monies must permit military recruitment of their students. Last December, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging the law because of the military’s anti-gay "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, but it has yet to issue a ruling.

In Friday’s letter, the ACLU also noted that Khan is interested in meeting with George Mason President Alan Merten about speech issues on campus. As of press time, the university had not publicly responded to the ACLU letter, which carried the threat of a lawsuit.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

This News Report originally appeared in the February 22, 2006 edition of The NewStandard.
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