Some conservative bloggers have been attacking John Kerry over the incident where a student was removed, with use of taser, from a speech after attempting to turn the question and answer session into a diatribe. Reviewing the video and subsequent reports of the incident, it does appear that the police did handle the matter poorly, and probably played into this person’s desire for publicity. Not only didn’t Kerry do anything wrong here, but he has also joined those critical of the handling of this matter. A diary at Daily Kos provides further information:
Alright, I’m the Online Communications Director for John Kerry, and I wanted to jump in here to let all of y’all know about what happened yesterday at the University of Florida event. JK himself wanted to stop by, but he’s stuck in Senate business all day and won’t have a chance to respond to any comments. And, since he never likes to come here for a drive-by … I thought I’d give all of you the scoop.
First of all, it’s a really bad situation. No one wants to see someone get tasered. Sure, the kid was obnoxious and physically resisting, and to a certain extent, when you physically resist cops you do put yourself in a risky situation. Ever see photos of Kerry getting arrested in ’71 for civil disobedience? He and his fellow Vietnam Vets calmly marched off to jail…
Still, personally speaking, I wish this ended in a number of ways that didn’t involve jolts of electricity. But, since the University of Florida is now reporting that an officer was injured in all of this, I think we know this was an ugly situation to say the least.
But, I’m not here to give my own opinions. You can read any diary for lots of those. I’m just going to give you a quick description of what the scene looked like from the stage, give everyone JK’s official statement, and let you know what JK told me directly about the situation.
OK, here’s John Kerry’s official statement:
“In 37 years of public appearances, through wars, protests and highly emotional events, I have never had a dialogue end this way. I believe I could have handled the situation without interruption, but I do not know what warnings or other exchanges transpired between the young man and the police prior to his barging to the front of the line and their intervention. I asked the police to allow me to answer the question and was in the process of answering him when he was taken into custody. I was not aware that a taser was used until after I left the building. I hope that neither the student nor any of the police were injured. I regret enormously that a good healthy discussion was interrupted.”
Now, to the narrative as I got it from JK and a couple others who were there … First, the preamble to the video (much of this closely tracks to this diary) … there was a long line of people waiting to ask questions, and Meyer was near the back. He rushed up to the mic, butting up past many, many kids and making a scene. Apparently he’d been talking with the police and they were arguing long before Meyer ever got to the mic (reports from Florida are that they threatened him with arrest already). That’s why there are police in the video when you first see it. They tried to remove him before he said anything, but JK intervened, calling them off and saying he’d answer his question. Remember, back in 2004, there was a lot of press about how open the Kerry campaign was to outside questioners and even protesters, especially compared with the hermetically sealed Bush campaign. JK’s done thousands of these events, really enjoys them (he told me once that doing Q&As with regular citizens is the best part of his job), and he’s totally comfortable dealing with disruptive people. So he made sure to call the U of F police off. Which, technically, he had no authority to do, since this was a U of F event, not a Kerry event. They were their police.
Anyway, then Meyer starts to ask his question, and you’ve all probably seen most of it. Here’s the video with the full question:
Part way through, JK asked him for an actual question because there were still others waiting and time was running short. (Kerry’d been taking questions for a solid 45 minutes.) These kinds of events put on by universities are difficult because Senator Kerry wants to get as many questions in as possible, and there are always A LOT of people waiting. So, the kid kept going, JK was listening respectively, and then the mic was cut off (either because whoever was in charge of the mic thought he was just ranting about whatever came to mind or because the U of F folks didn’t like the word “blowjob” … I have no idea), and the police tried to move him away from the mic. At this point, Kerry keeps trying to answer the kid’s questions and restore calm. He told me that at this point he wanted to make sure to maintain calm in the room as much as possible (these kinds of events can get out of control in a crowd, and he didn’t want that), and he told the police he was happy to answer the question. As he said in the statement and as he told me, he thinks he could’ve handled the whole thing without interruption. Unfortunately, things went downhill from there.
Meyer was pulled into the back of the room and the real scuffling began. From the stage, JK couldn’t see what was going on at all (it was a huge room.) So he tried to move things forward, giving the question of voting rights the respect it deserves and trying to answer his question. He had no idea what kind of scuffle was going on, who was doing what to whom, and was as surprised as anyone when the kid started screaming. He had no idea the kid was tasered until later.
From there, John Kerry made sure to answer some more questions and stayed for quite some time after the event to shake hands, answer questions one-on-one, sign autographs if people wanted them …
The whole thing just basically … it was just a bad, bad situation, and as JK said in his statement, he’s never had anything end like that before. Meyer was rude to his fellow students, obnoxious, and physically resisting police, but you never, ever want to see anyone get tasered.
Anyway, I just wanted to give y’all the rundown beyond just the official statement.