Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tortured By Taser

This is the second time in the past year that I've seen a video of police tasering someone for refusing to follow their orders to leave a building. The first occurred in a UCLA student library. This one occurred at a speech given by John Kerry.

The young man clearly disregards "protocol" by asking accusatory, conspiracy theory-driven questions. It's something that I find mildly irritating, along the lines of the Code Pink protesters who pop up in Congressional hearings. But far from breaking any law, he was engaged in a political act: Confronting power with discomforting questions. In fact, it's the fundamental political act of any democracy, as essential as the act of casting a ballot.

In the case of the UCLA student earlier this year, I wondered why no one intervened. That is, why no one stopped the police who repeatedly tasered the young man. But of course, the witnesses were all young students. It would have taken an unusual degree of courage to confront the authority of the police officers.

In this case, however, Mr. Kerry could have intervened at the moment it became clear that the police intended to remove the questioner. As a US Senator, he has at least the moral authority to do so. And as is demonstrated by the fact that he goes on to answer the man's questions, there was no justifiable reason to remove him from the audience. His silence as the scene unfolds becomes deafening.

On a broader level, it's time there was some national legislation addressing the police use of tasers. I know that the young man was in violation of the law the moment he refused to comply with the police officer's command, whether or not the command itself was justified. But from that to the use of what amounts to torture seems like a leap of barbaric proportions.

Until the use of tasers is regulated, in the age of cell-phone video and YouTube, we'll be witness to this kind of scene more and more frequently. We can't change what happened in this video. But maybe we can prevent it from happening in the next one.

Via The New York Nerd.

Posted by Judah in:  Human Rights   

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