Law enforcement officials said Thursday that University of Florida police did everything by the book when they used a stun gun to subdue an unruly student at a forum with Sen. John Kerry. The two of officers who were suspended with pay after the incident said the student -- Andrew Meyer, 21 -- refused to sit down, used foul language, and kicked officers to avoid being taken into custody. "The man lifted me up," Officer Nicole Mallo said.
“Yes, Meyer was resisting while he was flailing about shouting ‘Don't tase me, bro!’" said the Daily Nebraskan -- the student paper at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln -- in an editorial. But being “overly persistent and obnoxious” is not a crime. This kind of force has no place on a college campus.
Now that Meyer has become a national celebrity thanks to the widely viewed Internet video of his arrest, said the Orlando Sentinel in an editorial, the state and the university have promised a thorough investigation, which is terrific. “But it doesn't take state investigators or university reviews to know that UF got it wrong -- way wrong.”
They sure did, said Frank Cerabino in the Palm Beach, Fla., Post. Andrew “Don’t Tase me, bro’” Meyer’s “bit of performance art was headed for a pathetic, anonymous ending -- the audience already was booing him -- until the campus police rewrote the third act with a brilliant stroke of boneheaded brutality.” Now a kid who wanted a little attention has become a national poster boy for free speech, and “Don’t Tase Me Bro’” T-shirts are a hot-selling item online.
This sorry event “was a fine opportunity for Kerry to assert his leadership and take control of the situation,” said Ron Sachs in The Miami Herald. He had the mic, and could have kept the situation from escalating. “But in this confused, chaotic crisis, he was indecisive, and his voice did not rise above the background noise. Quite frankly, the man who might have been president of our country did not shine in this mini-crisis.”
"This is the birth of a new kind of celebrity," said Eric Deggans in the St. Petersburg, Fla., Times. One video gets posted on YouTube and suddenly this "prankster-activist" is "a global star."
“Call it the shock felt 'round the world,” said the Gainesveille, Fla., Sun in an editorial.
The little jerk got what he asked for -- publicity, said Michelle Malkin on her blog.
This was “an iconic turning point," said Naomi Wolf in The Huffington Post. “It will be remembered as the moment at which America either fought back or yielded” to the erosion of basic rights under a president who now has the power "to imprison innocent U.S. citizens for months in isolation.”
Sure, the police could have been a tad less aggressive, said Frank James on the Chicago Tribune’s The Swamp blog. But nobody forced Meyer to “inflict his not-so-winning personality" on his schoolmates and on Kerry "as though his free-speech rights trumped their right to civil discussion.”
“About the only thing everybody seems to agree on is that free speech is a good thing, up to a point,” said Emil Steiner on The Washington Post’s OFF/Beat blog. “The question seems to be where that point is, and how to balance it against maintaining order.”