If you Taser me once, shame on me; Taser me five times, I’m a terrorist

By Sujay Kumar

Remember, remember, the 14th of November, 2006? Chances are, you probably don’t.

On this day, UCLA campus police used a taser to forcefully remove a student from the campus library after he refused to show his ID card. Shockingly, the student was tasered five times while handcuffed and surrounded by at least three officers at all times. The entire six-minute ordeal was captured on a camera phone and later posted on YouTube where it ignited significant controversey.

This is preposterous! Is using a stun gun on a disgruntled but obviously subdued college student this country’s definition of justice? Mark my words, this story will no longer be unheard and freedom will prevail!

The student’s name was Mostafa Tabatabainejad.

Oh. Uh, scratch that. God bless America?

Born in the United States, Tabatabainejad is of Iranian decent. The 23 year old, a follower of the Baha’i religion, is majoring in philosophy and Middle Eastern and North African studies in his fourth year at UCLA.

At around 11:30 p.m. on November 14th, Tabatabainejad was at Powell Library, working on a history paper. When security began routine ID checks, he was the first to be asked. Accounts vary, but Tabatabainejad either refused to show his card or didn’t have it with him. Feeling he was targeted because of his skin color, he then demanded that the officers ask the other students to show their IDs as well. Before the officer called for backup, he tried to incite the other students at the library to rebel against the campus security as well.

Does this constitute a revolution? Hardly. Tabatabainejad should have complied, no matter how insulted he was. Every student was going to get checked anyway, right?

After initially refusing to leave, Tabatabainejad proceeded to the exit just as the UCPD arrived. When an officer grabbed Tabatabainejad’s arm, all hell broke loose.

He yelled, “Don’t touch me!” and that he had a medical condition. Because of this bipolar disorder and not the painful but relatively weak “drive stun” capacity of the Taser, Tabatabainejad went limp and fell to the floor. This started a struggle in which the officers tried to make him stand up once he was handcuffed.

In the next ten minutes, students followed the officers as they dragged Tabatabainejad out of the library and into a larger hall. On the video, Tabatabainejad’s screams of pain from being tasered five times are peppered with voices yelling, “Stand up, stand up,” “Officers, we want your badge numbers,” and “Here’s your Patriot Act, America!”

Why did this situation erupt on a college campus?

In a post 9/11 U.S., volatile incidents like this pop up everywhere. “Mainstream” Americans, however so slightly, have a prejudice against those who appear Middle Eastern – meaning those who have black hair and a dark complexion. At the same time, people who fit this description have an inkling that they’re being watched, and they are constantly reminded by an extra security check here, and a long stare there.

The paradox and catalyst of the situation is that many people, including Tabatabainejad and myself, fall into both categories.

If I had the feeling that I was being singled out at the Undergraduate Library because of my skin color, as insulted as I would be, I’d like to think that I would stay calm.

Then again, what says that I wouldn’t react like Tabatabainejad? The truth is, I won’t know until it happens.

Tabatabainejad and the officer share blame for the explosion of the situation, but when the first Taser was shot, the officer went too far. The issue isn’t whether the officer had the right to use the stun gun. In the video, it seems as though Tabatabainejad is in absolutely no position to fight back against the officers while they hurt and humiliate him.

Instead, we should ask, if Tabatabainejad did not have black hair and dark skin, would the story be the same?

Go to YouTube.com, search “UCLA Taser” and decide for yourself.

Remember, remember the 14th of November, 2006? Maybe you will now.