What Happened From John Kerry’s Perspective

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 respectfully, 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.

[Cross posted from The Daily Kos]

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12 Responses to What Happened From John Kerry’s Perspective

  1. Pingback: Clicked : That guy who was tasered at the John Kerry Q&A

  2. Darrell Prows says:

    There are a few police who are professional enough to get anything done with the least possible force. And there are many who are not. Which is why experienced people (without any other agenda) do an arrest the same way JK did in ’71.

  3. Kevin Hayden says:

    It’s good to finally hear that Kerry couldn’t see what was going on with any clarity. But I take issue with YOUR statement that the kid was rude and obnoxious, as if that gives license for police intervention.

    He broke no law.

    Unless he was notified he was under arrest and then physically resisted.

    Of course, I’m a bit sympathetic toward someone resisting arrest for breaking no law. And you say things like this could spiral out of control? How? At a peaceful gathering, because one person’s acting obnoxious? That doesn’t usually provoke people nearby to become violent towards others. Only AFTER the police demanded his submission was any potential escalated.

    And they sure as hell have no right to Taser a guy being restrained on the floor by 6 cops while others stood idly by.

    Not in my country. I’m not sure about yours.

  4. Pingback: The American Street » Blog Archive » More responses to the UF police brutality

  5. Pen says:

    I figured it wouldn’t take long for some in the media and others try and pen this on JK.

    I’m no fan by any means of Nancy Grace but the reporters on there night made a few interesting points.

    The guy bought a camera to this event and asked the woman in front of him to use his camera and film him when he got the mic.

    He was cordial in the police car and asked if cameras would be at the station. You have to ask your self what kind of person who just got tazed would ask about camera’s filming what should have been an embarrassing and harrowing experience.

    He asked someone with a camera if they got everything.

    Now if this doesn’t smell like a hoax or worse a set up I don’t know what does.

    I think the cops overreacted and the man shouldn’t have been tazered. They could have injured others in the audience.

    The fact that the guy kept rambling and making statements instead of asking a question warranted his mic getting turned off and he should have been escorted out as it wasn’t fair to the others in the room.

    I find it odd that this student is known as a provocateur and that he picked Kerry’s meeting instead of one of the presidential campaigns that have been swinging through Florida.

    I feel bad for the senator because I’m sure he saw himself or what if it had been one of his kids in this situation. Frankly from the some of the statements and the skull and bones question he certainly showed more class and common decency than the man who asked the question.

    But before everybody jumps on this man’s wagon and declare him an innocent take a step back and think about it.

    This kid/man wanted his 15 min of fame and he went through the trouble to bring his video camera and having a woman help him film it to get his rant/arrest on tape. What he didn’t count on was the cops hitting his but with a tazer.

    Maybe its time for the senator to start having security with him at these events.

  6. Kevin Hayden writes: “He broke no law. Unless he was notified he was under arrest and then physically resisted.”

    Er, that’s exactly the law he broke: resisting arrest (“resisting an officer w/violence” according to the report).

    I’m more than happy to make the point again that the kid being tasered was wrong and overly-excessive. That’s obvious from the video.

    But to assert that he “broke now law” is simply not accurate.

  7. Gabriel Orfao Goncalves (Lisboa, Portugal) says:

    You wrote:

    First, the preamble to the video (much of this closely tracks to this diary) …

    I don’t know if you realise that you have just linked to a diary from a person – called djdissent – that had written in his diary:

    “I’m quitting drinking.”

    It’s here:

    http://djdissent.dailykos.com/

    Is that just reckless way of living and being “Online Communications Director for John Kerry” from you, or are you working for George W. Bush?

  8. pete nowakowkski says:

    That was just sick. No explaination justifies civil rights violations of this kind!

  9. MACK says:

    And y’all should watch the NBC 6 version of the incident and see what’s there not what you want to see and you will see a student who starts out politely thanking the Senator and is then touched by the cops while asking a series of important questions.

    If you time how long Meyer spoke minus the interruption from the female cop that occurs while Meyer is setting up his very cogent questions he speaks for a total of ONE MINUTE AND SIXTEEN SECONDS.

    His questions might have been more succinctly phrased: Why didn’t you contest the results of the election because there was massive voter fraud and since you probably won? Did you really want to be President? If you find fault with Bush’s actions why not seek impeachment? And were the two of you Bush and Kerry secret society brothers (i.e.BFFs)?

    So Kerry (from whom I handed out literature door to door in crappy November weather in Wisconsin) kept on yammering while the kid is strongarmed and tasered by Kampus Kops armed with TASERS AND GUNS, And the Kops and Meyer are only four or five rows from the stage. (BTW I don’t recall Kampus Kops in the early 1970’s being armed.)

    But what were Kerry’s answers?

  10. MACK says:

    Interesting ideas from another blogger on another site:

    “…many of the students in the hall were not there by choice, but rather had their classes cancelled and were instructed to go and listen to Kerry. This is likely why they were so passive, technically they were still in the classroom, not there because they cared about politics, or Kerry. Meyers, paradoxically may be one of the few people who actually wanted to be there. As for the “cutting the line” meme, the way experienced political handlers avoid any hardball questions in public forums is by announcing in advance that there will be a limit to the amount of questions, then canvassing the questioners and making a note of any who are likely to be a problem and avoiding giving them the mike. Often they will reassure them that “they will get to them soon” until suddenly the question and answer time is declared over. This way anyone who gets too pushy appears to be disruptive and can be marginalized. Meyers clearly wasn’t going to allow himself to be marginalized. However the process he had to go through to get his question answered required being pushy, and now allows him to be characterized as a “looney” and “infringing the free speech rights of others” in the carefully pre-selected line he supposedly cut. Once at the mike, he starts asking his quite complex question and is almost immediately interrupted after 15 seconds or so of his question. This is characterized as “hogging the mike”? This question has been described as a rant, however it is logically constructed, taking time to establish the premise on which to ask Kerry if he threw the election. Clearly not a question which a journalist can ask safely yet….”

  11. BlueWashington says:

    Hey MACK,

    What’s the up with these ‘ideas’ of yours? If you’ve ever been to any of JK’s rally’s (and I have), you’ll know he’ll answer any questions, from softballs to sliders – he’s not afraid of questions and they aren’t screened.

    What we have here is a 2 fold situation: 1) a bad questioner (have you seen his web-site? He’s ridiculous), and 2) Overzealous cops. FYI – the cops on campus do carry guns these days – its a dangerous world – Virginia Tech come to mind? Anyway, the cops went over the top – that was quit obvious.

    Should JK have leaped the stage to save kid? I don’t think so. By the time the kid was hauled off, JK was out of sight. Besides I refer back to the Virginia Tech incident.

    It seems you may still have an issue with the ’04 election – get over it – time to move on…

  12. Mark says:

    Some people here are confused. The State has not authority to attack someone who is not being violent. The State has no rights, it only has privileges allowed it by The People. If another student stood up and removed that person from the microphone (as the officers did) they would be guilty of assault. If the student speaker defended himself it would not be an offense to do so. If citizens then tasered him for defending himself they would be guilty of further offenses, just as these enforcement officers are. The bottom line is this is crime committed under color of law; an offense that should be punished with imprisonment.