University of Florida Taser incident: Wikis

  
  
  

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On September 17, 2007, U.S. Senator John Kerry addressed a Constitution Day forum at the University of Florida in Gainesville, which was organized by the ACCENT Speakers Bureau, an agency of the university's student government. Initially allowed to ask questions after the close of the question period, university police then removed Andrew Meyer, a 21-year-old fourth-year undergraduate mass communication student, from the forum. During the struggle to arrest Meyer, one of the officers drive stunned him with a Taser.

Several videos of the episode were then posted on the Internet. The most viewed version of the video, shot by Kyle Mitchell of The Gainesville Sun, has more than 4.3 million views on YouTube as of December 31st, 2009.[1] The New Oxford American Dictionary listed "tase/taze" as one of the words of the year for 2007, popularized by the widespread use of "Don't tase me, bro!" The Yale Book of Quotations designated the same quote as the most memorable quote of 2007.[2] Mick Jones, former guitarist for The Clash, wrote and published a song inspired from the event, "Don't Tase Me, Bro," and new wave band Devo use the quote in their song "Don't Shoot (I'm a Man)."

Contents

Details

Student

Andrew William Meyer (born September 15, 1986 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida[3]) was, at the time of the incident, an undergraduate student majoring in journalism at the University of Florida. He attended Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Florida, where he worked at the school newspaper, The Circuit, and was a member of the National Honor Society. At the University of Florida, Meyer worked as a columnist for the college paper Independent Florida Alligator. Meyer has stated that he writes "mostly whimsical nonsense columns about nothing in particular, yet occasionally finds [himself] angry enough to rain down fire and brimstone on an unsuspecting politician or celebrity".[4]

He received international publicity when videos were posted of police tasering him at the town hall forum featuring Senator Kerry.[5] The Miami Herald has stated that "Meyer's grandmother, Lucy Meyer of Pembroke Pines, Florida, told The Miami Herald that he is a hardworking student with no prior run-ins with the law." She also said "He gets very, very overcome with passion for whatever he is feeling. Maybe the passion took over".[6]

Incident prior to start of video

University of Florida police attempt to escort Andrew Meyer out of the auditorium.

According to eyewitness and police reports, the widely circulated video of the confrontation captured on Meyer's camera was not the first interaction between police and Meyer at the event that day. According to reports, Meyer was in line for access to the microphone, when it was announced by former Ambassador Dennis Jett, a University of Florida political science instructor and the forum's moderator,[7] that one more question would be taken from the microphone on the right as seen from the stage. Meyer then grabbed the second microphone, on the left, which had been shut off, and loudly demanded he be allowed to ask a question. Meyer reportedly yelled, "Why don't you answer my questions, I have been waiting and listening to you speak in circles for the last two hours." "These officers are going to arrest me", "You will take my question because I have been listening to your crap for two hours".[8] When an officer intervened, attempted to cut Meyer off, and attempted to escort Meyer out of the hall, Meyer then broke away and continued to shout. Kerry then intervened and requested that Meyer be allowed to ask a question. Meyer was then brought back to the microphone with police officers on either side of him.[9]

Meyer then handed his camera to the woman who was standing in front of him in line (later identified as Clarissa Jessup) and requested that she record him. Kerry then finished answering a previous question, Meyer was then recognized by Kerry to ask a question.

