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UF student Tasered at Kerry forum

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Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 12:00 am

A UF student was shot with a Taser gun, arrested and charged with a felony Monday because police said he started a riot during Sen. John Kerry's on-campus speech.

Andrew Meyer, a telecommunication senior and former Alligator columnist, was charged with a third-degree felony for resisting arrest with violence, according to a University Police Department report.

A third-degree felony could mean up to five years in prison and a fine of up to ,5,000, according to a UF Web site.

Meyer attempted to ask Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, about his involvement in Skull and Bones, a secret society at Yale University, at the end of the speech's question-and-answer session.

But when his microphone was cut off, Meyer began to scream in protest. Members of Accent, Student Government's speakers bureau, cut off the microphone because Meyer used profanity, said Steven Blank, Accent chairman. Accent sponsored the forum, which was held at the University Auditorium.

Several officers attempted to remove Meyer from the microphone when he began "acting in a violent manner" and "pushing the officers," according to the report.

Police said Meyer was told to comply with the officers, but he continued to resist.

"Don't Tase me, bro!" Meyer screamed as officers attempted to drag him outside the University Auditorium. "I didn't do anything."

Steve Orlando, UF's spokesman, said police then shot Meyer with a Taser gun.

Meyer was booked into the Alachua County Jail just after 2 p.m., where he remained until at least 9 p.m. Monday, according to jail records. He could not be reached for comment.

Matthew Howland, a UF history senior who also attended the speech and videotaped the incident on his cell phone, said police held the Taser gun on Meyer for about seven seconds.

Howland said he thought Meyer was behaving inappropriately, but the officers' actions left most of the audience members stunned.

"How can you say a student created a riot when it was clearly the officers who elevated the situation to a level it did not need to go?" Howland said.

He said Meyer's frantic reaction seemed understandable. "How are you supposed to react if you have six officers hopping on you and yelling at you?" he asked.

"I don't want to say it was police brutality because that term should be saved for more obvious events, but it was damn close," he added.

Jeff Holcomb, UPD spokesman, could not be reached for comment.

While Meyer wrestled with officers at the back of the auditorium, Howland said Kerry remained on stage, trying to keep the rest of the crowd calm and answering more questions.

A spokesman for Kerry would not comment.

Asia Johnson, a UF advertising senior who was also at the speech, said Kerry was trying to answer Meyer's question as police started grabbing him.

Johnson said as police pinned Meyer to the ground, she heard him yell, "Just get off of me and I'll walk out of here."

She created a Facebook group later that day about the incident called "John Kerry conference at UF! A fiasco!!! Needs to be known!" and outlined her account of the event.

"If the police are considered to be the 'good' side of this world, I did not see that today," Johnson wrote. "Today I saw fear, confusion and ignorance."

Johnson said she planned to write a letter to UPD administrators, urging them to reprimand the officers at the speech and issue a formal apology to Meyer.

Johnson struggled to catch her breath during a telephone interview that night, explaining that she was still shaken up about the incident.

"His cries of help were absolutely horrifying," she said. "It's going to stick with me for a long time. It's going to stick with him even longer."

A group of UF students will stage a march today from noon to 1 p.m. on the Plaza of the Americas, said Tina Steiger, an international relations junior who helped organize the march.

Steiger said students would demand that UPD drop all charges against Meyer, immediately suspend the officers involved in his arrest and remove all Taser guns from campus.

Alligator Staff Writer Andrew Tan contributed to this report.

Welcome to the discussion.