BBC – Stun gun used during Kerry debate: University of Florida police used a stun gun on a student taking part in a forum with former presidential candidate John Kerry. Andrew Meyer was questioning Senator Kerry on why he did not contest the results of the 2004 election. University officials said he exceeded his allotted time and became disruptive after his microphone was cut off. Video footage shows police pulling Mr Meyer from the audience and pinning him to the ground before stunning him. The 21-year-old student can be heard screaming for help as the stun gun is administered.
Video footage of the incident is available on YouTube.
The most popular one can be found here:
University of Florida student Tasered at Kerry forum
But a far more complete one can be found here:
UF student Tasered at Kerry forum (new, complete)
I think the use of the Taser was excessive and grossly insensitive given the circumstances. On the latter point; the University police, if they had an interest in public order, should at the very least have considered how the act would have been interpreted, both immediately and in the following days. It was also OTT of them to initially detain Meyer for ‘inciting a riot’.
However, it needs to be pointed out that Andrew Meyer was ‘drive stunned’. This does not amount to a full deployment of a Taser as most people understand it.
I’ll link to the relevant Wikipedia entry here, because the Taser brochure it refers to is quite large and likely to cause browser droop; Some TASER devices, particularly those used by police departments, also have a “Drive Stun” capability, where the taser is held against the target without firing barbs and is intended to cause pain without incapacitating the target. TASER defines “Drive Stun” as “the process of using the EMD weapon as a pain compliance technique. This is done by activating the EMD and placing it against an individual’s body. This can be done without an air cartridge in place or after an air cartridge has been deployed.”
I think it’s important that the limited use of this weapon (in what is charmingly referred to as a ‘pain compliance technique’) be considered in light of Andrew Meyer’s reaction to its application (“OW! OW! OW!” and the instant classic “Don’t Tase me, Bro!”) and the response this has initiated in some quarters because:
Eyewitness report: This is probably the most important piece that the video did not cover. While Senator Kerry was answering a student’s question about Iraq, Meyer rushed to the microphone with cops in tail. No one knew what was going on at that point and I’m sure the cops were looking at the worst case scenario.
He’s already offside, even before he uses the term ‘blow job’ and asks his third and most ridiculous question:
The Register: As you can see, Andrew Meyer, 21, was pretty determined to quiz Kerry on the possible impeachment of President Bush, and indeed, “whether he and Bush were both members of the secret society Skull and Bones at Yale University”, although his impertinence was not actually the cause of his electric exit from the proceedings.
Of course, watching the most popular version of this on YouTube alone, and one might get the impression that the authorities are watching anybody who dares to ask a question very closely and took Meyer down for mentioning a dreaded and all-powerful secret society.
In fact, it seems increasingly likely that this (minus the jolt of electricity) was Meyer’s intention all along:
Washington Post: This was not Meyer’s first escapade as a provocateur, but it may be his most physically punishing. As a freshman his weekly columns for the Alligator, the campus newspaper, regularly prompted debate. “He would take an idea such as a fundraiser for cancer research, and would bash the way the whole event would go down,” wrote Meyer’s friend Brandon Crone in an e-mail, noting that some of Meyer’s articles were rejected for publication because of their incendiary material. Some have speculated that his penchant for attention (his e-mail handle is “famouswriterman”) led him to stage the outburst to draw traffic to his Web site, http://www.theandrewmeyer.com, a mishmash of political commentary, sketch comedy and filmed practical jokes.
WTOPNews: Meyer, a senior telecommunications major from the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Weston, has a Web site featuring several homemade videos. In one, he stands in a street with a sign that says “Harry Dies” after the latest Harry Potter book was released. In another, he acts like a drunk in a bar while trying to pick up a man dressed in drag.
Meyer’s partner in one such ‘funny’ video (which appears to have replaced the Harry Potter one, which has been removed from Meyer’s site for some reason) has since released a comical remix of the arrest footage in an effort to promote the sale of “Don’t Tase Me, Bro” t-shirts.
Further, we also have this:
University of Florida Offense Report: Before I returned to my post I observed Meyer hand a digital hand-held camera to white female he was present with, and it appeared that he instructed her to film his interaction… As the man was escorted down stairs with no cameras in sight, he remained quiet, but once the cameras made their way down stairs he started screaming and yelling again. Some of the comments that the man made were “You can’t kill me.”, “They are giving me to the government.” and “They are going to kill me.” Meyer stated, on the way to the jail, “I am not mad at you guys, you didn’t do anything wrong, you were just trying to do your job.” Meyer was laughing and being lighthearted in the car, his demeanor completely changed once the cameras were not in sight. Meyer did ask, at one point, if the cameras were going to be at the jail….
Just in case you’re not willing to take that at face value…
From 2:30 right here, you can see Andrew Meyer in custody saying: “There are people that know I’m here. You can’t like, kill me…. Oh my god, they’re giving me to the government. They’re giving me to the government. They’re giving me to the government. They’re giving me to the government… Everyone that was here to day please call the police station. Ask them, ask them ‘Where’s the guy that was arrested at the protest?’ Ask them ‘Where’s the guy that was arrested at the John Kerry rally?’ OK? Ask them. Ask them where I am, because they are going to try and kill me. They are going to try and kill me.”
At 03:50, right here, you can see Andrew Meyer in custody saying: “Anybody? Anybody want to follow along, just come with us? And make sure they don’t kill me? Anybody?”
Mark Thomas he is not.
In fact, Teh Interwebs being what it is, you should probably keep a sharp eye out for the first headline or video remix of the event using/referencing this famous advert.
And, despite many people objecting to the use of force in this way, a website and petition in support of Meyer that describes him as “martyr for humanity and freedom of speech” has so far drawn only 8 signatures.
Additionally, it’s reported here that: Thanks to Facebook, we know that about 5,000 students were invited to the protest today. So far, 184 “might show up” and 936 have declined.
All of this will bear watching over the coming days, as will the inevitable bunfight over this new Wikipedia entry.
[Psst! On that last point, I found this on my travels… Wikirage “lists the pages in Wikipedia which are receiving the most edits per unique editor over various periods of time.”]
UPDATE – I went hunting for the ‘Harry Potter spoiler’ video mentioned above, and not only has the embedding code been removed from Andrew Meyer’s website, but the entire video has been removed from YouTube. It was posted using this account (where you can see a duplicated comment posted 18 September 2007 saying “pleaze bring back the harry dies prank”), the URL of the removed file is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-dpvVRBp8s and you can see the stunt/video described here, here, here and, apparently by Meyer himself, here. Would it be unreasonable to suggest that the video was removed because Meyer was concerned about possible PR implications?
UPDATE – Another useful tool found on my travels; Delutube allows you to watch videos that have been deleted from YouTube… not this one, though.
UPDATE – Some related bloggage raising similar points:
Attytood – UPDATED: Meet the future savior of journalism
Gary Bourgeault – Andrew Meyer and the New, Dangerous Media World
And, lest we forget the inappropriate level of force used against this dickhead, this comment from ‘a former Federal law enforcement officer’ under this DailyKos post: The police should have had no part in this situation. Whoever set them on the kid deserves the blame. And the officers who escalated force needlessly deserve to be fired. They are not suitable for their job.
UPDATE – Footage of the resulting protests here and here.