Video begins

At this point, Meyer's video began. Meyer spoke for approximately 1 minute and 20 seconds, beginning by citing the book Armed Madhouse and its author Greg Palast's description of the 2004 U.S. presidential election and reports of election irregularities.[10][11] According to The Washington Post, Meyer's question turned into "an increasingly agitated three-parter."[10]

Meyer questioned Kerry's concession of the 2004 U.S. presidential election, Kerry's support or lack of support of the movement to impeach George W. Bush,[10] and Kerry's involvement in the Yale University secret society known as Skull and Bones.[10] After Meyer used the term "blowjob," (in reference to the impeachment of Bill Clinton) and while he was asking about Kerry's involvement in Skull and Bones, Meyer's microphone was cut off. Later, Steven Blank, ACCENT chairman, said, "We make it clear that any profanity and vulgarity by anyone asking questions will result in a cutting off of the mic."[12]

Removal and arrest

After his microphone was turned off, two University of Florida police officers attempted to escort him away.[13] Steven Blank, ACCENT chairman, later said "They [the police] acted independently of Accent."[12] Some members of the crowd began to cheer and applaud. Physical contact by the police occurred right after Meyer remarked, "Thank you for cutting my mic!" Kerry responded to the police action, "That's all right, let me answer his question",[10] but two police officers continued to hold Meyer and attempted to escort him towards the exit. Meyer repeatedly asked why he was being arrested. He struggled for several seconds shouting, "Get off me! What are you doing? What is going on?" while a third police officer kept a Taser aimed at him.[11] Meyer managed to get back towards the stage and stated, "I want to stand and listen to the answers to my questions!" A fourth officer joined in, and single-handedly managed to remove Meyer to the back of the auditorium while being escorted by the three other officers. Meyer was carried part of the way by officer King, holding Greg Palast's book up in the air with his one free arm and shouting, "Why are you arresting me? Help! Help!" Close to the exit, Meyer broke free for a short moment and then was wrestled to the ground. Two more officers joined in and Meyer was now held down by four officers on the body and two on the legs. The officers managed to handcuff only one hand.

As Meyer requested to be allowed to leave of his own accord, they informed him that he no longer had a say in the matter and threatened several times to taser him if he did not comply. Meyer asked again to leave, and yelled "Don't tase me, bro, don't tase me!" but was drive stunned (referred to in the police report as a "contact tase") in the shoulder by officer Nicole Lynn Mallo with her department-issued X-26 Taser when he failed to comply.[3][10][11]

I managed to take control of Meyer's right hand and restrain it into one side of my handcuffs. Due to Meyer's erratic flailing, the inability to attain Meyer's left arm from his resistance, and increased potential for injury with one cuff on, Sgt. King attempted to deploy a contact tase to no avail. He then instructed Mallo to apply a contact tase to gain compliance in order to place Meyer's left hand into the other cuff. Mallo gave verbal commands and informed Meyer that he would be tased if he did not comply. Once Mallo applied the tase, Wise assisted Meyer's left arm to where I was able to apply the other cuff. Once he was restrained, he was escorted out of the Auditorium where I checked the fitting and applied the double-locked function on the cuffs.
Police Report, Statement of Officer Pablo De Jesus, Jr., [3]

Meyer continued screaming for help as the officers removed him from the room. During the altercation, Kerry urged everyone to calm down, joked that "Unfortunately, he [Andrew Meyer] is not available to come up here and swear me in as President" and continued his response to Meyer's question, which he referred to as "very important". Senator Kerry later released a statement saying that he was unaware that any Tasing had occurred until afterwards.[11]

Police [in background]: "Get down!"

Senator Kerry: "Hey officers ... could we ... Hey folks ... I think that if everybody just..."

Police: "Do it now!"

Senator Kerry: "... calms down this situation would calm down. [unintelligible] ...I'll answer his question. Unfortunately, he is not available to come up here and swear me in as President."

Andrew Meyer: "Why are they arresting me? Did someone do something here? Are they arresting?"

Senator Kerry: "Let me just say, because it is a very important question."

