Freedom of speech not an excuse for student’s actions leading to police Tasering

By Bill Miston

Last Monday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) spoke to students in a forum at the University of Florida. Kerry was brought there by ACCENT, which “brings controversial and influential speakers to the university, with the intent of further educating the student body, outside of the classroom, on current hot topics and controversies.”

It was here at the forum that a hot topic was created, with controversy right at its tail.

Andrew Meyer, a telecommunication senior at the University of Florida and resident idiot, was shot with a Taser gun at the forum after, police say, Meyer resisted arrest with violence.

The incident started, as it appears on video on YouTube and other news media Web sites, when Meyer began to ask Senator Kerry a string of questions ranging from the 2004 election to Kerry’s relationship with the Skull and Bones secret society at Yale. The mic was then turned off by the event organizers because he used profanity. When officers came up and tried to remove Meyer from the mic, Meyer began to disobey and push them. Eventually, Meyer was shot with a Taser dart gun.

Reports say that Meyer has been known to do similar pranks in the past in order to grab attention and even has a Web site where some of his comical and opinion work is displayed. Whether Meyer likes to play with Tasers in his private time, I don’t know, but what I do know, prank or not, it definitely got this country’s attention.

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The first issue I see is whether or not the officers’ use of the stun gun was according to regulations. The statute that governs the use of a stun gun says that the decision by a police officer to use a stun gun must involve an arrest or custodial situation during which the subject escalates the resistance from passive physical resistance to active physical resistance. Apparently, the police thought Meyer did, but if you watch the video and count, the officer to student ratio was 6 to 1. Make your own assumption.

The real issue at hand is Meyer’s First Amendment rights and whether they were infringed on by his being forcibly removed from asking a question.

According to several firsthand accounts, including a student report on CNN, Meyer “jumped up to the microphone already flanked by University Police,” after Kerry said he was no longer taking questions, “interrupt(ing) another student’s question.”

Kerry, generously, allowed Meyer to speak. In the words of one of my professors, “the answer to a question is dependant on the framing of the question.” It was when Meyer’s temper began to take control of the framing of his questions that Kerry’s answer became moot. Meyer is the only one to blame for what happened to him, all because of the way he asked his questions.

Campuses and students must understand that universities’ greatest interest is their students, their lecturers and their safety. The police officers, rather than taking a chance, deemed Meyer to be a threat because he was resisting arrest. Remember, this is only 5 1/2 months after the Virginia Tech massacre. While Meyer may not have been a homicidal lunatic, I don’t blame the police for not wanting to take any chances.

Deep down you know that if you don’t listen to the police and forcibly resist arrest, you will be in a world of pain – both legal and physical. Meyer now knows that. When someone at a forum, which is to allow open dialogue to occur, disobeys the rules of the organizers and eventually the law, it’s their own fault.

For those that are crying out and are on Meyer’s side and saying that Meyer was abused and his First Amendment rights were violated, shut up. While the First Amendment is to protect us from the government, when you abuse that right by trying to use it as a way to deflect any blame from yourself, you should get Tased.