A visually dramatic non-event

Thursday, October 4, 2007

We are surprised that the case of Andrew Meyer, a University of Florida student who was tasered by campus police, is considered by some to be a freedom of speech issue.

Meyer was at an appearance of John Kerry on campus. Meyer cut into a line of students waiting to ask questions and started demanding that his own questions be answered. Kerry started answering questions but after Meyer's third question, which contained an obscene phrase, his microphone was cut off and the campus police started escorting him away. Meyer resisted. The police took him down to the floor and subsequently tasered him.

Few people question the right of police to remove a disruptive person from a campus event and do so forcefully if there is resistance.

If the campus police tasered Meyer because they didn't like the views he expressed, that would be a freedom of speech matter but that is not why Meyer was tasered. He was tasered because he continued to resist arrest.

Some question the need to taser Meyer after he was down and his hands were behind his back. That raises a question of whether excessive force was used but not a freedom of speech question.

Regarding allegations of excessive force, we do not believe that the campus police should be judged in hindsight for actions to subdue an individual who was still struggling and could still cause injury to others or himself.

Whether the tasering was necessary or not involves a technical exploration of police restraining tactics. It does not involve a public policy matter beyond that.

Just because broadcast news has compelling video of public violence does not necessarily mean that such imagery has national significance.