Was the Tasered student asking for it?

The cops overreacted, but new details suggest the heckler went into John Kerry's speech asking for trouble.

By Farhad Manjoo
Published September 20, 2007 2:29AM (UTC)
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After my post yesterday on naive campus cops who keep Tasering kids despite repeated caught-on-YouTube imbroglios, I got an e-mail from Tyler Antar, a University of Florida junior, who was in the auditorium Monday when campus police Tasered 21-year-old Andrew Meyer during a forum with Sen. John Kerry.

I spoke to Antar this morning about what happened before the video snapped on. Together with details from Florida newspapers, from the police report and from Meyer's own Web site, another side of Kerry's heckler emerged today. His jerky side. More important, there's also some suggestion that Meyer went into the forum looking for trouble. The cops overreacted, but was Meyer egging them on for the camera?


Antar says that he was standing about 15 feet away from Meyer during the confrontation, and that the YouTube video tells only half the story. What you don't see is what happened before Meyer began to speak.

Someone else was asking Kerry a question, and then, while that person was speaking, Meyer came bounding out of the aisle and grabbed a mike. "He began shouting that Sen. Kerry needs to answer his question because he's been waiting in line for the longest time," Antar told me.

After Meyer caused the disturbance, two officers who'd been standing to the side of the room moved closer to him, Antar said. At that point, Antar told me, Meyer began taunting the officers. "He turned to the cops and said, 'What, are you going to Taser me? Are you going to arrest me?'"


In the police report, Nicole Mallo -- one of the two officers who used the Taser on Meyer -- writes that after Meyer asked his question, he turned to a "friend" carrying a camera and asked, "Are you taping this? Do you have this? You ready?" (The PDF of the report is here.)

The woman with the camera was Clarissa Jessup. It turns out she was not Meyer's friend but someone he'd met during the speech. He handed her his own video camera just before going up to ask his question.

This seems a little suspicious, doesn't it? That Meyer brought his own camera to the speech would suggest he'd been planning to make a scene. (The most widely circulated YouTube video was captured with his camera.)


Jessup, for her part, doesn't think that was Meyer's plan. "He was so nonchalant about it," she told CNN. "I think if he was planning it he would have been concerned with who I was and how he could reach me after the fact to get his camera back."

Still, Meyer does have a history of putting on stunts to get attention. Several outlets reported yesterday that just after the last Harry Potter book was released, Meyer made a video of himself standing on a street carrying a sign bearing the words "Harry Dies." In another video he "acts like a drunk while trying to pick up a woman in a bar," the Associated Press reported. Here's Meyer's Web site and his YouTube channel -- neither one seems to contain those videos anymore.


A couple of Meyer's friends told the Gainesville Sun that they didn't believe he'd gone to the Kerry event to make a scene. "He is a funny person, but he is a funny person who really wants political change. He went there to ask some tough questions," a student named Jon Levy said.

But the police report documents further self-aggrandizing behavior. To identify himself, Meyer handed the officers a business card (It read: TheANDREWMEYER.com Speak my mind.) Officer Mallo also adds this nugget:

Meyer was transported to the Alachua County Detention Center by my [sic] myself and Officer Vinson. Meyer stated he just wanted Senator Kerry to hear what he had to say and that he was upset when he ended the questions without being heard. Meyer stated, on the way to the jail, "I am not mad at you guys, you didn't do anything wrong, you were just trying to do your job." Meyer was laughing and being lighthearted in the car, his demeanor completely changed once the cameras were not in sight. Meyer did ask, at one point, if the cameras were going to be at the jail.

So the guy is all laughs when the cameras are off, but plays it up for the media? Hmm.

Caveats, of course: The cops are under fire; two of them have already been placed on paid leave. So you're certainly right to question their veracity. (USA Today says it's trying to get a recording of Meyer's quotes from the cop car.)

Plus, obviously, even if Meyer had gone in there to create a scene and even if he was acting like a big jerk, that doesn't mean the cops were right to pull out their Tasers. In the report, several of the officers seem to suggest that they were most ticked off by Meyer's use of the term "blow job" (he was talking about Bill Clinton, naturally). Come on -- what's the point of going to college in Florida if you can't say "blow job"?

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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