by GEF @ 10:45 PM EDT
VIDEO LINK (video at the end of Article)
GAINESVILLE – U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s speech at the University of Florida came to a dramatic close Monday, shortly after a vocal audience member was hauled off by police and shot with a Taser gun.
The audience member was preliminarily identified by UF officials as Andrew Meyer, a UF student in the College of Journalism and Communications.
Toward the conclusion of Kerry’s UF forum, Meyer approached an open microphone at the University Auditorium and demanded Kerry answer his questions. The student claimed that University Police Department officers had already threatened to arrest him, and then proceeded to question Kerry about why he didn’t contest the 2004 presidential election and why there had been no moves to impeach President Bush.
A minute or so into what became a combative diatribe, Meyer’s microphone was turned off and officers began trying to physically remove him from the auditorium. Meyer flailed his arms, yelling as police tried to restrain him.
He was then pushed to the ground by six officers, at which point Meyer yelled, “What have I done? What I have I done? Get away from me. Get off of me! What did I do? … Help me! Help.”
Police threatened to user a Taser on Meyer if he did not “comply,” but he continued to resist being handcuffed. He was then Tased, which prompted him to scream and writhe in pain on the floor of the auditorium.
After the incident, Capt. Jeff Holcomb of the UPD said Meyer had been charged with disrupting a public event and placed in the Alachua County Jail. Holcomb said there would be an investigation into whether the officers used force appropriately, adding that employing a Taser gun would only be justified in a case where there was a threat of physical harm to officers.
As Meyer was escorted away, he was followed by several students, including Matthew Howland, 20. Howland, a UF senior who said he didn’t know Meyer, said he was “appalled” by the way UPD officers handled the situation. Howland acknowledged that Meyer had acted inappropriately by “rushing” the microphone and forcing a question on Kerry.
“It’s a perfect example of when officers take something to a level that is not necessary,” he said. “The officers escalated that situation.”
Throughout the incident, Kerry urged the audience to “cool down” and acknowledged that Meyer had raised an important question. As officers escorted Meyer from the auditorium into the lobby, Kerry went on to explain that he did not think there was sufficient evidence of voter suppression to justify contesting the 2004 election.
“We just couldn’t do it in good conscience because we didn’t have that evidence,” he said.
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