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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Power thoughts

I was scanning google news for the headlines and read a bit about this student that was tasered at a university Q&A with John Kerry. The news sources seemed to cover the scene objectively, but I then watched the this video of the student asking his questions and the ensuing police ordeal.

I have to admit, I think the police way over reacted in this case. It's a university forum afterall. Shouldn't students be able to ask questions like these without being pounced on? And honestly, I know that the Darley and Latane studies all showed that diffusion of responsibility, but it's freaky, really truly freaky to watch that video of this guy being dragged by the police, screaming for help with a full auditorium of students not budging to intervene or even pay attention to him! I can't completely blame them. They were probably afraid of the police given that the treatment of the questioner. But it's scary what will happen when people aren't willing to object when another person is being mistreated before their eyes.

Yesterday, I was listening to Marketplace's radio piece on the RIAA's sometimes mistaken lawsuits. Like the video of the tasering, this also frightened me. That a group with so much power/money can completely wreck people's lives--incorrectly or not--without conscience seems utterly senseless to me. Even when wrongly accused, people are told they should settle and declare bankruptcy! I know the world is not just and fair, but I still can't help being outraged by this. I hope that the class action suit against the RIAA gains speed on this, because it's damn scary that a group like this isn't kept in check.


Paul said...

The man was clearly protesting, not asking questions. At several points he interrupted Kerry as he attempted to respond. Accordingly, he was asked to allow the speaker to respond, which he refused. As such the police/security was well within their duty to ask him to leave. He refused. They they attempted to "assist" him from the room, as non-violently as one can do this. He resisted -- it's clear that they had no intention of arresting him until he started struggling.

He wasn't tasered for speaking, he was tasered for resisting the commands of a police officer who was well within her authority and assigned duty to maintain an orderly discourse with the guest speaker.

I say taser him some more -- anarchy is not a solution. If he had stopped after his first, even after his second "question" to allow Kerry a chance to respond, this would have turned out very differently.

Lori said...

What exactly was he protesting? I think his questions were definitely pointed, but I think the student legitimately wanted to hear Kerry's responses. And people ask multi-part questions at these things all the time. It makes sense that he was getting his questions out since the police were trying to stop him before he even got the first question out.

From what I saw on the video, if I had been asking questions and then police officers surrounded me, I'd be pretty confused and upset too. How can u tell from the video that it was clear they weren't going to arrest him before he started struggling? I'd probably try to figure out why they were arresting me before letting them arrest me as well. I do think that this particular guy was showboating quite a bit, but I think the police could have gotten him outside without tasering him--i mean they were right near the door.

Evan said...

Agreed. It's kind of messed up that you can be faced with such a violent reaction for attempting to speak.

The forum was an open forum for questions, regardless of how pointed or uncomfortable that may have made Kerry or his handlers. I think this shows the violence that faces people if they aren't "civilized" (within a very narrow definition of the term).

If the student had started the violence, then yes, prevent that, but what harm were his words doing? I fail to see almost any justification for violence with someone is being peaceful.

This is another bullshit reaction from police who are "afraid" of troublemakers and people who push and challenge those in power a little too much.

Paul said...

I guess I'm just in the same camp as the students that applauded when the cops first try to remove him from the podium.

He wasn't met with violence for the questions. He was met with violence after he fought with the officers. I bet, that once they cut the mike, if he had taken a bow and walked out peaceably with the officers, he wouldn't have been charged with anything (maybe arrested first, but who knows?).

But by struggling, he's now faced with felony "resisting arrest with violence" on top of a debatable misdemeanor "disturbing the peace". The taser was in response to the active commission of that felony.

Was it ever established that this was an open forum? The Q&A period was already over -- there were still people in line and the moderators said they were out of time. He pushed his way up to the mike, and then was yielded the floor by Kerry, so he wasn't evicted immediately. He then didn't try to squeeze in a quick question, he was just making noise.

This isn't an issue of the content of his questions. It was the manner in which they were asked. The exact same questions could have been asked in a different manner, and they would have received an answer, if he actually cared what Kerry had to say.

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