Saturday, November 18, 2006

UCLA Taser Incident

On reading the news of an Iranian-American student being tasered by UCLA campus police, I checked the yahoo message board for public reaction.

Here’s a tally:

KarlwithaK2002 said, “It was probably a N!gger, huh? Or a damned Muslim bastard-why are we letting these bastards into the country?” Karlwithak2002 received a recommendation from yahoo news readers for his comment.

Fuad98 also collected a recommendation with his, “They should have shot the motherfu*r!”

Thebrink2003 (musician according to his yahoo profile) wrote, “This nut job could have had a gun and killed the cops[;] they should have shot him with a sniper rifle at some safe distance. Suicide bombers like him kill loads of people every day all over the world!!!!” Though more informative than KarlwithaK2002 and Fuad98, this writer tied with his competitors for the single recommendation they each received. Losers all of them, because Scoutman1712, has so far collected an astonishing 20 recommendations for a clever piece of writing connecting the UCLA incident to terrorist activities from 1968 to present.

, who according to his profile, likes camping and hiking and whose favorite quote is “No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a boy,” appears to be a Boy Scout supporter and a pillar of his community. His commentary is in the form of a long multiple choice quiz which include question like:

In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by :

a. Lost Norwegians
b. Elvis
c. A tour bus full of 80 year old women.
d. A Muslim male extremist between the ages of 17 and 40.

On 9/11/01, four airliners were hijacked…Thousands of people were killed by:
a. Bugs Bunny…
b. The Supreme Court of Florida
c. Mr. Bean
d. A Muslim male extremist between the ages of 17 and 40.

and so on for a list of 13 questions all ending in "d. A Muslim male extremist between the ages of 17 and 40"

A few voices on the message board do condemn the use of excessive force by the UCLA police, but the tone of the discussion is overwhelmingly xenophobic.

As an educated minority, Iranian-Americans understand the urgency of spending more effort on community outreach and on the education of the general American public about ourselves. On the other hand, we also understand that if this humiliation of an Iranian-American student goes unchallenged, it will weaken our position in American society, leading to more such incidents. A collective response is appropriate. Unfortunately marches, and protests are not as effective as they used to be in the sixties. The media doesn’t give protests much attention, and when there is coverage, the tendency is to cast the protestors in a violent light, particularly if the protestors have an Islamic connection.

The way around this is to exert the Iranian-American influence in quieter ways. For example, our writers and journalists must tenaciously follow up on the story with engaging and informative articles, keeping the public interested in the case. This incident must not be allowed to fade in our minds until all questions are answered and everyone responsible for the events is held fully accountable.

Not respecting the law had its cost for young Mostafa Tabatabainejad, but mistreating him so brutally must have its own consequences. The repeated use of a taser gun on a member of our peaceful community deserves a stinging response. Iranian-Americans have no use for electric shock devices, but the rank and file of UCLA police must be conditioned to learn that our political sting is as much to be feared.


Daryoosh said...

Ari; This Iranian-American student didn't disrespect the law, he had the the choice either to show his ID or leave the library and he chooses to leave and in process of gathering his stuff and getting up, an officer grabs his arm and he protests and the whole brawl starts as shown on you-tube.

Ari Siletz said...

Thanks for the correction. Investigating the story further, I ran into a source that suggests the UCLA library ID protocol is based on an honor system where carrying a card is mandatory but only a random sample of students are actually asked to show ID. This is similar to some European railway systems where tickets are checked only occasionally. In the German railway system I did notice some profiling in the selection of people who were asked to prove they were ticket holders. Foreigners seemed more likely to be challenged-persumably because they were unfamilar with the system. The suspicion of having been profiled may have been the reason for this student's annoyance with the campus police,and his reluctance to show--or carry--his ID.
If more information comes your way about this story please share it with us.

Anonymous said...

UC Abu Gharib in Los Angeles like its sister facility in Iraq is home to Middle Easterners of different shades but there are of course notable differences in management policies. Eventhough in UC Abu Gharib the men and women in uniform still prefer applying high voltage electric shock as the principle tool of their security work, the torture dungeons have been done away with altogether. This new openness has advanced the cause of Democracy to no end and is fast becoming a model to be emulated in other facilities all throughout the United States. Another notable difference is that at UC Abu Gharib the work of the security personnel is carried out in plain sight of anyone who wishes to have a look. This is an entirely new concept in security policy. In no law enforcement agency or military organization anywhere in the world can this level of transparency be observed except for in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Perhaps the most important difference between the two facilities is that at UC Abu Gharib one need not be an enemy combatant, a criminal, or have any secrets to reveal about threats to US national security in order to be given a lesson in Western values. In UC Abu Gharib having Middle Eastern characteristics and forgetting to carry an identification card is adequate proof that one simply does not understand what America is all about. Once frowned upon as an ineffective tool of forcing compliance, even members of the newly elected Democratic Congress have now conceded that some torture can be very effective as long as it is done in a transparent and humane way.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ari. Good comment.

L.C.McCabe said...


I was horrified when I saw the video of that incident shown on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann." It reminded me of the Rodney King Beating as well as the pepper spraying of Earth!First activists at former Congressman Frank Riggs's office.

And then this past weekend a man was shot by police on his wedding day. The car full of his friends were leaving a strip club after his bachelor party and it was shot at fifty times by police. For what? Driving While Black? Or being a carfull of Black men late at night? Should that be considered to be a capital crime?


Mostafa should not have been subjected to the treatment he received. Failing to have an ID, or failing to show an ID should not be an offense warranting the use of electrical shock.

It is as if these campus cops felt like they were entitled to punish people if they wanted to. It is sick.

The one good thing, is that like the Rodney King incident and the Earth!First pepper spray incident, it was caught on video. So it cannot be brushed away as opposed to the overwhelming majority of police brutality incidents that happen everyday and have only eyewitnesses filing complaints that go nowhere. Or the case becomes a question of who has the more credibility in a court of law, the police or the accused trying to shift blame to the police.

Honestly, who hasn't forgotten their ID, their wallet, their keys, etc. at one time or another? Being forgetful is not a crime. Neither is knowing your legal rights and standing up for yourself. I agree with your comparing the ID protocol to railway checking. Randomly hassling people that is not done in a random fashion is inherently wrong.

UCLA needs to handle this situation with care by looking closely at how they train their officers, why they give them equipment such as tasers, and why any officer thought that a taser would be necessary to bring inside of a library.

Escorting someone outside should not include electric shock therapy.

Unfortunately looking at public message boards about incidents such as this allows you to see how the sadistic nature is brought out in some people. Anyone who was not sickened by the sight of that video, has something dead inside of them. They have no empathy, and have lost a part of their own humanity.

Be well my friend,