YouTube Video Tape starting at 2:34 [14]

Meyer was then escorted off the premises, remaining uncooperative with police during questioning.[15] He was detained overnight in the Alachua County Jail.[16] A large gathering of students protested outside the jail that evening.[17]

Legal action

After the incident, Meyer was arrested for inciting a riot and charged with resisting an officer and disturbing the peace and taken to Alachua County Jail.[16] Police recommended charges of resisting arrest with violence, a felony, and disturbing the peace and interfering with school administrative functions, a misdemeanor. Meyer spent one night in the Alachua County Jail and was released the following morning.[16][18]

Meyer's attorney, Robert Griscti, stated he would seek to have the charges dismissed.[18] Meyer later issued a public apology for his "failure to act calmly", stating that he "stepped out of line". He also insisted there was no reason for his arrest and demanded an apology from The Alachua County Police Department.[19] The state attorney stated he would drop prosecution of Meyer's case if he completed a voluntary 18-month probation.[20] He returned as a student in the spring semester of 2008 with the charges dropped despite serving no probation.[21]

Issues raised

Allegations of excessive force

CNN.com has stated that student opinions on the University of Florida campus are evenly divided as to whether the officers acted properly.[22] About 300 students marched to the steps of campus police headquarters the following day with another 100 marching to Emerson Alumni Hall. They chanted that police used excessive force and waved signs that read "Stop police brutality", "Taze Pigs", "Freedom of Speech not a Felony", "Tasers Kill", and Meyer's words, "Don't Tase me, bro".[23][24] They demanded that Tasers be banned from campus, and that charges be filed against the police officers that restrained and tased Meyer.[25] Four weeks after the incident the university sponsored a panel to discuss appropriate police practices. Fifteen people attended and one signed up to make comments.[26]

James W. Preston, president of the Florida State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, referred to student Andrew Meyer's actions during the Kerry town hall forum as a "theatrical production" that "set the stage for Andrew Meyer's own gratification to bring attention to himself."[27]

Free speech issues

Some critics of the actions of the police have suggested that it was not Meyer's actions which led to his removal, but the content of his remarks. For example, writer Palast said, "When you bring up uncomfortable stuff, it's going to create discomfort. Obviously, if he was speaking about baseball scores--if he maybe had a different political viewpoint that wasn't seen as combative or outside of what's permissible--then the cops' backs wouldn't have been up."[28]

The American Civil Liberties Union's Florida chapter released a statement on September 18, 2007 expressing dismay over the incident.[29]

Apart from the taser use issues, one must consider the free speech implications of the police officers’ actions,” said Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida Executive Director. “People have a reasonable expectation to ask questions in a public setting – even if they are aggressive and some disagree with their position – that is free speech plain and simple. Similarly – Kerry had a reasonable expectation to be able to answer those questions. Neither of them was able to exercise their free speech rights due to the police action.

After Meyer publicly apologized for the incident, several University of Florida students remained skeptical. One student stated that "There's freedom of speech and the responsible exercise of freedom of speech... And he didn't use it properly." Another student stated that "He has no idea how bad he made the university look."[30]

Criticism of Andrew Meyer

News articles about the incident have reported that Meyer had posted on his web site numerous comedy videos.[31] It has also been pointed out that Meyer made arrangements to have himself filmed and have speculated that the incident may have been a stunt by Meyer. The reported behavior of Meyer when no cameras were present is also cited as evidence that the incident was a prank. According to the police report: "as [Meyer] 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." Additionally, the report states that Meyer was "laughing and being lighthearted in the car, his demeanor completely changed once the cameras were not in sight." The police officers have said that during the ride, Meyer said: "I am not mad at you guys, you didn't do anything wrong, you were just trying to do your job."[3]

John Levy, a graduate student at the university and a friend of Meyer's since the second grade, has said that he spoke with Meyer shortly before Meyer entered the Kerry forum. He said that Meyer felt excited, had come up with several questions, and wanted to hear the senator's responses. Levy also said that Meyer was "really upset that people are more concerned with the police attack and not with the dialogue he was trying to start with Kerry" and that "What kind of message does that send? He wants to show students it's okay to ask hard questions, and then he gets tased for doing it."[10] In the 2008 film Free For All, filmmaker John Ennis and Greg Palast (the author of the book Meyer was holding during the event) strongly echo this sentiment. When "asked about speculation that Meyer staged the confrontation", University spokesman Steve Orlando has stated that a member of the Office of Student Affairs told Orlando that Meyer brought a video camera to the forum and gave it to Clarissa Jessup, the young woman who was next in line to ask a question,[32] with whom he was unacquainted, before he spoke. Henry Perlstein, a university senior who has known Meyer since high school, said, "My first impression was that [the video] was a home movie he made for his friends because it was so surreal. Then I heard the screams and he sounded genuinely afraid."[33]

