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Another Taser Tale

Erin Polgreen

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ITT has been on the Taser trail for a while now, thanks to the fine investigative reporting of Silja J.A. Talvi. In November, 2006, we brought you Stunning Revelations, which took a critical gander at the non-lethal, for-profit weapons industry. And we covered the protesters who were tasered at a fundraiser for Sen. Rick Santorum in Passive Resisters (please, please excuse the pun). Last, but not least, Silja rounded up the latest evolutions in non-lethal weaponry this January with Non-Lethal Weaponry: The Next Generation. In all of these articles, we've been highly critical of the easy-to-abuse nature of non-lethal weaponry--as well as their possible side effects. From "The Next Generation:" “Non-lethal” is still the operative term with all of these new weapons, but civilian experience with Taser stun guns shows that “non-lethal” means “usually not lethal.” Since 2001, roughly 200 people have died after being stunned with Tasers. Taser International, Inc., attributes all of the deaths to other causes, including acute intoxication and “excited delirium.” The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation to review some of those deaths. The rapid evolution of electricity-based weaponry raises concerns for abuse by governments and law enforcement agencies that have already demonstrated a propensity to use electrical shock weaponry as a form of torture. During a March 2005 debate with Taser CEO Rick Smith, Amnesty International USA’s William Schulz pointed out that “stun technology in general is one of the most widely used instruments of torture around the world.” Human rights advocates everywhere should bear that in mind. The new wave of shock technology isn’t just around the corner—it’s already here. While I hate to say "we told you so," all of these Taser-related concerns are becoming increasingly valid. Tasers are once again taking a controversial spin on the newswagon: A University of Florida student named Andrew Meyer was tasered on Monday for engaging in a "combative diatribe" with Sen. John Kerry during an open mic session."A minute or so into what became a combative diatribe, Meyer's microphone was turned off and officers began trying to physically remove him from the auditorium. Meyer flailed his arms, yelling as police tried to restrain him. He was then pushed to the ground by six officers, at which point Meyer yelled, "What have I done? What I have I done? Get away from me. Get off of me! What did I do? … Help me! Help." Police threatened to user a Taser on Meyer if he did not "comply," but he continued to resist being handcuffed. He was then Tased, which prompted him to scream and writhe in pain on the floor of the auditorium. A student who attended the event, but did not know Meyer personally summed up the situation perfectly: Howland was "appalled" by the way UPD officers handled the situation. Howland acknowledged that Meyer had acted inappropriately by "rushing" the microphone and forcing a question on Kerry. "It's a perfect example of when officers take something to a level that is not necessary," he said. "The officers escalated that situation."

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Before coming to The Media Consortium in February 2008, Erin was an Associate Publisher for In These Times, where she managed advertising, marketing and outreach. Erin began working with In These Times as an editorial intern in June 2005. That August, she joined the staff as Advertising and Marketing Coordinator and was promoted to Associate Publisher in February 2007. From August 2004 through May 2005, Erin served with City Year Chicago, an Americorps program. As a Senior Corps member, she co-led a team of literacy tutors at an elementary school on the West side of Chicago. Erin graduated with departmental honors and a degree in English from Webster University in May 2004.
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