"We hold these truths to be self-evident."
"Four score and seven years ago."
And now, add this to the lexicon of American democracy:
"Don't Tase me, bro. Don't Tase me."
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Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida student from Weston who tested the limits of free speech during an address by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, walked out of jail Tuesday and into cyberspace history -- and instant, if likely fleeting, celebrity.
Video clips of his fracas with university police officers flashed around the world, viewed more than 400,000 times. Tens of thousands of people debated the issue on websites, including more than 700 people on MiamiHerald.com. The American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International USA rose to his support.
"Shocking someone who was seemingly little more than a nuisance? That belongs in the Ripley's of poor policing," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA.
The degree to which Meyer, 21, was a nuisance or an opportunistic prankster -- and the magnitude of the police response -- stood at the center of the worldwide web of discussion as he left jail, was hugged by his father and drove away in his lawyer's SUV.
The charges: resisting an officer with violence and disturbing the peace by disrupting a school activity His attorney said he would plead not guilty.
The bail: none -- he was released on his own recognizance and made no public comment.
The response: immediate and wide, starting on campus and racing around the world.
UF President J. Bernard Machen described the event as "regretful'' and said two officers involved in the incident were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
"We're absolutely committed to having a safe environment for our faculty and our students so that a free exchange of ideas can occur," Machen said.
About 100 UF students conducted a protest, holding signs that said: "Trust Betrayed," "Excessive Force'' and, of course, "Don't Tase Me, Bro."
"The nation is laughing at us," said student Benjamin Dictor. "And the nation is crying for us, too."
On the small chance that you haven't seen any of the several videos of the event, here is what happened:
As the forum with Kerry came to a conclusion, the Massachusetts Democrat agreed to answer a question from Meyer even though the Q&A period was supposed to be over.
Meyer launched into a lengthy, somewhat meandering series of questions that included a sexually explicit term and amounted to this:
Why did Kerry concede the 2004 presidential election? Why not impeach President Bush? Was Kerry a member of the same secretive society at Yale University as Bush?
Reminded that he was to ask only one question, Meyer responded: "He's talked for two hours. I think I can have two minutes."
Meyer's microphone was cut off as six police officers attempted to remove him from the room.
During the fray, Meyer uttered the words that now serve as a clarion cry of student protest and free speech, words that will live forever in the memories of millions of . . . computers:
"Don't Tase me, bro. Don't Tase me."
"I didn't do anything. Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!''
Asia Johnson, a UF senior who attended the Kerry forum, said she couldn't shake the image of police taking down Meyer.
"They grabbed at him, started pulling him," she said. "The audience was screaming at police. I was screaming, ‘Don't Tase him. He didn't do any harm.' ''
According to the official police report, Meyer was accompanied to the meeting by a woman who was there to film him and, as he took the microphone, he asked her: "Are you taping this? Do you have this? You ready?"
The report also said that, after the arrest, Meyer's "demeanor completely changed once the cameras were not in sight. Meyer did ask, at one point, if the cameras were going to be at the jail."
The Internet debate revolved around the relative balance between Meyer's provocative behavior and the police response, with the majority of posters criticizing the officers.
"It was excessive force," one person wrote on Facebook.com, the social networking site. "The Taser shouldn't have been used."
Others argued that Meyer's actions were out of line and disruptive, and he got what he deserved.
"The kid was being obnoxious," wrote another poster. "He had his chance to peacefully ask his question and not go into the tirade he went into."
Kerry also came under criticism from people who thought he should have done more to take control of the situation and cool tensions.
During the encounter, as officers began grabbing Meyer's arms, Kerry can be heard saying: "That's all right, let me answer his question." A little later, he offers again to answer Meyer's "very important question."
On Tuesday, Kerry released a statement.
"In 37 years of public appearances, through wars, protests and highly emotional events, I have never had a dialogue end this way.. . ." Kerry said. "I hope that neither the student nor any of the police were injured. I regret enormously that a good healthy discussion was interrupted."
In South Florida, a teacher at Weston's Cypress Bay High, where Meyer wrote for the student newspaper, described him as an honor student who was opinionated but never disruptive.
"It didn't surprise me that he was voicing strong opinions," Rhonda Weiss said. ‘‘But it did surprise me that it escalated into violence. I do not consider him a violent person in the least."
A friend, Peter Gonzalez, also of Weston, said Meyer hopes to pursue a career in journalism.
Said Gonzalez: "He wants to be able to speak and make a difference."
Miami Herald special correspondent Alex Tiegen contributed to this report from Gainesville.