University investigation

On September 18, in Emerson Alumni Hall, University of Florida President, J. Bernard Machen held a press conference about the incident. He also issued a letter[34] in which he stated that the University Police Chief Linda Stump had requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigate the arrest. President Machen stated that "We plan to assemble a panel of faculty and students to review our police protocols, our management practices and the FDLE report to come up with a series of recommendations for the university."[35] The State Attorney's Office will review the charges as well.[36]

The Miami Herald has stated that, at the press conference, President Machen called the situation "regretful for us" and announced that two officers involved in the incident had been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the probe. University spokesman Steve Orlando said Meyer was asked to leave the microphone after his allotted time was up. The university president "would not say whether he thought the latest episode was a prank."[37]

On October 24, 2007 the Florida Department of Law Enforcement released a report[38] on their investigation of the incident. They found that the officer's actions were justified.[39] University President Bernie Machen stated that "I have full confidence in the police department" and that the two officers previously placed on paid administrative leave have been fully reinstated.[40]

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the incident and, in a report released on October 25, 2007, concluded that Meyer may have planned a 'disruption' of the forum.[41] The same report cleared the police officers involved of any wrongdoing in subduing Meyer.[42]

Response from Senator Kerry

On the day following the incident, Kerry's office issued a statement:

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.

Transcript of video from Meyer camera

Meyer's exchange with John Kerry was captured on several videos distributed on the Internet. This is a transcript of the video taken with Meyer's camera. It ends before the "Don't tase me" quote.

YouTube Video, "UF Police Taser Student During Kerry Forum"

