A truly shocking experience
By Scott Tibbs, September 24, 2007
at the University of Florida
There has been quite a bit of buzz (pun intended) over a student who was hit with a Taser at a speech by Senator John F. Kerry, who was the Democrat Party's candidate for President in 2004. After watching a YouTube video of the incident, I am convinced that Andrew Meyer was treated properly by the police officers at the event. Meyer was resisting arrest, becoming increasingly agitated, violent and possibly dangerous. He got what he deserved.
The first few seconds are critical. As Meyer continued to speak, police officers began firmly, but non-violently, leading him away from the microphone. He was selfishly attempting to filibuster the event. People at the speech did not come to hear Meyer, they came to hear John Kerry. Nonetheless, I understand objections to leading him away from the microphone. Should he have been given more warning that he needed to stop talking before he was removed? Was the initial police response appropriate? These are legitimate questions
As he was being led away, Meyer needlessly escalated the confrontation, jerking himself out of the officers' grasp, screaming and swinging his arms. There was no way to know what he would do next if he was not restrained. Physically resisting police is a big "no no" and by doing that Meyer should have expected that the force being used against him would increase dramatically. Furthermore, he was clearly trying to incite the crowd by screaming for "help" as he was being wrestled to the ground.
Meyer played up the shock for all it was worth, "selling" the Taser well enough to get a job with World Wrestling Entertainment. Given his history, it is likely that Meyer was trying to get attention, which he did. He has his 15 minutes of international fame, but unfortunately for Meyer, that fifteen minutes consists of him making a fool of himself.
Is this case indicative of a continuing erosion of our free speech rights? Joe Conason thinks it is, but I do not agree. There are certainly things to worry about as government searches for new ways to prevent itself from beign held accountable, but this was not a free speech issue. This is an issue of civility and of keeping order at a public event. Meyer was not shocked because for expressing political views, he was shocked for physically resisting police and putting the safety of both audience members and police at risk. He was lucky he was only shocked, and not hit with a nightstick or shot with a firearm.