18 September 2007

Would you taser this guy?

What does it mean to live in a free society? I know, I know, some of you out there are going to start with the "Bush this," and "NSA that" and Gitmo this," and I wouldn't argue with you. But generally, in a way that impacts our daily lives, we do okay. If I want to write here, "George W. Bush is a borderline fascist who tramples over our civil rights and is perfectly willing to kill hundreds of thousands of people to gain power and profit from it," I can. And I did.

If we want to gather in a public place and exchange these views, we can.

If we want to show up to an event and protest, we can.

If we want to write books, record songs, make movies that are critical of public figures, we can.

Does this mean we're allowed to do everything we want? That we should be able to? You may be able to figure out where I'm going with this. Yesterday a 21 year old college student named Andrew Meyer was tasered during a lecture/ q&a by John Kerry. There is a chilling video of a swarm of campus security zapping the kid with 50,000 volts of electricity as he cries out in pain.

The thing is, to some degree, he had it coming.

First, the video:

It's pretty shocking (pun mildly intended). Here's just a brave American, trying to speak his point of view, and getting assaulted by the Gestapo. There was immediate buzz (yes, I know, but I can't stop) about this event. That video has been viewed over 100,000 times in a day. It was shown on the Today Show.

We talked about it at work. My co-workers all agreed that silencing this guy's opinion was akin to denying him free speech. I disagreed. While I felt that tasering the kid was probably a little extreme (perhaps a lot), I can see exactly why he was dragged away from the mic.

Some opinions that aren't my own.

From a blog at the Washington Post:

There are some important things worth noting BEFORE you watch the video:

1.) Before Meyer is tasered, audience members can be heard applauding the police as they move him away from the microphone. Kerry staffers we spoke with say University of Florida officials told them the student has caused a fuss at similar events before, thus the clapping from members of the audience.

2.) Sen. Kerry was in town giving a lecture on foreign policy. The event was scheduled to last one hour, and had already run about 90 minutes by the time Meyer got to the microphone, according to a Kerry staffer.

3.) In some versions of the video, you can clearly hear Sen. Kerry say he will answer Meyer's questions. Kerry's office made it clear he has a policy of answering questions from anyone who asks at these types of events.

4.) Sen. Kerry's office issued the statement below:

"In 37 years of public appearances, through wars, protests and highly emotional events, I have never had a dialogue end this way. I believe I could have handled the situation without interruption, but I do not know what warnings or other exchanges transpired between the young man and the police prior to his barging to the front of the line and their intervention. I asked the police to allow me to answer the question and was in the process of responding when he was taken into custody. I was not aware that a taser was used until after I left the building. I hope that neither the student nor any of the police were injured. I regret enormously that a good healthy discussion was interrupted."

And from Daily Kos.

"I was at the Kerry speech today, sitting 2 rows away from all the action. I'll let you know how it really went down.

The forum was going to be over at 2 pm, and Kerry spoke for so long that the Q and A portion had to be shortened. He only got through about 7 of the 50 people who were waiting to ask questions. While the final question was being read, some douchebag ran down the aisle, grabbed the mic from the other side of the room, interrupted the kid who was talking, and started yelling at Kerry, demanding that his questions be heard. He started ranting about how Kerry talks in circles or something, and everyone was getting annoyed. The cops are all over him in no time and try to escort him out, but he starts yelling and resisting. Kerry insists that they let him stay and even agrees to answer his question.

After the interrupted guy's question was answered, Kerry keeps his promise and lets the angry guy talk. This is the point where people started taking their cameras and phones out. All the videos floating around youtube start around here. You can see in the videos that his questioning gets kind of inappropriate, so somebody cut his mic. Instead of shutting up, he starts yelling and making an even bigger scene. He struggled all the way up the aisle, and started violently trying to free himself. They threatened to taze him and he wouldnt stop fighting, so he got tazed. They only had to arrest him because he was causing a disruption and wouldn't leave peacefully. He wasn't being silenced for asking tough questions, trust me.

It's a shame that they had to taze the guy, but he had a chance to calm down and didn't take it. He probably didn't pose a physical threat to anybody in the room, but someone can't just hijack the floor of a forum like that and expect not to get kicked out. This wasn't some poor guy who was brutalized for trying to ask some tough questions. He's just an obnoxious guy who had a fit when there wasn't time for his questions and refused to be calm even when he was given the chance to speak. He was looking for trouble, and everyone applauded when he was forced to leave.

Nothing pisses me off more than hearing stories about power tripping cops abusing their power, unnecessarily tazing or arresting people, etc. It's a huge problem and I'm glad it's being discussed. Just don't mistake this for one of those cases"

Where do we draw the line at having the right to things, and abusing the right? While you have the right to ask a senator tough questions (and let's be clear: Kerry DID try and answer them), do you have the right to step on other people's toes, act like an asshole, and basically yell at a guy who is trying to give a speech? Especially when you support him?

I'm not saying that the kid should have been tasered. I'm not. He shouldn't have been tasered, or beaten. Should he have been removed? Hell yes. Those campus security folks overreacted, but he did start to push and shove them. That's his own damn fault.

If I showed up where Karl Rove was speaking, and I acted the way he did, I'd expect to be tossed out too. Or if I did it at an Obama speech, a McCain speech, or a Schwarzenegger speech. This isn't a party thing. This isn't a free speech thing.

It's a matter of just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

But what do you think?


Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

I sounded off on this issue as well, today (on another blog I have and only update periodically). Basically, I predict another L.A. riot will occur, worse than '92, related to tasers. Link.

The Ambiguous Blob said...

Some people need to learn to shut the fuck up and wait their turn.
In related news...
I bought a taser a few years ago and tried it on myself as soon as I got it home.
I chose a nice fleshy spot on my thigh and went through jeans. It stung like a mofo.

yllwdaisies said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yllwdaisies said...

I went to see Bubba speak a couple of months ago. The woman behind me in the stands was so aggravating, & kept say "What is this sh*t" & other comments about how annoying it was for her to have to be there.

She coulda used some dragging away. I'm w/ you on the removing ppl who are not truly wanting to hear the person. It's like going to a Manilow concert & booing him. Why go?

Oh, I posted on another tasering incident that happened last year.

pistols at dawn said...

I think it's sad that the only way anything exciting can happen at a Kerry speech is if someone gets tased.

katarose said...

I think all douchebags should be tasered. By me.

Even the guy's website is douchey.

katarose said...

correction: http://www.theandrewmeyer.com/

radialrelish said...

I would like to know if Kerry is really in the same secret society as Bush, and I think the kid behaved absolutely correctly.

Laaw-yuhr said...

Thoughtful post IDOP. As usual, I am torn.

Part of me does feel that this is really kind of disturbing. The fact the four security people really couldn't get the jerk out of the building and tazed him does seem over the top and seems to highlight our nonchalance towards violence.

Then again, every time I go to something like this some dickwad hijacks the mike and embarrasses the university/students/humanity by asking a question aimed at either making himself seem important or by trying to embarrass the speaker. So part of me likes to see this tazing as a tazing of all speech hijacking jerks throughout America.

Grant Miller said...

I thought about writing about this dude. But didn't. I feel bad for him. I'm sure he expected to be tossed, etc. But I've dealt with many, many college cops and I'm not surprised they were the ones who went off the deep end and Tazered the dude. College cops, as I've noticed are usually folks that could get jobs as regular cops.

Laaw-yuhr said...

By the way, I just discovered this which may be the greatest use of youtube commentary. ever.