By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Zapping free speech

A brief Associated Press item (scroll down) in the Boston Globe this morning led me to the Rutland Herald, which reports that the police chief in Brattleboro, Vt., has been fired in part because of questions over the Tasering of two non-violent protesters last summer.

Herald reporter Susan Smallheer writes the following about an internal investigation that was conducted into former police chief John Martin’s conduct:

The findings of fact repeatedly mention the Tasering of two protesters, who were then arrested and charged with unlawful trespass for refusing to leave private property on Putney Road. According to the findings of fact, Martin received a one-day suspension for failing to provide leadership to his officers during that incident.

According to the report, Martin was at home during the Tasering and arrests, or was already headed to a meeting in Montpelier with Vermont State Police. The town said Martin gave conflicting information about where he was that morning — at home or on the road.

The two protesters, Jonathan Crowell and Samantha Kilmurray, have since hired an attorney, who has said he plans to sue the town and the police department for excessive force.

This seems utterly unsurprising. Which is why I’m scratching my head over University of Florida student Andrew Meyer’s decision to apologize and admit to wrongdoing over an incident in which he was Tasered at a speech by Sen. John Kerry earlier this fall.

You’ll find the video here. Meyer was certainly being obnoxious, but that’s not a crime. I’m not sure why Meyer, like Crowell and Kilmurray, isn’t thinking about filing a lawsuit against the campus police.

Maybe there were previous offenses. The Independent Florida Alligator story doesn’t say. But there’s something here that just doesn’t add up.

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  1. Anonymous

    The taser should be banned immediately. It is a frightening torture tool which is increasingly being used to suppress the people’s right of assembly, free speech, and protest. The fact that it is being used more and more frequently, and that a large portion of the public finds its use to be amusing, is even more terrifying. How many talk show hosts to we have to listen to chortling over the sound effect of people screaming in taser-induced agony? The willingness of the police to use this barabrous device appears to be increasing every day. The public should not tolerate this. Policemen are not some sainted order but a group whom we willingly grant a monopoly on violent force for our own good. The policemen in Brattleboro and their chief should all be fired if they used this device on a simple trespassing case.

  2. Rick in Duxbury

    Perhaps Meyer sees himself as part of a community where one apologizes if he thinks he did wrong? (As opposed to occupying private property and then suing the officers who arrest you. I have relatives in Brattleboro. This is where Alice landed when she fell through the looking glass.) I take Meyer’s apology as a little victory for civility and personal reponsibility. When John Kerry and I agree, there is still cause for hope.

  3. Anonymous

    This is totally a guess, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he weren’t threatened with expulsion by the school. Like the Wentworth boob on the cover of this week’s Herald.

  4. Mike from Norwell

    Dan, Andrew Meyers knew exactly what he was doing at that incident (guess some adult lawyer had to point out to him the future ramifications in order to get him to apologize – heckuva thing to follow you through life). He was looking to get tasered (in the great Jackass tradition) and all you have to do is google around to confirm his MO. How many people have to fall for his grandstanding Internet antics? I’m a solid GOPer, but I feel sorry for John Kerry that he had to be the victim of this buffoon’s silly antics to become the 15 minute darling of Youtube.

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