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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Using Taser on student was out of line

By Editorial Staff

We are in utter disbelief about the events at Sen. John Kerry's speech Monday afternoon. It doesn't matter if we agree with Andrew Meyer's opinions, if he should have been led away from a microphone at the speech or even if he should have been arrested.

We do not believe University Police Department officers should have used a Taser on a student who was not seriously endangering another person.

We've seen video of the incident - it's all over the Internet - and nothing leads us to believe this student should have been Tasered, especially in an auditorium full of students and a U.S. senator.

Some will say this incident could have been prevented if Meyer had allowed UPD to escort him out of the auditorium. Some will say it could have been prevented if Kerry hadn't allowed Meyer to ask his question once the Q&A portion of the forum was over.

We aren't here to debate whether Meyer should have been arrested or even asked to leave, but Meyer was unarmed and he wasn't threatening to harm anyone. Annoying students, maybe. Some audience members cheered when police attempted to lead Meyer away from the microphone.

But some also screamed for the police to stop when officers began Tasering him.

In November 2006, a student was Tasered by University of California-Los Angeles police in an event that sparked outrage from people around the nation. The student was asked to show his student ID in a library computer lab. When he didn't, police started to drag him out of the building. His resistance led to the officers using a Taser on him.

It's impossible UPD didn't know about that event. It's impossible it wouldn't have affected UPD's rules regarding the use of Tasers.

And now UF can expect backlash similar to what UCLA experienced. We wouldn't be surprised if this doesn't attract lawsuits and bad publicity. Potential students might think, "Go to UF, get Tasered? No, thank you."

Tasers can be an extremely useful tool for police officers, but like anything that could cause pain, it's a tool that must be used sparingly, only when absolutely necessary. As Spider-Man and his uncle said, "With great power comes great responsibility."

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That doesn't apply just to cartoon superheroes.

What does this mean for Accent, which sponsored Kerry's speech? If an event with Kerry - with his longwinded statements and a monotone voice that is enough to lull us to sleep - warrants a police unit and sparks the biggest controversy, what does this mean for already-controversial speakers such as Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who is scheduled to speak next month? The speech has students riled up and there's still a month before Kevorkian comes. Will Accent bring in attack dogs and tear gas to keep protestors at bay? We're sure it won't come to that, but no one expected this either.

One thing we do know is Accent cannot censor itself because of this event. It cannot forbid future Q&A segments with speakers. It cannot fear backlash. Accent is not at fault for Monday's events 77- we cannot stress that enough.

UPD's actions are inexcusable and out of line. It owes an apology not just to Andrew Meyer, but also to all of UF. We must be able to trust those who are supposed to protect us. We should not have to fear them.

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