Wednesday, September 19, 2007

He Tased You, Bro

(You all know the story of the kid who got tasered at University of Florida on Monday. If not, read about it here because the story is too long to explain here.) I tried to avoid this issue - I really did. It just seemed too complicated; is it a free speech issue, is it a police brutality issue, is it an enigmatic mix of the two? While the whole "taser" aspect is clearly a police brutality issue, the freedom of speech certainly plays a role because it is what sparked the police action. Additionally, many of the responses on the various websites and blogs that I have seen have attacked the speaker, Andrew Meyer, for being obnoxious. While I have checked out his website and he seems like someone who thinks he is funny, but in reality he is really just annoying, that does not take away his right to free speech. He was not inciting a riot (as the police report wildly misinforms anyone who reads it) in the forum with John Kerry, he was not advocating illegal conduct or anything like that, he wasn't threatening anyone. If you can get past his bro exterior, Meyer actually asked a legitimate question of John Kerry: Why did you concede on the day of the election if there were rumors of disenfranchisement and mechanical failures in voting machines? Kerry thought so, too, because as Meyer was being manhandled by the po, Kerry actually answered his question.

So, having watched a couple versions of the events (here and here), I'm going to lean toward the argument of over-zealous police work. The first rebuttal to this is the fact that Meyer appears to be resisting arrest. This is where the core of the debate lies. To begin, there was no arrestable charge present, thus any resisting that occurred could not be classified under "resisting arrest," because no arrest should have been occurring. It appears that after Meyer's mic was turned off he put his arms up in the air and walked away from the mic, indicating that he was done with his diatribe-laden question. Instead of waiting to see if Meyer would create a scene and thus require the need to be directed to the exit, the police rushed in directly to put his hands behind his back and lead him out of the auditorium before Senator Kerry had the chance to answer his question. Throughout the whole ordeal, Meyer seems to be trying to keep his hands up - a non-confrontational gesture - while the police are yelling at him to keep them down. Additionally, Meyer clearly asks a few times why he is being arrested. Instead of explaining the situation to Meyer, the police respond with more force to try to get him out of the auditorium. Throughout this whole ordeal, mind you, Senator Kerry is actually answering the question posed - which, again, was legitimate.

So the police get him up the ramp about 10 feet from the exit (a 6'2" 250lb. cop versus the smaller Meyer did not turn out to be much of a problem for the cop) when Meyer turns around, asks what they are doing to him and finds himself at the bottom of a pile of about 5-6 cops. Meyer continually asks why he is being arrested and actually says that if they let him up he will leave under his own power. Because no arrestable charge had been relayed to Mr. Meyer at the time, this is a request that should have been granted. There was no way he was armed (you think the security at the event didn't set up a metal detector for a U.S. Senator who was a former Presidential candidate?) and he posed very little physical threat to the officers who, in theory, were wearing bulletproof vests and other protective gear. So why the taser? If you ask me, I say inappropriate police work.

Was Meyer under arrest? No. Did Meyer resist arrest? Technically no, because he was not under arrest because the police never said that he was. Was Meyer's speech protected by the 1st Amendment? Absolutely. With this information, I have to venture to say that the police in this instance used inappropriate force, and it seems that some at the University of Florida may agree with me, as the arresting officer and a sergeant present have been placed on paid leave. Peace.

Photos - Top: Andrew Meyer amidst a struggle with University of Florida Police (

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