The mainstream media is at it again – trying to obfuscate, misinform and bury important issues under the noise of whether a University of Florida student zapped with a Taser at the John Kerry Forum on campus deserves it or the university police abusive actions are justified.
The New York Times tried to depict the young student as ‘a prankster and his apparent flair for self-promotion’ by wanting to record his encounter with Senator Kerry on video. The Press Association suggested ‘his online writings and videos raised the question of whether his actions during the forum were genuine or some kind of stunt.’
It’s not at all surprising that Andrew Meyer, a senior telecommunications major, would want his questioning of the famous Senator be filmed with his own camera. That would also explain why he shows his homemade videos on his website.
The questions raised should not be about the student’s behavior or even the justification for the police to use a Taser on an ‘’unruly’’ student, instead the question should focus on why the police force is armed with a lethal weapon to silence free speech.
There are two significant issues here: First, why does a university allow the police to use a lethal weapon on unarmed students? Amnesty International says the high-voltage weapons have been linked to more than 70 deaths in America. Of course, there is the post-Virginia Tech shooting mentality, which advocates arming of faculty and students against the possibility of danger. But in the case of Andrew Meyer, he was clearly unarmed. Needless to say, it’s abhorrent to think our civilized society would need lethal weapons to control our youngsters in schools. Second, why does the exercise of one’s right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment be considered a threat that warrants an arrest?
In the police report, it claimed that ‘the defendant Andrew Meyer was being lawfully detained for inciting a riot and disrupting a school function.’ The video obviously contradicts the police report. There were no students rallying behind Meyer to start a riot and as for disrupting a school function, even Senator John Kerry said that he ‘never felt threatened by Meyer’ and ‘asked police to allow Meyer to ask his question.’
What’s disturbing about the University Police Department document is that it states the circumstances for using a Taser include trying to avoid an officer’s attempts to control a situation. A person does not have to strike or harm an officer to justify use of a Taser, according to “UPD document states circumstances for Taser use” (Independent Florida Alligator, 9/18/2007). In other words, anyone can be a victim to police abuse.
The students at the University of Florida got it right – this incident is too important to be ignored. They have held a series of protests supporting Meyer and their own right to free speech. Their fight is really everyone's fight, too! It could be one of us, next!