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The case of the curious taser incident

UPDATE II: The clearest video clip yet:

Following from the UCLA student tasered last November, another incident is rapidly making its way to international coverage across the web. This time, the student has been tasered for asking a question outside of Q & A time at a Senator John Kerry Town Hall Forum at the University of Florida (UF), Gainesville, on Sept 17.

At first sight, the video clip is rather disturbing. It behooves us to investigate further and to mention the prior lead-up however, without for a minute condoning the use of these stun-guns. Partial, over-drawn misrepresentations do not help anybody, least of all those of us who cherish our freedoms and who roundly reject the creeping criminalisation of dissent.

By most accounts (a collection of links compiled by the local Gainsville Sun press appears here), all UF journalism student Andrew Meyer, 21, did was ask a few questions at or near the termination of a Q & A at this event. A video clip hosted here seems to show more coverage of Meyer’s questions than do the clips available at YouTube. Video clip subsequently posted above shows better coverage of Andrew Meyer’s questions; youtube user Fozzymandias writes:

I couldn’t get to my camera in time to record his entrance, but this guy basically comes running in with 4 or 5 cops in tow and says he has been running around trying to get in to ask a question and the cops are going to arrest him for it. they almost do it then but Sen. Kerry says he will answer it.

The questions, though stridently expressed, appear to be neither rude nor threatening. Meyer first asks Senator Kerry why he had too readily conceded the 2004 presidential election when there were obvious examples of voter machine fraud, disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida and Ohio and the compelling case that Kerry had won; Meyer refers to a copy of investigative journalist Greg Palast‘s Armed Madhouse in his hand. He quickly follows with the question of why there had been no moves to impeach President Bush especially with another act of military aggression gearing up, this time towards Iran, and ends by asking about Kerry’s membership in the Yale-based Skull and Bones secret society (last part of the question recorded in youtube video clips, appended).

Depending upon which video clip you see, there does appear to be some audience protest at the back of the auditorium when Meyer is being tasered. Again, at first sight, it is curious that police officers were stationed so closely to the audience mike and set upon this student, wielding naught but a book, so quickly. The police incident report alleges that Meyer was in line to ask a question of Sen. Kerry when it was decided that no more questions would be allowed, which might conceivably account for their close proximity to an apparently agitated Meyer, but would hardly constitute a justification for what transpired next.

Meyer insisted, perhaps rather boorishly, that he wanted to be allowed ample preface to his question to the senator because he had been waiting for two hours throughout the Senator’s presentation (see video clip here). Kerry does direct that Meyer be allowed to ask his question, so his subsequent seizure by several police officers seems rather odd. As all video clips have shown, Meyer was dragged towards the back of the lecture hall before being held to the ground and hit with the taser gun.

The Times reports that

The student, Andrew Meyer, who was well-known on campus for his practical jokes, was Tasered after jumping the queue to ask Mr Kerry a series of questions in a Florida University lecture hall on Monday.

Even if Meyer’s was a grandiloquent, attention-grabbing stunt, the administering of electroshock tasering would seem unwarranted based on the Senator’s clearly expressed agreement to respond. I’ve seen many disappointed questioners turned away from lack of time at forums, some waiting at the mike queue for ages and deprived of their opportunity. Meyer’s insistence was at worst bombastic, but hardly seems to constitute a public nuisance or threat.

And I’m sure many of us have been to forums where long-winded “questions” (read polemical diatribes) are asked. Usually, an insistent audience and/ or panel “and your question is?” is enough to prod the questioner back to his or her question and off the soapbox.

Meyer could well be a publicity-seeking yahoo, but going by the video tapes, the police’s reaction is uncalled for. We would also do well to recall that these “non-lethal” weapons are hardly non-lethal — they have actually killed 200 people in the last five years, and are used extensively in places like Iraq. In a time of increased citizen harassment and curtailment of civil liberties in our ostensibly free and democratic societies, police and government officials might wish to consider moves aimed at reassuring and restoring public confidence rather than simply confirm suspicions of a police state that no longer needs to hide its transgressions, instead committing them openly before crowds in auditoriums.

See also Death by Taser: The Killer Alternative to Guns; Gainsville Sun coverage; Andrew Meyer homepage; Taser Corp home page.

11 comments on “The case of the curious taser incident

  1. michaelgreenwell
    19 September, 2007

    the video is a bit disturbing.

    and as you said, it is the creeping criminalisation of dissent.

    did you read naomi klein’s latest article about the protest?

