“The” Andrew Meyer, tasered in a fog

I have been reading the growing reaction to the shocking footage of Andrew Meyer’s arrest and tasering at Kerry’s University of Florida speech with mounting horror. The incident horrified me enough, but I had thought that at least among the left-blogosphere, that the obvious unconstitutionality and near police-state brutality the event represented would have been transparent. I thought it would have been universally condemned, even by so-called “left wing moderates.” Apparently, my naivety shows once again.

The comments on Common Dreams for an article written by Naomi Wolf condemning the event are revealing. Because, of course, Common Dreams is far to the left of almost any other newsportal online, and its commenters could generally be relied upon to condemn this sort of obvious (to me) police excesses. And yet all many people can bring themselves to condemn is the tasering itself (and maybe not even that!) instead of the very fact of the completely unlawful arrest.

I’ve seen as many of the videos as I can, including one featuring all of Mr. Meyer’s question to Kerry. I think any person who has attended a lefty event with a Q&A session knows the type of questioner Mr. Meyer represents. They’re the ones who are determined to make their point in as rambling a fashion as possible, with a good deal more statement than question. They can range from fairly mild mannered to considerably more obnoxious than Mr. Meyer. They might be doing it for some cameras, or they might just want to have their rambling views responded to. The fact is that I have been to dozens of events where these types of questioners were one hundred times more annoying and frustrating than Mr. Meyer. Never at any time, even at its worse, did I feel the need to do anything more than perhaps join in the chorus of audience members urging these individuals to wrap it up. Usually the speakers were also familiar with these types, and were adept at disengaging from the long-winded questioner and getting to the answer. Let me repeat this again in clear, unadorned English:

It is EASY to deal with people like Andrew Meyer, no matter HOW you feel about his question. It is done hundreds of times a year and someone as seasoned and experienced as a FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE should not have even batted an eye at Meyer’s behavior.

To make matters worse, it appears that as soon as he asked the Skull and Bones question he had planned to give up the microphone anyway. Obnoxious, loud-mouthed and grandstanding he might have been, but last I checked our First Amendment rights DO cover speech that does not conform to all standards of politeness. His question was more than valid– it was vital and one I doubt any reporter has ever put to the senator. And even if Meyer had spent one minute asking “if you could be any animal, what would you be”, it STILL wouldn’t merit an arrest. People are claiming that Meyer deserved what happened to him because he resisted arrest. They seem to be missing the major point (which is ironic, since Meyer himself shouts it at least ten times on the video):

WHY WAS HE ARRESTED IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Asking a question ISN’T, in the America I hope I still live in, grounds for arrest. He had left the microphone. Kerry was answering the question. Order had been restored. And then, to make the punitive nature of the arrest even more apparent, they wrestle the kid onto the floor and threaten him with a taser. He says, quite clearly, that he will leave if they let him go. Well, that solves their problem, right? That’s the entire point of the fraudulent arrest, right? Apparently not, since they then proceed to zap him with a taser. He’s moaning in pain on the floor while Kerry, former presidential candidate, makes a joke about Meyer not being available to “swear me in as President.”

And this doesn’t make you sick? Do you really think that speech you disagree with, or whose delivery you find fault with, has the right to be censored so violently? Six police officers for one rowdy student?

And significant portions of the left seem to think this isn’t that bad?

Some kind of fog has descended on this country, so thick that we can hardly see through it, and no one even seems to realize that it’s there.

Paul Craig Roberts on this incident.

And a monumentally irrelevant defense of police brutality here, on Common Dreams (apparently, it’s okay to wrestle a non-violent questioner to the floor because he likes posting media pranks and videotaping himself. Who knew?)

Comment by Kyle Mitchell, Freelance reporter, videographer, and columnist
3 hours ago

“As more and more inquiries are being made into who Andrew Meyer really is, the picture of a young man capable and willing to manipulate this weakness of modern media becomes ever more clear.

“An avid prankster and politico, Meyer is a regular at local Gainesville political events. In the past, he has stood on a major street corner with a sign proclaiming “Harry dies” in the final book of the Potter series. His personal website lists interests that include “getting wasted.”

“Moments before publicly berating Senator Kerry – who was gracious enough to allow the question beyond the allotted time available – he gave his own video camera to a complete stranger nearby, simply to ensure that the incident would be recorded. There are also some who have said that he was warned of his impending arrest, though he repeatedly asks “Why are you arresting me?” while it was happening.”