  • 0:00 on YouTube video
John Kerry: [Finishing the answer to the previous question]: "...and to continue to pile name upon name upon some wall in the future for a strategy that has failed. That's the distinction." [Recognizing and pointing to Andrew Meyer]: "Sir..."
Andrew Meyer: "I first and foremost want to thank you for your time. You spent a lot of time talking to us here today. I want to thank you for coming and being open and honest. You recommended a book to us earlier; I had wanted to recommend a book to you. It's called Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast.
Kerry: "Yeah, I have it, actually."
Meyer: "Yeah, he's a top investigative journalist in America."
Kerry: "I've already read it."
Meyer: "And [holding up a copy of a yellow paperback book, Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast], he says [in this book] you won the 2004 election...
Kerry: "Great."
Meyer: "Isn't that amazing! Isn't that amazing, you won in 2004! In fact, there were multiple reports, on the day of the election of disenfranchising of black voters...
Kerry: [Inaudible]
Meyer: [Officer Nicole Mallo places her left hand on the middle of Meyer's back] ...in Florida and Ohio."
Kerry: "So, what's the question? What's the question?"
[Police officer Nicole Mallo interrupts Meyer, saying "Ask your question."]
Meyer: [Turning to police officer Nicole Mallo] "I'll ask my question. Thank you very much. I'll ask my question. I'm going to preface it. He's been talking for two hours, I think I can have two minutes.
Kerry: "So, you want, you want to come up here?
Meyer: [Sarcastically to Mallo]: Thank you, thank you—thank you very much." [Officer Nicole Mallo continues to argue with Meyer who then turns to side] "I'm going to ask him my question. I'm going to inform people, and THEN I'm going to ask my question. So there were multiple reports of disenfranchising of black voters on the day of the election in 2004."
Kerry: "Right."
Meyer: "There was also voting machines, electronic voting machines in Volusia County, Florida that counted backwards. So, amidst all these reports of phony, bogus stuff going on, how could you concede the election on the day? [small applause] How could you concede the 2004 election on the day? In this book, it says there were five million votes that were suppressed and you won the election. Didn't you want to be President?
[Police officer interrupts Meyer, again saying "Ask your question."]
I'm not even done yet, I have two more questions."
  • 1:21 on YouTube video
Meyer: "If you were so against [attacking] Iran, how come you are not saying let's impeach Bush now? Impeach Bush now before he can invade Iran? Why won't we impeach him?! Impeach Bush! Clinton? Clinton was impeached, for what, a blow job?! Why don't we impeach Bush?! All right? [While speaking the next sentence, a young man in a suit makes a cutting motion with his hand, signaling for Meyer's microphone to be cut off] Also, are you a member, were you a member of Skull and Bones in college with Bush? Were you in the same secret [Meyer's microphone is cut off] society as Bush? Were you in Skull and Bones?" [turns to side and says, sarcastically]: "Thank you for cutting my mic. [turns to Senator Kerry and says] Thank you."
Kerry: "That's all right." "Let me answer his question."
[Police officers begin to seize Andrew Meyer and take him away.]
Meyer: Are you arresting me? Excuse me, excuse me, what are you arresting me for? Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!"[14]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Video "University of Florida student Tasered at Kerry forum"". September 17, 2007. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bVa6jn4rpE. 
  2. ^ Spiegelman, Arthur (2007-12-19). ""Don't Tase Me, Bro!" tops '07 memorable quote list". Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUSN1959512020071219?loc=interstitialskip. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  3. ^ a b c d "University of Florida Police Department offense report" (PDF). CNN. 2007-10-18. http://i.a.cnn.net/cnn/2007/images/09/18/offense.report.072274.pdf. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  4. ^ "Andrew Meyer". The New Forum. http://www.freewebs.com/newforum/bioandpersonalstories.htm. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  5. ^ Moses, Asher (2007-09-20). "'Don't Tase me, bro!' a global sensation". The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/news/web/dont-tase-me-bro/2007/09/20/1189881651002.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  6. ^ "Student Tasered at Kerry forum has a penchant for practical jokes". International Herald Tribune. 2007-09-17. http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/09/18/america/NA-GEN-US-Student-Tasered.php. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  7. ^ Stripling, Jack (2007-09-20). "Stun gun case fuels claims of repression at UF". The Gainesville Sun. http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20070920/NEWS/709200767. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  8. ^ "Cops on leave after Taser incident, student's behavior under scrutiny". CNN. 2007-09-18. http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/09/18/student.tasered/index.html. