University of Florida Student Tasered at Senator John Kerry Forum-Excessive Police Force?

Incidents of police brutality and excessive force using Taser shock devices have alarmingly become fairly routine in national news headlines, to the point that many such stories now only make local news. Some wrongful death and personal injury suits have been settled quietly by city and state governments.

However, the Taser video and news story of a University of Florida student named Andrew Meyer, who was apprehended and shocked at a question and answer session following a speech by Senator John Kerry, has swept over Internet news and the blogosphere, creating a sensation over its graphic content and the questionable decision by officers to use the Taser on Meyer.

The incident began after Senator Kerry spoke to the university crowd, and began fielding student questions. Toward the end of the open forum, Meyer rushed to the microphone planted in the aisle for student questions and began directing questions to Kerry about contesting the 2004 election and impeaching President George W. Bush. At the microphone, Meyer's behavior seemed erratic, as he demanded answers to his questions in a very excitable, antagonistic manner.

This is where most of the camera phone videos that surfaced on places like YouTube and various news outlets began recording. As Meyer continued to demand that Kerry answer his questions, campus police officers began approaching Meyer from behind. In his agitated state, the presence of the officers seemed to further excite Meyer, and he began raising his voice and becoming more demonstrative.

Officers tried escorting Meyer away from the microphone, who at first refused to move, and then began questioning them as they restrained his arms. At that point, the situation escalated, with both police and Meyer apparently interpreting the others' actions as antagonistic and each causing the other to become more aggressive.

As the officers restrained Meyer more, he started calling for help from other students. In some of the videos, students can be seen approaching the officers, and then being told to back off. Several students yelled at the officers to leaver Meyer alone, and Meyer continued calling for help from them as he was pushed to the floor and then shocked with the Taser.

Leading up to the shock, Meyer had seen the officers with a Taser, and repeatedly asked, "Are you going to tase me?," begging "Don't tase me, bro!" What is surprising about the video is the relative calmness of both the officers and Meyer leading up to the shock; though officers were restraining Meyer and he was fighting them, the struggle could not be called violent or out-of-control.

As Meyer was shocked, students gasped in horror as he yelled out in pain, still pleading not to shock him or cause him personal injury. He was then finally escorted out of the auditorium, yelling the whole time.

Though the video is rather shocking, response to the incident across the Internet via news story comments and forum discussion has been divided. Some see the incident as another example of police brutality, of officers abusing their authority with unnecessary and excessive force. Others have indicted Andrew Meyer for the incident, saying that he was playing up the situation for cameras and trying to grab attention through a political stunt for his self-aggrandizing website,

In fact, Meyer does have a history of politically-charged writing and activism that many people believe has often bordered on the irrational. On his website, he features videos of himself making political or social statements in public, such as one in which he "spoils" the ending of the new Harry Potter book on the day of its release. In another, he acts like a drunk trying to pick up a woman in a bar.

Of course, with the easy availability of the video on news websites and YouTube, the public can judge for itself how to take the actions of Meyer and the police officers. Was Meyer unjustly shocked with a Taser while making a harmless political statement, or did he have it coming to him because of his aggressive behavior to a political figure?

As Internet video streaming technology becomes more and more state-of-the-art and the popularity of and demand for video components to news stories grows, we will certainly see more instances of graphic news reaching the public as fast as the Andrew Meyer Taser incident at the University of Florida.

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