There are two discreet issues here: first, did Meyer have a right to do what he was doing at the microphone? Second, even if he had such a right -- that is, even if the police were wrong in asking him to leave -- did the police behave wrongly when they tased him?
To argue that Meyer had a right to behave as he did at the microphone requires an adherence to a notion of free speech that would destroy free speech in fact. Watch the video. His tone aggressively sanctimonious, Meyer makes an incoherent speech, and finally, in response to repeated requests that he ask a question, fires a few off without pausing to let Kerry answer. After Meyer had been at it for over a minute and a half, someone cuts the power to the mic. Meyer's response is revealing: "Thanks for cutting my mic."
Not "the" mic... "my" mic. If you hadn't already figured out from his tone and behavior that Meyer is an immature, narcissistic grandstander who doesn't give a damn about anyone's rights but his own, his diction just then provides an important clue.
(You can catch another important clue here, where Andrew's narcissism has blossomed so fully that he believes the police are going to lead him away to murder him. This behavior strikes me as being about on a par with that of delusionals who believe they're Napoleon or Jesus Christ).
Watching the video, it was plain to me that Meyer wasn't interested in an exchange of ideas, or in eliciting information, or in any way engaging anyone else in the room. It was a performance. It wasn't about Kerry and it certainly wasn't about the people in the audience, several of whom you can see getting up to leave the moment Meyer starts acting up. It was all about Andrew. Andrew wasn't speaking; he was performing.
Now a performance, even one as self-indulgent as Andrew's, can be protected speech. But at what cost? Within what parameters? How long should Andrew have been permitted to go exercise his right? He'd been given over a minute and half already. What if he'd wanted to go on for two? Five minutes? Ten? Is the determination of what he's going to say, and how long he'll take to say it, entirely up to him? Or should the moderators have some say, as well?
Unless you think how long a speaker should be permitted to prattle on is entirely up to the speaker, you have to acknowledge that at some point the moderators or other authority figures have the right to shut the speaker down. If there are no rules -- and no one to enforce them -- it's hard to see how free speech could get exercised amidst all the discordant shouting.
But even if you believe Meyer's right to perform was absolute and that no one had the right to shut him down, or if you just believe they shut him down too early or otherwise inappropriately, we're still left with that second question: did the police behave wrongly when they tased him?
Here's a quick -- and wildly inaccurate -- sound bite: "The police tased Meyer just for asking questions!"
No. The police tased Meyer for resisting arrest. Watch the sequence: there were about a dozen steps of escalating confrontation between Meyer's "questions" and the police tasing him:
1. Meyer is urged to ask a question. He ignores the request.
2. The mic is cut and the police take Meyers by the elbows, telling him, "come on outside."
3. Meyer dodges away, saying, "I'm not going anywhere! Get off me! What the fuck are you doing!"
4. The police start pushing Meyer toward the exits.
5. Meyer breaks away, continuing to shout.
6. The police grab him again, and they fall to the ground.
7. The police direct Meyer to turn over on his stomach.
8. Meyer refuses.
9. The police get him over on his stomach and try to cuff him.
10. Meyer resists.
11. The police tell Meyer repeatedly to put his hands behind his back.
12. Meyer refuses, saying instead that if they let him up, he will walk out on his own.
13. The police repeatedly warn Meyer that if he doesn't put his hands behind his back, they will tase him.
14. Meyer repeatedly refuses and continues to resist.
15. Meyer is tased.
At every one of these steps, the police gave Meyer a choice. Every time he had a choice, Meyer chose to escalate rather than comply.
(BTW, important safety tip: when the police give instructions, it's not a negotiation. Once you choose escalation, you can't negotiate down to a lower level of confrontation, as Meyer tried to do at #12.)
So here's the correct sound bite: "The police tased Meyer for violently resisting arrest."
Or, if you want a sound bite that ties the police response directly to Meyer's microphone behavior, you could say, "The police told Meyer to leave just for asking questions!" But that doesn't quite get people rushing to the barricades, does it.
When the police give someone clear verbal instructions and the person refuses, what should the cops to do at that point? Apologize and walk away? Or should they escalate: a request becomes a command, the command is accompanied by taking the person by the elbow, the elbow becomes the torso, etc. A lot of people don't like the taser. What do they suggest as an alternative -- a billy club?
Well, there were at least six cops... maybe they should have just forced Meyer's arms behind his back rather than tasing him. Leave aside for the moment that they were trying but apparently couldn't. Instead ask, what would people say when, say, Meyer's shoulder was dislocated in the struggle, or he was otherwise injured by the force he made the cops use? Police brutality, is my guess.
Bottom line: take out all the hot button free speech arguments, and imagine instead that Meyer had been trying to use a lavatory when the cops told him, without explanation, that he would have to find a different one. Imagine too that the cops had no right to order him out of this particular restroom. Is Meyer right at that point if he fights the cops? And what should the cops do if he does?
If you think the police are abridging your rights, you can send a complaint to the university ombudsman. Or write an op-ed in the school newspaper. Or organize a protest march. Or sue the police department. Any or all of the above would be fine -- but no, you don't get to fight with the police. And if someone does fight them, I hope the cops would respond as sensibly and professionally as the ones who had to deal with Meyer did.