The Audience Sat Quietly

I'm happy to report that the Chemerinsky affair has come to what appears a happy conclusion. But even at its worst, that kerfuffle might be small potatoes compared to the worst interpretation (which is not the only one possible) of what is recorded in this video of U.Florida police tasering a student:

The video begins at the end of what appears from the excerpt to be the student's mildly confrontational question. But we don't know what went before — for example, did the student hog the mike for 10 minutes, refusing calls to relinquish it?

ABC News reports

University spokesman Steve Orlando said Meyer was asked to leave the microphone after his allotted time was up. Meyer can be seen refusing to walk away and getting upset that the microphone was cut off.

As two officers take Meyer by the arms, Kerry, D-Mass., can be heard saying, “That's all right, let me answer his question.”

Did he go over time a little, or a long time? Does U.Fla have a 10-second rule — go over 11 seconds and it's the pokey?

I'm certain the police will say they tasered the student for resisting arrest, and viewed strictly from the point of police procedure and starting from the rule that even people subject to false arrest are supposed to go quietly that seems plausible from the video. The student isn't going quietly — he's shouting for help and asking what he's done to merit arrest.

Yet, at another level, that defense elevates procedure over substance: Why was this student arrested at all? Dragging people away for asking a question in a public forum at a public university suggests we may be reaching a new low in civic values and freedom.

The Village Voice website asks,

1) Did this actually happen in the United States of America?
2) How is it that 98 percent of the audience sat in silence?
3) Can you believe that Kerry just kept on answering the question as if everything were normal?
4) What would have happened if the Senator stood up and told the cops to stop instead of offering weak protestation?

I think the second question is the key: Why did the audience fail to react?

Did the audience fail to react because this is a known crank who was looking for trouble and was abusive in the (seconds? minutes?) preceding this video, and they felt he had abused the audience as much as Senator Kerry, or did the audience fail to react because we're no longer shocked by people being dragged away if they ask unpleasant questions in public?

Comments — and eyewitness reports — particularly welcome.

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3 Responses to The Audience Sat Quietly

  1. Joe says:

    John Kerry should have done more than stand by and watch. After all, he was probably the only person in the room who had lead crewmen in combat, and he had a microphone that he could have used to at least tell the rent-a-cops to stop. (He should have left the stage and approached the cops and the students). Even tho the rethuglicans cheated in 2004, John Kerry contributed heavily to his own defeat by his failure to develop a spine during the campaign.

  2. Adam says:

    There are quite a few videos of this event, which answer some of your questions.

  3. The kid was lucky the campus police have not been upgraded to assault rifles. This is one reason everyone in the hall sat pretty quietly and watched. They are thoroughly cowed by the repressive atmosphere in this country, which is backed by heavy weaponry in the hands of criminals, police and citizens.

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