UCLA and the Taser Incident – We Tase in the Stacks Now

I don’t go to UCLA, but because I live in LA this incident hits close enough to home to draw some reflection and criticism from where I stand.  If you’re not sure what I am talking about Slashdot has a succinct explanation based on the article in the Daily Brun.  This action has brought national criticism, and as well as a student uproar.

People are feeling less safe rather than more, a common thing in the States these days. One student at UCLA reported, “As students we feel our safety is endangered, and we do not feel safe on campus,” said Sabiha Ameen, president of the Muslim Students Association.

You can see the camera-phone video posted to youtube here, but be forewarned even though you can’t see much the screaming is disturbing.

Boing Boing posted at least two articles about it, one stating threats that the cops made to on-lookers, and the second claims that the officer who did the tasing has a record of brutality.

Some musings on this situation:

1. There is no reason why a student who is not putting up a fight should get tasered, ever.  Why on earth are the police patrolling the stacks anyway?  Whatever happened to librarians dealing with issues that involve the library?  Or is asking for students ID’s that dangerous of a job?  How long before post security starts checking out books?  And if we’re going to be okay this kind of policing activity then there needs to be a limit put on those using force so they don’t get carried away as exemplified in this instance.

As it states on the Daily Brun,

The policy does not specify how many times a Taser can be used on a subject or for how long the Taser can be held to the subject’s body, and it is in the officer’s hands to determine whether the use of pain compliance is necessary in a given situation.

2. When do we stand in the gap, and try to stop brutality, using our bodies as shields for others?  In the video there are a lot of students standing around not helping this guy out. Are we Americans that apathetic?  And though I wasn’t there and don’t know what went through their minds, it’s worth asking myself what I would have done, and would I have been willing to stand in the gap?  I am not sure, but I know that I hope I do help someone in a situation like that.

At the Center for a Stateless Society the author argues for disarming the police in an instance like this, while I think people can be even more effective by using non-violence as a way of breaking up an instance like this, the commentator makes some good points.

3. In what ways have our policies enslaved us?  Not just in our businesses and in our schools, but in our nation as well?  Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for people, not the other way around, and when the he saw the Sabbath used to enslaved and dehumanize others he denounced it.  It’s the church’s responsibility to denounce this kind of violence.

4. Racial Profiling is still an issue, and we have to be sensitive especially during this time of heightened awareness because of the war.  Whether the student was being singled out or not isn’t the base issue, we have created the kind of culture where our minority people in this country are often times put on the defensive and this isn’t the way it should be.   I wonder if and how the school will try to reconcile with this student?  Or if it will be more concerned with protecting it’s own image? Unfortunately, saving face is an important American value these days.

5.  Christians are called to stand up for and look out for those outside the status quo.  I think God’s call to love aliens and strangers in the Bible (and Jesus’ very practice of doing it in the NT)  fits well with this situation. But it also challenges our racism more broadly speaking and racism exemplified in our public schools, the way many of our cities run, some of our feelings about immigration and our raised suspicions of those who are Muslim and/or from the Middle East.  Priority for the oppressed is how we Quakers have always read the Bible and for this I find myself continually praying and rooting for the underdog.  We need less excuses why we’re not being “racist” and more examples of us actually expressing love and reconcilation to those who are different than us.

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