THE GAINESVILLE INCIDENT
The University of Florida made a good-faith effort to elevate the national debate on Iraq, health care, and other pressing national issues by hosting a forum to which Sen. John Kerry was invited as featured speaker. In the spirit of open discussion, attendees were invited to pose questions for Sen. Kerry afterward. Things got testy, and the whole affair will be remembered not for its goals but for its climax, when a student posed provocative questions for Sen. Kerry and continued to do so after being told he had exceeded his allotted time...which brought a cordon of campus police down upon him and eventually led to his being shot with a taser gun (for resisting arrest) and spending a night in jail.
Several things are clear. The student behaved obnoxiously. Sen. Kerry said he wanted to answer all his questions, but said nothing in protest as police descended upon the student and hauled him away. The campus police overreacted, possibly because of poor or inadequate training. It was never necessary to taser the student.
But in the big picture, one should ask, "Why was a cordon of police on hand in the first place?" This wasn't a protest march, where police are needed in case violence breaks out. It was an open discussion in a campus setting...almost by definition, such forums invite extreme viewpoints, and where young people are involved, immature conduct often accompanies these expressions. Remember the Vietnam era? Remember Kent State? Andrew Meyer is no poster child for the First Amendment, but the overreaction of police will become the story...regrettably at that, because Meyer's questions, all of which deserve answers, haven't been answered. For the record, the questions were as follows: 1) Why did you concede the 2004 election in the face of demonstrable fraud, Sen. Kerry? 2) Why is impeachment off the table, when Bush and Cheney have clearly committed high crimes and misdemeanors? 3) Is your membership in Skull and Bones the reason you didn't contest the election and haven't spoken out to have Bush and Cheney impeached?
Robert Lockwood Mills is the author of five published books, including two personal biographies. His historical docudrama, 'The Trial of John Wilkes Booth,' was broadcast by Connecticut Public Radio in 1999. Three of his essays have been published (more...