George Mason University recommended late last week that all charges be dropped against a student arrested during a protest against on-campus military recruiters.
Tariq Khan, a student at the university, had made a habit of standing near the military recruiters in the school’s student center while handing out anti-recruitment pamphlets to anyone who was interested.
He also pinned a sign to the front of his shirt that read “Recruiters lie, don’t be deceived.”
It was that sign that sparked the confrontation on Sept. 29, when a student who identified himself as a marine took exception to Khan’s sign, ripping it to pieces and throwing it back at Khan, according to witnesses.
The two subsequently got into a verbal argument, before building staff told Khan that he needed to leave because he did not have a permit to hand out pamphlets.
When Khan still refused to leave, building officials called campus police, who asked Khan to show some form of identification. Khan did not have any with him, and because he still refused to leave the building, the officers brought out the handcuffs.
It was later determined that Khan was not required to carry identification in the building, nor did he need a permit to hand out the pamphlets, since they only went to people who expressed interest in them.
Speaking to education news site Inside Higher Ed, university police chief Michael Lynch said that Khan attempted to run away after seeing the handcuffs.
“He was told to turn around and put his hands behind his back,” Lynch said. “Had he done that, it would have been something similar to Cindy Sheehan or other peaceful protesters making a statement and getting arrested.”
Khan insists that he was only walking backwards. As it was, Khan soon found himself on the floor with a building staff member and a campus police officer restraining and handcuffing him. Khan was later booked with charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct.
The arrest sparked demonstrations by over 100 students supporting Khan’s case against the Commonwealth of Virginia.
George Mason University decided they needed a closer look into the event not long afterwards, commissioning an investigation by both University police and a separate third party, university spokesman Daniel Walsch said.
The findings of that investigation have prompted the university to ask that the charges be dropped, though, according to Walsch, “The ball is still in [The Virginia Commonwealth attorney]’s court.”
Khan is currently scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 19. No in-house disciplinary action has yet been leveled in either direction by the university, though the involved parties are scheduled to speak with the dean of students in the near future.