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  9. ^ Jett, Dennis (2007-10-31). "What YouTube doesn't show". The Christian Science Monitor. http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/1031/p09s01-coop.html. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Hesse, Monica (2007-09-19). "Aiming to Agitate, Florida Student Got a Shock". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/18/AR2007091802115.html. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Florida College Student Who Was Tasered, Arrested at John Kerry Campus Forum Is Released From Jail". FoxNews.com. September 18, 2007. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,297197,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  12. ^ a b http://www.alligator.org/articles/2007/09/18/news/student_government/accent.txt The Independent Florida Aligator Meyer incident won't affect Accent security policy, chairman says By DEVIN CULCLASURE, Alligator Writer
  13. ^ Leusner, Jim; Katie Fretland (September 19, 2007). "'Don't Tase Me Bro' becomes rallying cry at UF following arrest of student". Orlando Sentinel. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/state/orl-taseredgator19sep19,0,4218845.story?coll=orl-jobs-utility. 
  14. ^ a b "Video "UF Police Taser Student During Kerry Forum"". September 19, 2007. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaiWCS10C5s. 
  15. ^ "Kerry Taser Incident....raw footage of after he was tasered and led away". www.liveleak.com. http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=3ec_1190097717. Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  16. ^ a b c "Florida student Tasered at Kerry forum after election question". September 18, 2007. http://www.miamiherald.com/775/story/241199.html. 
  17. ^ "Andrew Meyer, the student who begged: 'Don't Tase me bro!', becomes internet star". The Times. September 19, 2007. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article2489183.ece. 
  18. ^ a b Wilmath, Kim (September 18, 2007). "Meyer released from jail". The Independent Florida Alligator. http://www.alligator.org/articles/2007/09/18/news/campus/arraignment.txt. 
  19. ^ The Independent Florida Alligator: News - Meyer apologizes in letter to students
  20. ^ State: Tasered student is sorry
  21. ^ ‘Don't Tase me, bro’ student won't be charged - Crime & courts - MSNBC.com
  22. ^ Ortiz, Eunic (2007-09-19). "Students stunned -- and tired -- about Taser incident". CNN.com. http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/09/19/cnnu.tase/index.html. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  23. ^ Tiegen, Alex; Ileana Morales (September 20, 2007). "Students continue protesting Taser incident Wednesday". The Independent Florida Alligator. http://www.alligator.org/articles/2007/09/20/news/campus/protest.txt. 
  24. ^ Gawade, Tejas (September 24, 2007). "Another College Student Falls Victim to Tasers". The Statesman. http://media.www.sbstatesman.com/media/storage/paper955/news/2007/09/24/News/Another.College.Student.Falls.Victim.To.Tasers-2985004.shtml. 
  25. ^ "Students Erupt In Protest, Demand Charges Filed Against Officers At Kerry Event". WKMG-TV's website www.local6.com. September 18, 2007. http://www.local6.com/news/14144444/detail.html. 
  26. ^ "Policy panel draws 15 attendees".
  27. ^ Police union official blasts UF - News - GainesvilleSun.com
  28. ^ Taser sparks debate Gainesville sun
  29. ^ University of Florida Taser Incident Should Have Been Avoided, Says ACLU
  30. ^ The Gainesville Sun. "Students doubtful of Meyer's apology". Published October 31, 2007.
  31. ^ Chicago Sun-Times article Sept 19
  32. ^ Washington Post article Sept 24 "Got a Camera by Howard Kurtz
  33. ^ Hesse, Monica. "Student Tasered While Questioning Sen. Kerry". http://www.theapple.com/news/articles/1188-student-tasered-while-questioning-sen-kerry. Retrieved 2007-09-23. 
  34. ^ "President Machen presents update on issues related to student arrest". http://www.president.ufl.edu/incident.htm. 
  35. ^ "Two officers suspended in Tasering". http://gainesvillesun.com/article/20070918/NEWS/70918014/1007/NEWS. 
  36. ^ "State Attorney's Office to expedite review". http://www.gainesvillesun.com/article/20070918/NEWS/70918020/1007/NEWS. 
  37. ^ Reed, Travis (September 18, 2007). "Student Tasered at Kerry forum has a penchant for practical jokes". Miami Herald (AP). http://www.miamiherald.com/775/story/241199.html. 
  38. ^ FDLE Case GA-27-0008
  39. ^ "University of Florida police cleared in use of stun gun on student". International Herald Tribune. October 24, 2007. http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/10/24/america/NA-GEN-US-Student-Tasered.php. 
  40. ^ "President addresses summary of FDLE report". Inside UF. October 24, 2007. http://insideuf.ufl.edu/2007/10/24/machen-fdle/. 
  41. ^ UF police cleared in Tasering Gainsvile Sun
  42. ^ UF police cleared in 'Don't Tase me, Bro' case Miami Herald 25 Oct 2007
  43. ^ "Kerry Statement on Florida Campus Incident". Office of Senator John Kerry. September 18, 2007. http://kerry.senate.gov/cfm/record.cfm?id=283508. 

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