Police Brutality On Campus
- Student Brutalized by Cops, Right-Wing Students,
for Protesting Recruiters At George Mason University
M. Junaid Alam
- See Pictures of Arrest-
[NOTE: Another similar incident happened last week at Holyoke. Below]
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 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
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 silence The university
authority's actions against 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
M. Junaid Alam, 22, is co-editor of Left Hook and a Journalism
student at Northeastern University. He may be reached at
alam @ lefthook.org.
Statement from Holyoke Community College Anti-War Coalition
From: Elizabeth Wrigley-Field <wrigleyfield @ nyu.edu>
To: campusantiwarnetwork @ yahoogroups.com
September 29, 2005
To Dr. William Messner, President of Holyoke Community College:
We are writing to express our deep outrage at the events of
September 29, when campus police assaulted peaceful student
protesters and sprayed one student with mace.
Approximately thirty activists, many of them members of Holyoke
Community College's Anti War Coalition, exercising their First
Amendment rights to "assemble and petition government for redress of
grievances," participated in a planned, peaceful picket of Army
National Guard recruiters in the lobby of the college cafeteria.
This was a diverse group of students, black, white, latino, gay,
straight, men and women, united in peaceful and vocal opposition to
US policy in Iraq, the spending priorities of the US political
system, and the college's hypocrisy in giving preferential, and we
believe illegal, access to military recruiters whose enlistment
policies bar gays and lesbians-- in violation of the college's own
anti-discrimination policies. Furthermore, we believe that the
college's policies violate Massachusetts laws that prohibit
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Students at HCC are encouraged to voice their opinions, and yet in
this case, when students did exactly that, they became the victims
of police brutality. Students who had passed through the cafeteria
at 7:30AM noted then that the police were already present even
though recruiters were not scheduled to begin tabling until 10AM.
The police assault on the students began when one student standing
in front of Officer Landry held aloft with both hands a hand-
lettered, poster board sign reading "Cops are hypocrites." The sign
had no stick attached to it. At that point, Peter Mascaro, head of
Campus Security, reached over Officer Landry's head, snatched the
sign from the student's hands, saying "That is inappropriate!" In
surprise the student tried to reach for his sign. At this point the
campus police, led by Officer Landry, assaulted the student. Mr.
Mascaro ordered Officer Landry, "Let him go." Officer Landry
heatedly replied "Are you serious?" The police officer's
inappropriate grabbing of the sign constituted the battery.
Three other officers joined Officer Landry in grabbing each of the
student's limbs and hoisted him off the ground. Other students
instinctively tried to protect the student being assaulted. When
the officers lost their grip on the student, he backed away and
raised his hands in the air indicating his non-violent posture. At
approximately that moment, Officer Landry maced a different student,
one who was not doing anything or making any gestures to do anything
at the time.
Both of the students who were battered by campus police are
upstanding members of the HCC community. One is a tutor in the CAPS
Center. The other received the David James Taylor Excellence in
Philosophy Award, is Vice President for Academic Affairs on the
Student Senate, is a member of the College's Learning Communities
Committee, and is a frequent contributor to the student newspaper.
Several of the activists involved observed that the student who was
maced had consistently played a moderating role in the protest.
As the assault was taking place, approximately a dozen College
Republicans were moving forward, pumping their fists in the air,
shouting and encouraging the Officers on. It should be noted that
the Officer Scott Landry (HCC Badge Number 4), the officer who used
mace on the student, is also an Advisor to the College Republican
Club at HCC. Throughout the morning, the campus police force
ignored the activities of the College Republicans and were only
deployed against the protesters.
At approximately this time college officials appear to have called
local and State Police, and at least twenty state police arrived in
riot gear and gas masks. Officer Landry looked at one of the
protesters and, observing that he was wearing a button reading
"Lesbian and Gay Liberation," loudly uttered an obviously homophobic
taunt: "He'll have fun in jail." As Officer Landry is an employee
of the college, we believe that his taunt constituted illegal and
actionable discrimination under Massachusetts laws.
By this time, the protesting students were trying to peacefully
disperse and attend to the traumatized students who had been
battered by campus police. Riot police amassed in the cafeteria
with boxes labeled "gas masks."
We want to know the if the police were preparing to deploy gas in
the cafeteriaa place where there were many students, cafeteria
workers, and some children present.
With riot police threateningly lined up in the stairwell, groups of
students hostile to the protesters surrounded and came close to
rioting against the small crowd who had left the building and were
trapped in the courtyard outside.
During this time, one student reports that he went to get a drink of
water in the student lounge and ten to fifteen police in full riot
gear pointed their guns at the student and said "we're not letting
anyone in or out of here."
We demand 1) an immediate, unconditional public apology from the
college; 2) a pledge of non-retaliation against the activists
involved; 3) a thorough and impartial investigation into these
incidents; and finally, 4) that the military recruiters not be
allowed back to our college, as their actions and those of the
military discriminate against people based on their sexual
orientation, in violation of Massachusetts law and college policy.
Furthermore, the military is engaging in an economic draft against
working class and poor people in an attempt to buttress this
nation's illegal war against Iraq.
Members of the Anti War Coalition at Holyoke Community College
Please call Holyoke Community College to register your concerns.
HCC Main Number 1-413-552-2600
President Messner 1-413-552-2222
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