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Don’t Tase Me, Bro!

September 21, 2007

As many of you might remember, on November 14th, 2006, Mostafa Tabatabainejad, an Iranian-American UCLA student, was brutally tasered by campus police. Tabatabainejad reportedly refused to show his student identification card in the UCLA Powell Library when campus police arrived to complete night security rounds. Tabatabainejad was ordered to vacate the premise, yet when he didn’t immediately do so, additional UCLA officers were called in and the taser came out. Video captured at the scene showed the officers tasering Tabatabainejad at least five times and reports later suggested that the taser was used until it reached its “drive stun” capacity, which causes pain without incapacitating the target.

After watching the chilling footage, it’s surprising that this event didn’t ignite some widespread awareness. Ironically enough, the officer that tasered Tabatabainejad, Terrence Duren, was knighted “UCLA Officer of the Year” back in 2001, and following the tasering incident, he only suffered a 90-day suspension.

It never seizes to amaze me how differently power can affect people. For instance, back in 1996 when I was appointed supervisor of arts and crafts in my Cub Scout den (we were not exactly the most macho den to say the least, but we made some impressive holiday magnets), the power certainly got to my head. Before I even knew it, I found myself dictating who had access to the feather and bead decorations. While I never exactly whipped out a taser and set my amateur craft-making peers straight, the ability to impose by authority was always somewhat tempting.

Three days ago, power got to the heads of University of Florida police when Andrew Meyer, a fourth-year student, acted a fool at a Constitution Day forum with Senator John Kerry. At the forum, each student was able to ask Kerry one question, yet Meyer decided to savor his moment in the limelight and aggressively ask three arguably controversial questions:

1). Why did Kerry concede the 2004 presidential election before results were tallied and despite allegations of election irregularities?

(Based on the findings of Greg Palast’s 2006 book Armed Madhouse, which Meyer held in his hand during the forum)

2). Why doesn’t Kerry support the movement to impeach George W. Bush?

3). Were Kerry and Bush members of the Yale University secret society called Skulls and Bones?

After Meyer condescendingly threw out his questions, his microphone was cut off. Two university police were ordered by the event organizers to seize Meyer, and in doing so, they pulled him down the auditorium as he shouted “Help!” and “What’d I do?!” numerous times.

Kerry, carefully still perched on the auditorium, said “That’s all right, let me answer his question.”

By the time that the two university police officers had dragged Meyer to the back of the auditorium, two more officers joined in, wrestled him to the ground and attempted to handcuff him. Next, the officers threatened Meyer to either stop resisting arrest, or he would be tasered. Meyer began to beg for the officers to let him go and desperately pleaded, “Don’t tase me, bro! Don’t tase me!” Seconds thereafter, Officer Nicole Lynn Mallo drive-stunned Meyer in the shoulder, leaving him helplessly crying in pain. I would not know what to do with myself if someone actually called me “bro,” but I do know that taser would not have been involved. Meyer was then escorted by police and detained overnight in the Alachua County Jail, where he was charged with resisting an officer an officer and disturbing the peace.

What did Kerry do throughout the altercation, you might ask? He played it safe and nervously stated, “Officers, can we… folks… Hey folks, I think that if everybody just calms down, that this…” Later on after the forum awkwardly wrapped up, Kerry issued a statement the day after that read:

“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.”

Not aware of the tasering, John? Those blood curdling screams, moans and cries must have just been for kicks. I know that’s how I get attention when I need help at CVS. What Kerry should have done was step up to the police and defend Meyer’s first amendment rights. After all, Kerry repeatedly stated during the arrest and tasering that, “It’s okay! I will answer his question.” Rather than presenting himself as a liberal sage willing to humor the crazy kid’s question, Kerry should have discarded his political status and used the microphone for a better purpose than mumbling, “Officers, can we… folks…” Until the social gap between politicians and the public is bridged, the notion of the politician will continue to carry an air of coldness and corruption.

You might be wondering how this is remotely humorous. Despite the “Don’t tase me, bro!” line, there is nothing particularly side-splitting about Meyer’s plight. What was funny, though, was Kerry’s reaction to the mess. His fumbling response to an innocent — if mildly stupid — student being brutally tasered for asking perfectly reasonable questions was priceless and very characteristic of how most politicians would have reacted to such an incident. Kerry could have done a lot more than just idly pretend that the horrors that were occurring mere yards away in fact weren’t. In my personal opinion, Kerry should have been a true bro and stage dived and crowd surfed his way to the scene of the tasering and rescued Meyer.

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