“Kyle Mitchell is a graduate of the University of Florida. He has been working with The Gainesville Sun for more than four years, covering music, entertainment and news.
http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&resnum=1&ct=title&ncl=1120931376&btclp=1&scoring=r

Mr. Mitchell goes on to condemn University of Flordia police in using excessive force on Meyer, and the did just that. U of Flordia police should rightly be condemned, but neither should Meyer beheld as some sort of hero of the First Amendment.

It is clear from Mr. Mitchell’s account that Meyer is a provocateur.

In all likelihood, meyer is sitting in his Gainsville apartment laughing at his own cleverness.

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8 thoughts on ““The” Andrew Meyer, tasered in a fog

  1. Well said. These were my first thoughts upon observing the abhorrent events.

    I don’t know how many of you are aware of what took place recently at the University of Florida. On September 17th Senator John Kerry spoke at a town hall forum, consisting primarily of UF students. Presently this is one of the United States most prestigious and highly recognized institutions of higher learning. This fact makes the following events all the more disparaging. During a Q&A session twenty-one year old UF student Andrew Meyer began by asking Senator Kerry several questions regarding his concession of the 2004 election. He continued his diatribe with a query pertaining to the war and Kerry’s subsequent neglect to appeal for the impeachment of the president. An adverse crowd reaction coupled with the audible badgering of a less than pleased moderator eventually lead to the young man’s microphone being disconnected. At this point police officers appear and without hesitation attempt to physically remove him. This is when the young man makes an indefensible error; he attempts to resist the officer’s efforts. The rest you will have to view yourself, for I choose not to recount such deplorable actions. Meyer was charged with “disturbing the peace” and “resisting an officer.” My purpose is not to defend this young man’s violent actions but to call attention to the circumstances that aggravated the incident. I beseech you to put your political feelings aside, just for a moment, and see this issue for what it began as, an attack on one man’s first amendment right. That right for which hundreds of thousands of our ancestors fought so gallantly to defend, for which our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, cousins, and friends fight and die for to this very day! Is this right somehow valid if such speech falls only upon accepting or acquiescent ears?! Public sentiment regarding this student’s acrimonious exchange is irrelevant. Regardless if not one person agrees with what this man had to say, we are each ultimately obligated to provide him with the right, free from government interference, to say it. Are we to stand by as the very foundation, the quintessential freedom, of our Constitution is compromised? We must exact the will of the founding fathers, oppression will not be tolerated! At the sake of sounding redundant, it is not popular to have an unpopular opinion. The difference is, one day that opinion very well may be yours. One thing is certain though; you can bet your ass I’ll be there to defend it.

    I concede the soap box…

    (I am aware of the controversy surrounding this story claiming that it was staged. That very well may be but is immaterial to this argument. The issue is how the situation was handled by the authorities.)

  2. oneofthree says:

    While I admire your eloquence with words, I must disagree. The first amendment is not absolute, as most people seem to believe. The Supreme Court has ruled that the government may regulate speech when that speech is made in a public or limited public forum (political rallies are included). The government may regulate speech when it is content neutral. The articles I have read seem to indicate that Mr. Meyers cut in line and demanded the floor, Mr. Kerry allowed him to speak and that is when he thanked Mr. Kerry. (which is also why law enforcement was behind him already – it seems that most of the videos begin with him already at the mike). If this is correct then law enforcement did have the authority to remove him.
    While I’m not saying they should have, or shouldn’t have, what I’m saying is that they were within their legal authority to remove him. And once they made that decision, he resisted, committing a felony in Florida – so they arrested him – and it goes from there.
    Again, I don’t feel that the use of the taser was the smartest thing to do in a public crowd, I believe law enforcement had the authority to do that, as he was resisting arrest with violence. (While it may not seem to some of you that he was resisting with violence, in Florida he was – any pulling or shoving, tugging, etc is resisting with violence – it does not require actual hitting of law enforcement)

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion – I just wanted to shed a little light on the issue.

  3. I happen to believe that Meyer was indeed mistreated. At first I was horrified by the event, but as I’m learning more I’m becoming at least a little bit less so. Meyer himself, it appears, isn’t even as outraged as some of the people commenting on the event.

    But what I find most interesting is that reading your post I can FEEL the anger you feel about it. And I felt that too when I first saw it. What’s also interesting is how many people I know, including good, decent people, watch this same event and feel just as much anger at Meyer!

