Tasered Florida student was asking about disenfranchisement of black voters
Clicking through various TV news shows last night, I caught a number of reports about Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida telecommunications student and reputed prankster who was Tasered for behaving disruptively during the question-and-answer segment of a campus lecture by U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). Curiously enough, none of the reports I saw detailed what it was that Meyer was saying when school police attempted to drag him away from the microphone, leading him to resist and ultimately ending in his Tasering.
For that, I had to turn to YouTube.
As it turns out, the exchange began when Kerry was talking about the Bush administration's failed Iraq War policy and acknowledged Meyer standing at the microphone. The student, who reportedly pushed his way to the front of the questioners' line, began his remarks politely enough by thanking Kerry for his time and for being "open and honest." Meyer was holding up a copy of Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans -- Sordid Secrets & Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild by investigative reporter Greg Palast and recommended it to Kerry, who said he'd already read it. Meyer continued:
"He says you won the 2004 election -- 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 disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida and Ohio..."
At that point, a police officer interrupted Meyer and attempted to lead him away from the microphone. Meyer insisted he would ask his question anyway and brought up problems with voting machines in Florida, asking Kerry:
"How could you concede the election ... ?"
Meyer went on to ask Kerry why he wasn't pushing for Bush's impeachment before he could invade Iran. Then he asked Kerry about his membership in Skull and Bones, the same Yale secret society to which Bush belongs. At that point someone cut off Meyer's microphone, sparking the brouhaha that led to his Tasering. As police dragged Meyer away, Kerry can be heard saying, "Let me answer his question."
University of Florida President J. Bernard Machen announced that the school's police chief has called on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct a formal investigation into Meyer's arrest, and two officers involved in the incident have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the probe's outcome.
In addition, the school plans to assemble a panel of faculty and students to review police protocols and management practices and come up with recommendations, school administrators and police officials will analyze the incident and conduct an internal review, and the State Attorney's Office will conduct an expedited review of the charges against Meyer.
Kerry released his own statement on the controversy:
"In 37 years of public appearances, through wars, protests and highly emotional events, I have never had a dialogue end this way. I believe I could have handled the situation without interruption, but I do not know what warnings or other exchanges transpired between the young man and the police prior to his barging to the front of the line and their intervention. I asked the police to allow me to answer the question and was in the process of responding when he was taken into custody. I was not aware that a taser was used until after I left the building. I hope that neither the student nor any of the police were injured. I regret enormously that a good healthy discussion was interrupted."
Sue is the editorial director of Facing South and the Institute for Southern Studies.