Tase Me, Bro!
Filed Under: Opinion, US | Posted: 02/25/2008 at 9:07PM
Comments | Region: New York | United States
Tonight, I attended a "Town Hall" discussion here at SUNY Binghamton about the decision that had been made by our administration to arm University police officers with Model X26 TASERs.
And I thought it was bad enough that they had guns (or at least that was my feeling before Virginia Tech and the following copycat shootings).
The meeting was attended by around 30-40 people, ranging from members of the community to students to faculty, and it was held by a student group called the Student Action Collective, a branch of the Experimental Media Organization (of which I had been a member during my freshman and sophomore years…though SAC used to be Students for Peace and Justice). In the room, SAC had hung a sign that said "Stop the Police State" that looked like it had been constructed with a tarp and some duct tape. On all of the seats, they placed copies of their ‘Zine, which, though impressively laid out without the use of computer layout programs, just screams "underground" (complete with corroded typefaces, much like what CNN does for their title bars during the debates these days).
We had a fairly decent discussion about campus security issues and debated the necessity and ethics of TASERs, and SAC had prepared letters for all interested people to sign, which will then be given to the administration and likely passed up or down the ladder by each subsequent disinterested official (and then used as coasters by the university president as she reads the latest issue of "Plane & Pilot").
Let’s get real: letter writing isn’t going to do a damn thing in this instance to get TASERs off our campus. Even the fallout over tasing incidents at the University of Florida and at UCLA didn’t get them out. The only things that came out of those were a policy change at UCLA and a new catchphrase that can be said by those who’d rather not be shocked.
One person at the meeting said that he had spoken with one university cop at a speaking event a few months ago, and the officer said that he felt more comfortable using a TASER on someone instead of beating them with a nightstick. Another one the meeting’s attendants said that maybe things might have to get more militant. He said that we outnumber the police, so it might be a good idea to swarm the police if they should find themselves in the position where using the TASERs is necessary, and then take the weapons and smash them. It’s an interesting idea, and potentially effective, but the only thing that scares me more than cops with TASERs are cops with actual guns who feel threatened.
Do I honestly think we can get the TASERs out of SUNY Binghamton? No, and certainly not by writing letters (and yes, I signed one of them…I’ve been through shock therapy to recover from surgery, and that was bad enough). Violence by the students won’t do that either. That will turn the opinion of the public against us. We need to do something old fashioned…something Gandhi-esque. If you don’t know what I mean, I suggest you retake Global History. What would be needed is a group of people who would be willing to stage some form of peaceful protest (i.e., a sit-in) in a place where a lot of fellow students can watch (and maybe some can film), to protest the matter, and then be TASed by the cops. But this might have to happen several times in order for the message to sink in. We need a common student who is otherwise not politically active to take a stand against the police when they see a fellow student being attacked for voicing his/her opinion in protest. If that spreads, then change can occur.
I think I’ll get some sleep now, now that I’ve given my two cents on modern civil disobedience and now feel somewhat unclean about the fact that I suggested students use themselves as lightning rods…