Free Speech on Campus

A report on the free exchange of ideas on campuses today:

[On] Thursday, September 29, Tariq Khan was assaulted and arrested by police at his school, George Mason University (GMU) in Virginia. Tariq, a Pakistani-American who himself served in the U.S. Air Force, stood near a Marine recruiting table at his school wearing signs that said "Recruiters tell lies. Don't be fooled" [...]

Three right-wing students quickly surrounded Tariq, yelling at him and ripping one of the signs from his shirt. One of them, who claimed to be a veteran of the Iraq war, said he could not wait to return and kill more Iraqis. School administrators then arrived to question Tariq, followed by officer T.L. Reynolds, who threw Tariq on the ground and put him in a choke-hold.

According to GMU student David Curtis, who witnessed the entire sequence of events, as Tariq's eyes were watering and his face turning red, he struggled to keep saying that he was not being violent and was being attacked for no reason. Officer Reynolds picked him up from behind, slammed him into a stage (cutting his face), and threw him back on the ground, choking him once again. Two students (including one who had been harassing Tariq) and a non-security campus employee then assisted Reynolds in violently handcuffing Tariq. Police dragged him to a police car and threatened him with pepper spray. Throughout this experience, Tariq Khan repeatedly stated his own non-violence and innocence.

Despite requests for medical treatment and a lawyer, Tariq received neither, and was taken to the Fairfax Adult Detention Center, where he was charged with trespassing (on his own campus), resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. His treatment throughout echoes the racism of the U.S. treatment of Arab prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq.

As Tariq relayed to me, Officer Reynolds justified handcuffing Tariq by telling him, "I didn't know who you were, and what with 9/11 and everything, there's no telling what you would do." Another officer chimed in, "You people are the most violent people in the world. You're passive aggressive!" Officer Reynolds then warned Tariq to keep his mouth shut and avoid looking at anyone, because if he so much as looked at an officer wrong, they would "hang you from the ceiling by your feet."

Here's the eye-witness account from David Curtis, a GMU student who saw the drama unfold.