Thursday, November 16, 2006

"Are you glad to be in America?"

Somehow I saw this and that's the first tune that came to mind - James Blood Ulmer's classic "Are You Glad to Be in America?", from an album of the same title. I suppose different folks will hear different things when listening to a song - I hear a hint of sarcasm every time I play that tune. Perhaps that's what fits best tonight, as we continue to reap the tainted, bitter fruit of what has truly become a police state. Here's the story so far:
At around 11:30 p.m., CSOs asked a male student using a computer in the back of the room to leave when he was unable to produce a BruinCard during a random check. The student did not exit the building immediately.

The CSOs left, returning minutes later, and police officers arrived to escort the student out. By this time the student had begun to walk toward the door with his backpack when an officer approached him and grabbed his arm, at which point the student told the officer to let him go. A second officer then approached the student as well.

The student began to yell "get off me," repeating himself several times.

It was at this point that the officers shot the student with a Taser for the first time, causing him to fall to the floor and cry out in pain. The student also told the officers he had a medical condition.

UCPD officers confirmed that the man involved in the incident was a student, but did not give a name or any additional information about his identity.

Video shot from a student's camera phone captured the student yelling, "Here's your Patriot Act, here's your fucking abuse of power," while he struggled with the officers.

As the student was screaming, UCPD officers repeatedly told him to stand up and said "stop fighting us." The student did not stand up as the officers requested and they shot him with the Taser at least once more.

"It was the most disgusting and vile act I had ever seen in my life," said David Remesnitsky, a 2006 UCLA alumnus who witnessed the incident.

As the student and the officers were struggling, bystanders repeatedly asked the police officers to stop, and at one point officers told the gathered crowd to stand back and threatened to use a Taser on anyone who got too close.

Laila Gordy, a fourth-year economics student who was present in the library during the incident, said police officers threatened to shoot her with a Taser when she asked an officer for his name and his badge number.

Gordy was visibly upset by the incident and said other students were also disturbed.

"It's a shock that something like this can happen at UCLA," she said. "It was unnecessary what they did."

Immediately after the incident, several students began to contact local news outlets, informing them of the incident, and Remesnitsky wrote an e-mail to Interim Chancellor Norman Abrams.
Via the LA Times:
"It was beyond grotesque," said UCLA graduate David Remesnitsky of Los Angeles, who witnessed the incident. "By the end they took him over the stairs, lifted him up and Tasered him on his rear end. It seemed like it was inappropriately placed. The Tasering was so unnecessary and they just kept doing it."

Campus police confirmed that Tabatabainejad was stunned "multiple" times.

By then, Remesnitsky said, a crowd of 50 or 60 had gathered and were shouting at the officers to stop and demanding their names and badge numbers.

Remesnitsky said officers told him to leave or he would be Tasered.
Apparently such police behavior has been quite the norm in the Los Angeles area recently:
The incident was the third videotape of an arrest to surface in the last week in Los Angeles.

One video showed a Los Angeles Police Department officer dousing a handcuffed suspect in the face with pepper spray as the suspect sat in a patrol car.

That video came to light Monday, just days after the LAPD and the FBI launched investigations into another videotape showing a police officer hitting a suspect in the face several times after a foot chase in Hollywood.
As John from Americablog notes:
The story gets a whole lot more interesting if the student is Muslim, and he was tased for simply refusing to stand up (while brown). In America, even being an asshole isn't sufficient justification for the authorities to use violence against you. At least it wasn't until just lately. This incident isn't just about a student at UCLA, it's about what's happened to our country over the past six years and what it means, anymore, to be American.
By the way, toward the end of the video (above) you'll hear clearly one of the cops threatening to use a taser on one of the bystanders who was asking for his name and badge number. Of course, as the ACLU makes clear, such threats amount to illegal assault.

Let's put this into some context:
Afraid of drunk drivers? Please submit to random checkpoints happily ... after all, it will keep you safe.

Think you have the right to travel freely within the borders of this free nation? Better be ready to identify yourself when near the US/Canadian border, or if you are within certain areas of the desert Southwest. It's not an intrusion, NO, we NEED to allow our law enforcement officers to keep us safe from terrorists and drugs! After all, what do you have to hide?

Planning on traveling overseas? You may need permission first, even to take your love on a cruise ship.

As we come closer and closer to requiring national ID cards, as our corrupt political establishment seeks to limit the right to vote, demanding ID cards to carry out the most basic freedom in a democracy, how can we as a people so blithely submit to this growing, insidious encroachment?

We surrender to these demands, empowering people with weapons and badges to enforce greater and greater restrictions on our movements, our civil liberties, our ability to act as free citizens. We surrender to people who often have disturbing histories of abusing their authority, resulting in injury and death when some hapless citizen rouses their ire. We surrender to the watchmen, and then act surprised when they abuse their power.
As an ex-punk, I'm hardly surprised at all by abuse of power from police, campus "security" and the like - got to witness enough of it firsthand back in the day. I just happened to "look" a little different. God help you if you're Black, Hispanic, or of Middle-Eastern descent.

Tasers, by the way, are far from harmless.

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