Last week, George Mason University police used strong armed tactics deserving of harden criminal posing real and clear danger to the police to arrest a silent war protestor who also happened to be a veteran of the US Air Force and a Pakistani Muslim.
Veteran Tariq Khan who grew up in this country was making a statement in the Johnson Center against the war in Iraq, standing only few feet away from a military recruiting table. Protesting in silence Khan was wearing protest signs on his chest that read” Recruiters Lie, Don’t be deceived”. These words provoked the anger of those supporting the war, where a macho marine, yelling and screaming walked over to Khan and simply ripped the sign off Khan chest. I assume that the marine was fighting for our liberty and freedom, but perhaps he knows nothing of our constitution and our first amendment rights, perhaps he never heard of the first amendment rights.
The campus police, as usual where also ready for action, disparaging Khan and his Middle Eastern background jumped on him, threw him against the wall, handcuffed him and of course took him for booking at the county jail. All the while Khan, the guy who joined the Air Force for 4 years remained silent, but that did not help, a police and a marine, both of whom one would think, would have read the US Constitution and the First Amendment rights before putting the uniform as public servants. Well, may be these two happened to be an exception, we hope.
Without the need to go into the whole thing about the Iraq War and the whole thing about weapon of mass destructions that never existed and without going into the background of all those who planned for and pushed for war, supporting the troop is one thing, supporting the Administration position on the war is another thing.
In the case of George Mason University, the administration and faculty are taking the issue of freedom and free speech very seriously. Provost Peter N. Sterns promised to review policies making sure free speech is protected on campus, with 129 professors signing a letter calling for an independent review of the conduct of university police and a review of policies regarding free speech.
As it happens all administrations that found itself in very unpopular war invoke patriotism to keep the war going, to silence those who disagree and suppress the truth. The biggest casualties in time of war, especially the war in Iraq, is the truth which was scarified long time by lies and lies, and freedom of speech, where police and security agencies, all in the name of national security are abusing the powers and rights they have and creating an atmosphere of fear at all levels.
One have to commend the way George Mason University is dealing with the case, with the need to make sure all police officers on campus, read and memories the US Constitution and should take some short courses in First Amendment Rights. It will do the police lots of good, especially on a campus considered the most diverse in the nation. George Mason University is a great university with great people, administration, faculties, and students. Well, the police like all police have to understand we do lice in the great USA, and not in some dictatorships, and they are officers of the law, and not above the law.
Note: much of the information I got from my daughter Diala who is a junior at George Mason University and from the Washington Post, which had an excellent coverage of the incident in its October 6, 2005 edition. Perhaps it is time for a Jefferson Corner where Marines and students can engage in free speech.