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Monday, February 06, 2023

Standing outside the University Police Department on Tuesday, about 300 sweat-drenched UF students demanded explanations for the Tasering of a student by UPD officers Monday.

Students gathered on the Plaza of the Americas and marched to UPD and Emerson Alumni Hall in protest of the censorship, arrest and Tasering of Andrew Meyer during a Monday speech by Sen. John Kerry.

Meyer, a UF telecommunication senior, asked Kerry, a Democrat who represents Massachusetts and a former presidential candidate, about his involvement in a secret society at Yale University and the 2004 presidential election.

At noon, the 300 students, some wearing shirts that read "End pig violence" and "Don't tase me, bro," gathered on the Plaza of the Americas to make signs and get ready for the march.

A sign made by Emily Soergel, a 22-year-old UF alumna, asked, "Who will guard the guards themselves?"

Soergel said UPD's Tasering was disgusting.

"When the people who are supposed to protect you go beyond the law themselves, it's scary to think who will protect you now," she said.

On the way to UPD down Newell Drive, students chanted, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, police brutality has got to go" and "No justice, no peace, no Taaasers for po-lice."

Packed closely together, students stood outside UPD.

Benjamin Dictor, a political science junior, approached Lt. Stacey Ettel, who handed him five pamphlets on how to file a complaint.

When Dictor told the crowd, protesters booed and chanted, "This is what incompetence looks like."

Then Steve Orlando, UF spokesman, came toward them.

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Dictor quieted the crowd so people could hear Orlando's message.

"Let the man speak!" he shouted. "We are bigger than them! We don't suppress freedom of speech!"

Orlando informed the crowd of investigations that would be performed, in addition to UF President Bernie Machen's news conference in Emerson.

Students walked back to the Plaza of the Americas to wait until the conference.

There, they shared stories about police experiences and censorship, and they began a second march at 1:30 p.m.

About half the students made the trek to Emerson.

Dictor was one of two representatives allowed into the conference. With the paid suspension of two officers, he said he thought UF took a step in the right direction.

After Machen's address, Dictor spoke to dozens of news crews and asked for help on behalf of UF students.

Later that afternoon, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a press release expressing disapproval of the Taser use.

"We are not safe," Dictor said. "We are students who are fearful of asking questions."

Alligator Writer Kim Wilmath contributed to this report.

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