    I thought a lot about why this event was so dividing people and having that kind of impact and wrote about it at Emotional Responses to the Andrew Meyer & John Kerry Incident. I hope you’ll get a chance to check out my thoughts and perhaps comment. I really do empathize with your feelings about this incident, but I think the important thing for all of us is to think about where our feelings are coming from and what is their actual origin. Best, Howard.

  4. Alaya says:

    Hi oneofthree:

    Thanks for commenting. I confess that I don’t know what Supreme Court ruling you’re referring to, or the details (if you could post some links, I’d be grateful). However, I find it hard to believe that the right to “regulate” speech includes the right to stop someone from speaking when he asks an awkward or confrontational question to a public figure. Kerry had allowed him to speak. And as far as I could tell in the videos, no one made more than a token effort to tell him to step down. Certainly not Kerry. And as I said in my post, it appears that he was planning to end his questions with the Skull and Bones comment anyway. There was nothing threatening in his actions or his speech to Kerry. He didn’t even go on that long– I think his question took a minute or so. So when the police moved in, he was absolutely correct to demand why he was being arrested. The idea that it’s okay to arrest someone because they’ve gone over their alloted time at a public event is chilling, to say the least.

    And as for resisting…he was never threatening at any point, so even if they had to use force, the fact that they tasered him is just obviously excessive. SIX police officers couldn’t contain ONE student without using a high-voltage shock? Come on.

    Howard:

    Interesting post. I’m really not sure where my personal experiences fall on your authoritarian scale, but I will say that I think certain situations rationally merit anger, or at least outrage (which I think is more the spirit of my post).

    You might be interested in Bob Altemeyer’s The Authoritarians. See my earlier post on the book. Incredibly fascinating, and it deals with some of the issues you raised about experiences with authority.

  5. Alaya,

    No doubt certain things merit outrage even in emotionally healthy people. I can tell that some of the outrage on both sides is not of that quality though. Personally, I think the appropriate response is definitely anger, but there is just a different vibe when it’s anger truly directed toward the event vs. unconscious anger about past personal issues being projected onto it. You can sometimes pick up that subtle difference.

    The Authoritarians sounds fascinating! I think that what is really missing in this culture is a deeper psychological understanding of the personality structure of those in power and how it ties in so deeply to civilization at large. Thanks for the recommendation.

  6. oneofthree says:

    Alaya, I have cited some supreme court cases on my wordpress account.
    It appears from other eye witness accounts that most videos begin after the original disruption (Mr. Meyer cutting in front of other students, demanding to be heard) and actually by violating those simple procedural rules allows law enforcement to remove that person from the forum. As long as those restrictions are content neutral. A lot of people comment that he was cut off when he mentions skull and bones – when I have heard and read that the Q & A was over. Who knows really – we weren’t there, right? All I’m saying is that due to violations of time, place and manner restrictions, he could be removed. At the point where leo attempted to remove him, I don’t believe he was being arrested. He had not committed a criminal offense, in my opinion. He violated the procedural rules, and he needed to leave. Once he starts pulling away from law enforcement, or spitting on law enforcement (Which one UF student says he did) that’s battery on law enforcement – again battery on leo does not require physical hitting in florida. At THAT point, he’s under arrest and then he resists.

    As far as him being threatening to Kerry, that’s not my point, and I don’t think he was. However, he was to be removed and he committed battery on leo. Regardless of whether you agree with that law (which I’ve posted the statute language on my site) it is a law where leo can arrest.

    And for 6 officers restraining him. I have witnessed first hand, 4 officers attempting to control a 14 year old (I did juvenile law for several years) and they couldn’t maintain control. Law enforcement is allowed to use tasers when someone resists violence. It was a contact tase, not a full tase with the use of prongs (a contact tase, while painful, is not as severe as a prong tase which requires EMS treatment to remove the prongs). And when I listened to the video, I heard the female officer saying to him “stop resisting or you will be tased”. While I’m not saying it was in the best judgement of the officers, I’m saying the way I see it, legally, is they did not do anything LEGALLY wrong. If you want to discuss morals or judgement – that’s something completely different.

  7. Saladin says:

    For the record (and getting in a shameless plug!), I did cover this on my blog. And I, too, am wondering why even liberals are so ambivalent toward this incident. It’s astonishing how much people are like “Well, he was a jerk, so he desrved it.” The mix of desensitization toward violence (contrary to oneofthree’s assertion above, a Taser is a painful — and potentially lethal — weapon at any setting) and casual “I love my police state!”-ism is disturbing to say the least…

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