A Pakistani-American who served four years in the United States Air Force as munitions personnel was beaten and brutalized by right-wing students and campus police for staging a peaceful protest at a military recruitment table last Thursday at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia,.
Tariq Khan, now a junior majoring in sociology, said he was standing in front of the recruitment table outside the school student center–as he has often done before – during noontime with a paper sign reading, “Recruiters lie, don’t be deceived,” taped to his shirt. A student approached Khan and initiated a verbal argument, screaming in his face; he then took the flyer and ripped it up in front of him, Khan says.
The student then left and returned with another student claiming to be a Marine having recently served in Iraq, and the three continued a verbal argument that began to escalate, Khan claimed. “I asked the marine, ‘So how many people did you kill?'” Khan said. “And he answered, ‘Not enough.'” The marine student soon ripped Khan’s sign off his shirt and threw it in the trash.
Shortly thereafter, two of Khan’s friends came to his defense, and a college staff member told Khan he had to leave because he had no permit to table in the area. “I didn’t even have a table to begin with, so I didn’t see why I needed a permit for one,” Khan said. “Besides, to have a table, you need to be a campus group, and we didn’t have one,” he added, pointing out that the student council denied an anti-war group’s right to exist on campus earlier because it contained several anarchists.
The staff member called campus security, at which point a police officer, Lt. Reynolds, approached Khan and demanded to see his student ID. Khan said he told the officer he was not carrying his ID and tried to walk away when the policeman tried to arrest him and then became violent. “He threw me into the stage,” Khan claimed, referring to a dance area in the student center left from an event earlier in the day, “and I just sort of raised my hands to show I’m not violent and tried to get as much attention by saying, ‘I’m being non-violent and I’m being brutalized.'”
Fellow student and friend Amie Wells confirmed Khan’s account, saying the officer “grabbed him, put him in a half-nelson headlock,” and then “slammed him into a metal stage,” propped three feet above the floor. Wells added that the officer then slammed Khan into the ground hard, resulting in his face hitting the surface.
Describing the atmosphere, Wells said a number of right-wing students were cheering on police officers who were attacking Khan, exclaiming, “Kick him!” She claimed most of the crowd appeared to be on the side of the police. “It was disgusting,” she said. Another student who witnessed events, David Curtis, said some students initially implored the police to let Khan go, but others soon arrived to support the police, chanting “Kick his ass!”
According to Khan, Wells, and Curtis, one of the right-wing students who had earlier harassed Khan joined the cops in forcing him on the ground. Curtis asked the student what authority he was exercising, and the student backed off.
However, Curtis says, a university employee who stood about six feet eight inches and weighed around 300 pounds began helping the cops to further subdue Khan. “He performed jujitsu moves on me while the cops held me down, and the cops let him do it,” Khan said. “Frankly, the cops were doing just fine without him, but this huge guy came and put [Khan’s] free arm in a Kamora,” Curtis said, referring to a jujitsu maneuver in which the arm is painfully bent backwards. “You could see on his face that it was really hurting him,” Curtis said of Khan. A police officer claimed the university employee was an “auxiliary police officer,” but Wells, who works with the man in the computer store, said she had never seen him in that capacity.
Khan said he was then dragged off by two officers toward a police car but was reluctant to get in. He says one cop was preparing to spray him with mace. “He held the can straight at my eyes, about five inches away from my face,” Khan said. “So I started yelling, ‘Hey, this cop is trying to mace me, someone take a picture if you have a camera!”
Wells quickly took out her cell-phone camera and began snapping pictures. “After I did that, the cop put away his mace can and said, ‘Okay, no one’s going to get maced today.’ I mean, clearly, he knew he was doing something wrong,” she said.
Khan says Officer Reynolds told him he had to arrest him because, “What with 9/11 and everything else, we didn’t know what you would do.” Khan also says another policeman told him that “You people are the most violent people in the world.” Before being hauled off to the Fairfax County Jail, Khan was warned by the police who were questioning him that “If you even look at [cops] the wrong way, they’ll hang you up by your feet.”
Officer Reynolds asked the handcuffed student if he needed medical attention or desired an attorney, Khan claims, but says he was granted neither medical attention nor an attorney after expressly asking for both.
Released after two hours, Khan was charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing on campus–even though Khan is a student and police found his ID when they searched him.
The student protester says he is planning to sue the school, the police, and the right-wing students who attacked him. “I went with my wife and my mother-in law to file a complaint at the police office right afterwards, and had pictures taken of all my cuts and bruises,” he says.
In response to the incident, the university issued a statement to Khan recognizing that he was staging a peaceful protest and insisting it was committed to students’ rights to free speech on campus; it also said it will conduct an internal investigation into the conduct of the police officers and the other students who were involved in Thursday’s events.
Khan, however, is not impressed. “They haven’t even contacted me yet,” he said. “I’ll believe them when I see results.”
Asked what motivated him to begin his protest against military recruiters on a campus where there is no organized anti-war movement, the former Air Force enlistee said, “For four years, I was making bombs. Then I started wondering where those bombs were actually going.” After reading and learning about the bombing of Kosovo and ongoing destruction of civilian facilities in Iraq, he came to his conclusion: “I asked the questions and I wasn’t happy with the answers We were bombing civilian plants.”
Speaking at a rally held on October 3 that was attended by 150 to 200 supporters at the university, Khan sounded a defiant note: “I will not be bullied or intimidated into silenceThe university authority’s actions me last Thursday were their way of telling me to shut up. And my answer to them is, no, I will not shut up. The power-mongers in this country are using 9/11 and terrorism as an excuse to trample all over our individual rights. A friend of mine recently said, ‘When we’ve traded in all our freedom for security, we’ll find that the only thing we’ve secured is our own incarceration.'”
Photos of Arrest: http://lefthook.org/Ground/Alam100505pictures.html
M. JUNAID ALAM, 22, is co-editor of the leftist youth journal Left Hook, (http://www.lefthook.org), where this report first appeared. He is also a journalism student at Northeastern University and may be reached at email@example.com.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH
We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).
Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
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As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.
We are pleased to clarify the position.
August 17, 2005