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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Another College Student Falls Victim to Tasers

    On September 17th, University of Florida (UF) student Andrew Meyer was arrested and tasered during a forum speech by Senator John Kerry (D-MA). According to a released police report, he was charged with ‘resisting officer with violence,’ ‘disturbing peace,’ and ‘interfering with school administration functions’ for a principal misdemeanor second degree and a principal third degree felony. Meyer has since been released from Alachua County Jail in Gainesville, Florida. The incident has sparked widespread internet coverage and publicity leading to a student campaign against the use of tasers.

    Meyer, a senior telecommunications major who is also a journalist for the school’s Independent Alligator, asked a three-part question to Kerry after being recognized by the Senator. In a Fox News report, Dennis Jett, a UF Political Science instructor and forum moderator said that this occurred when there were no more questions being taken.

    Although the police report of the incident acknowledges this fact, its version states that ‘As Senator Kerry was ending his speech, a man disrupted the senator by screaming, yelling, and flailing his arms. The man moved his way down the aisle yelling, ‘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.’ ‘

    However, in a YouTube video titled ‘UF Student Tasered at Kerry Forum,’ Meyer began his question by quoting from the book Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans- Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild, whose author Greg Palast, claimed that millions of votes in the 2004 election were not counted or were kept from being cast, which prevented what would have been Kerry’s win.

    Kerry responded to this by saying that he owned a copy of the book, to which Meyer responded ‘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 in Florida and Ohio.’ As Kerry affirmed this, a police office interrupted Meyer for the first time.

    When Meyer went on to say, ‘So, amidst all these reports of phony, bogus stuff going on, how could you concede the election on the day? 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?’ the officer interrupted Meyer again.

    Meyer then continued to ask two other questions, first asking why President George Bush is not being impeached for invading Iraq, when former President Bill Clinton was impeached for ‘a blowjob.’ He also asked Kerry whether he was a member of Skull and Bones with Bush, at which point his microphone was turned off by the event organizers. Skull and Bones is a purported secret society at Yale University. At this point, two police officers began to seize Meyer and forcefully escort him outside. According to head of Accent Speakers Bureau Steven Blank, one of the organizers of the forum, the microphone was cut after the mention of a term for oral sex while talking about impeachment.

    Although Kerry said at this point, ‘That’s all right, let me answer his question,’ two more officers joined the others to remove Meyer from the premises, managing to handcuff the hands of a struggling Meyer. Although Meyer wanted to leave on his own at this point, the officers said that he had no more say in this matter. They threatened to taser him to which Meyer yelled, ‘Don’t tase me bro, don’t tase me.’ According to the police report, he was contact tased in the shouler by officer Nicole Lynn Mallo using a department-issued X-26 taser.

    At this point, Kerry joked about Meyer’s exit, later saying that he was not aware of the use of a taser. Valerio Gallo, recent Stony Brook University graduate, said that ‘What strikes me most about this, is the lack of personal action … We have to remember police and government are institutions that have power ONLY because we all agree to give them that power. Police are just people in uniforms with weapons, and if they are attacking citizens they are supposed to be serving, we’ve got a domestic enemy army.’

    In relation to the use of the taser, one of the involved officers, Pablo De Jesus Jr. said, ‘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 … 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.’

    This is the second nationally-publicized taser incident involving campus police and students. The first occurred at the University of California-Los Angeles and was covered by the Statesman. In relation to the recurrence of such an incident, Gallo said, ‘With incidents like this seeming to be more and more common, I think it is important to ask yourself what you’d do if you were watching that situation. It is hard to think clearly in that kind of situation, so if you think about it before hand you’ll be confident you know what to do when it happens … That was a room full of people, if everyone decided what was going on wasn’t right they could have stopped those police.’

    The police report also mentions a conversation between Meyer and a woman next to him who was purportedly ‘there to film him.’ The report record an exchange which involved Meyer asking her, ‘Are you taping this? Do you have this? You ready?’ before asking his questions. The 22-year-old woman claimed that she was in line to ask a question and taped Meyer only upon his request.

    Meyer or his attorney, Robert Griscti would not comment on the incident, only stating they will seek to have the charges dismissed. Organizations, such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, believe that Meyer can sue the police for use of excessive force, according to its President, Greg Lukianoff. Fox News has cited two experts who affirm this.

    In a press conference held Sep. 18 at 2 PM, UF President J. Bernard Machen said that the situation was ‘regretful’ and that the officers involved were placed on paid administrative leave until a conclusion is derived from an external investigative probe. Because Kerry is no longer a Democratic nominee, he is not assigned Secret Service protection. He did not bring his own security to the event and thus the UF police were in charge of security.

    The university officials would not comment on whether the incident was a prank. Meyer is known for pulling and posting political pranks on his websites. The site in question criticizes the Iraq war, and the news media for not covering the conflict enough and the American public for paying too much attention to celebrity news.

    The same day, about 300 UF students conducted a protest march at the Emerson Alumni Hall with signs such as, ‘Stop police brutality,’ ‘Taze Pigs,’ ‘Freedom of Speech not a Felony,’ ‘Tasers Kill,’ and Meyer’s words, ‘Don’t Tase me, bro.’ Their demand was the complete ban of tasers on campus and filing of charges against the involved police officers.

    In a press release, Machen said that ‘University of Florida Police Chief Linda Stump has requested the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conduct a formal investigation into the arrest of UF student Andrew Meyer. An independent review such as this will make sure the results are objective and impartial. Chief Stump’s priority is to ensure that the public remains confident in the department’s ability to keep the campus safe.’

    Furthermore, the University plans ‘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 … Administrators and police officials plan to analyze the incident and conduct an internal review and will consider changing protocols in response to this incident, if necessary.’ The State Attorney’s office will also review charges against Meyer.

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