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Campus military recruiters in hot water

Published Oct 23, 2005 10:15 AM

After being “banned” from campus, Charles Peterson has been reinstated at Holyoke Community College. This victory for the entire counter-recruitment and anti-war movement came only after massive worldwide support for Peterson and resistance actions, including a march and rally on campus Oct. 6.

The attempt to bar Peterson from the campus where he studies and works came after a counter-recruiting action there on Sept. 29. He and other members of the HCC Anti-War coalition were brutalized and Maced by campus and state cops as they were protesting Army National Guard recruiting at the student cafeteria. They also focused on the Pentagon’s bigoted “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which essentially bars LGBT persons from enlisting—in violation of the college’s and the state’s non-discrimination laws. (www.campusantiwar.net)

The day after this action, Peterson was visited at his home by two state police officers, who told him he was banned from campus and would be arrested for trespassing if he entered public HCC property. Peterson, a leading member of the coalition, is vice president for academic affairs on the Student Senate and is employed at HCC.

The movement started a campaign that resulted in well over 1,000 calls, emails and faxes from all over the world to college president William Messner. Many anti-war and other progressive organizations also helped by sending out statements and announcements to thousands of members on their list serves or posting these on websites, among other support actions.

The Anti-War coalition is still demanding an immediate, unconditional public apology from the college; a pledge of non-retaliation against activists; a thorough and impartial investigation; and a ban keeping military recruiters off campus.

Hands off Tariq Khan!

Tariq Khan, a Pakistani student at George Mason University in Virginia and a former U.S. Air Force member, was assaulted by police and an ROTC member while protesting Marine recruiters on campus Sept. 29. Evidently they didn’t like the sign this veteran was carrying: “Recruiters lie, don’t be deceived.”

An ROTC member ripped off his sign and police were seen choking the peaceful protester and dragging him, handcuffed, to a police car after he refused to move from the recruiter’s table area. Khan has been charged with disorderly conduct, trespassing at his own university and resisting arrest. His court date is set for Nov. 14.

Like Peterson, Khan is receiving widespread support.

An Oct. 3 rally at George Mason to demand immediately dropping the charges against Khan drew over 150 students and allies. Hundreds, if not thousands of people, have supported Khan in various ways. This includes 129 faculty members signing a letter calling for an investigation of the police actions and of the school’s policy on First Amendment rights.

Over 550 students, faculty, staff, alum ni, campus community members and other supporters have signed a “Drop all charges!” online petition. (new.petition online.com/gmutariq/petition.html) And the American Civil Liberties Union is defending Khan, who is considering taking legal action against the university.

As a result of this pressure, the university thus far has issued a statement to Khan recognizing that he was staging a peaceful protest and insisting it is committed to students’ rights to free speech on campus; it also pledged to conduct an internal investigation into the conduct of the police officers against the other students involved in the Sept. 29 incident.

Khan himself, like Peterson, is on the front lines in his own defense. At the Oct. 3 rally he declared:

“Now, I’ve got a message for the police, and GMU authorities, and for all of the right-wing goons who helped the police brutalize me or who cheered them on. If by ‘don’t cause any more disturbances’ they mean don’t tell students the truth about the military, then I will continually cause disturbances. I will not be bullied or intimidated into silence, I will not respect or obey any order that tells me I can’t exercise my own inalienable rights,” said Khan.

“I will continue to stand against war, militarism, occupation and authoritarianism. And I will not acquiesce to fear tactics and bullying and stupidity and hate. The university authorities’ 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!’ They don’t want me to say recruiters lie. Well I’m going to say it, ‘Recruiters lie!,’” concluded Khan.

To support the “Drop all charges, now!” demand, speak your mind to Alan G. Merten, George Mason president, at (703) 993-8700 or mail letters to: Office of the President, George Mason University, 4400 University Dr. MSN 3A1, Fairfax, VA 22030.