  2. Chuck
    19 September, 2007

    This is the vantage point of the taser incident at the Kerry speech that no one wants you to see. Check it out at

  3. Ann El Khoury
    19 September, 2007

    Thanks very much, Chuck, that does put a different light on things. Both Andrew Meyer’s manner and questions, right from the start, seem reasonable. He becomes understandably impassioned at a stolen election — since when is it a crime to be passionate? Its interesting too how things apparently become tense when voter fraud and race is mentioned, at least in my perception. I’ll update the post with your link, with thanks.

    Thanks for the link Michael. “Surveillence is the new democracy”, indeed! Klein writes:

    …the Boston Globe reported on plans to link thousands of CCTV cameras on streets, subways, apartment buildings and businesses into networks capable of tracking suspects in real time. And on August 15, confirmation came that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency–the arm of the US military that runs spy planes and satellites over enemy territory–would be fully integrated into the infrastructure of domestic intelligence gathering and local policing, becoming what the agency calls the “eyes” to the NSA’s “ears.”

    Add a few more high-tech tools–biometric IDs, facial-recognition software, networked databases of “suspects,” GPS bundled into ever more electronic devices–and you have something like the world of total surveillance most recently portrayed in The Bourne Ultimatum.

    Appreciate the tip.

  4. Rachel
    19 September, 2007

    I disagree with the use of the taser gun in this incident as well, but i find your total disregard for Meyer’s fault in the situation a bit unfair. Meyers CLEARLY resisted the police when they tried to drag him away from the mic; he practically wrestled with them to free himself. That was pretty stupid on his part. The police should have just called in more help or found other means to subdue Meyers, but Meyers did not stop his rambling when asked repeatedly and was idiotic enough to physically struggle with the cops.


    Hi Rachel,

    I appreciate your comment, and the fact that there’s more to the story than first meets the eye. Thanks for coming by. — Ann

  5. dianarn
    20 September, 2007

    Whoever said tasers are non-lethal was never tasered and probably should be tasered until dead. I just read that a 56-year old wheelchair bound woman was tasered to death:
    And a 14-year old autistic child also got tasered:
    This stuff is escalating and it won’t be long until people have had enough.


    Thanks for coming by Dianarn and for the links.
    — Ann

  6. FurGaia
    21 September, 2007

    This just hits the nail on the head!


    Appreciate the link, FurGaia. If this is a microcosm of Bush’s America, it doesn’t portend well at all.
    — Ann

  7. naj
    23 September, 2007

    I disagree with Rachel, about the stupidity of resisting cops

    It speaks to the same kind of logic that think Iraqis are stupid to not have entirely bent over to Americans, or the one that thinks Iranians are stupid to not surrender to bullying!

    What Rachel’s (and it could be anyone who holds that opinion) argument ignores is the “WHY” of the cops dragging the guy away? It also ignores the “WHEN” of the incident. As well as the “WHAT” of the question.

    Now I am sure those cops were not the most intelligent of the human breed, and had no political intention, instruction, motivation. Security enforcement officers, like any other type of uniform wearing humans in north America (even bank tellers) are automatons who have no creativity beyond their trainings.

    Is it possible that Meyer invested himself to draw attention to the “artificial intelligence” of the so called security forces that are supposed to protect us? Perhaps!

    I think the SMARTEST outcome of his action is this debate that is happening around this incident, and the PROOF that politically inclined “outlaws” are vulnerable to police brutality, for crimes uncommitted.

  8. Curtis
    23 September, 2007

    In my opinion, even accounting for every possible “well, what if you were the cop” line of reasoning, etc., there can be no justification for this kind of gratuitous violence. When it is committed by the police, it is still gratuitous violence.

  9. Ann El Khoury
    23 September, 2007

    Indeed, and as Naj points out, submission to that gratuitous violence is most often an abrogation of one’s liberty, dignity and freedom. Whether by civil disobedience, non-violent non-cooperation or other means, the right to choose not to capitulate to impunity is a sacred one.

  10. miche
    24 September, 2007

    I, too, would resist a cop strong arming me for asking a question. One should not be arrested for speaking his mind, especially in a Town Hall type of meeting.


    Spoken like a true libertarian. Good to see you, Miche.

  11. Lindsey Chandler
    25 September, 2007

    Yea Ann,
    Scary stuff, and we had what amounts to the same thing happen here in Sydney to Greg McLeay during the APEC meetings, only he was simply crossing the road. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new when I say that Australia too has a police state. You are doing good work here keeping people informed, and maintaining in their memories the acts that indicate how far away from egalitarian society we really are. I hope that they remember come polling day.


    Hi Lindsay,

    Indeed, and the poor man was tackled to the ground as his child looked on. Thanks for your comment, and hope you come by again.


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This entry was posted on 19 September, 2007 by in Dissent, Elections, Opinion, People, US Foreign Policy, USA, Video, Violence, War.

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