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Friday live: Tasers and Burkhas

David Mazower | 17:57 UK time, Friday, 17 November 2006

The shows just finished, and our two issues got a strong response. Dan in Detroit wanted us to talk about the gathering debate online about a video on YouTube which shows a student at UCLA in California being struck several times with a Taser. If you haven't seen it, you can here.

And we got your reactions to a story which broke a couple of hours before the show. The Dutch government has voted to support a proposal to ban women from appearing in public wearing the burka -- headgear that covers the face apart from the eyes. The proposed ban would apply to streets, public transport, schools and courts in the Netherlands.

Dan suggested the story to us, and he's in the studios of WDET in Detroit to kick off the debate. He says it's a sign of the times that an issue like this comes to light because of people being able to take films on their mobile (cell) phones, and then post them on sites like YouTube.

Ros then played some of the clip from YouTube, it's pretty graphic, even when you can't see the footage. The man in question, Mostafa Tabatabainejad can be heard shouting and screaming as security try to get him to leave the library.

Christopher from UCLA witnessed the incident, he told us that it's standard procedure for students to be checked for ID late at night. Mostafa Tabatabainejad refused, the police were called, and when they showed up he was starting to walk towards the door. An officer put his hand on his arm to lead him to the door, and he started yelling screaming and ranting.

Combiz joined us, he's a student at UCLA and organising a protest about the taser incident. He says the police overreacted, but there's a broader issue too, that they don't feel safe on campus when tasers are being used, and don't feel protected by the people that they pay to be campus security. He wants the security people suspended, a transparent investigation, and we want to be part of the investigation and discussions on policy.

Peter Sysak, Chief of Police for Cuesta College, another university in California, says this student broke the rules, that are there to protect students, and therefore is responsible for the consequences.

Combiz says the protesters are just asking for an independent investigation into this incident.

Ros asked Peter Sysak if a taser is a reasonable means of getting someone to leave a libarary. Chief Sysak replied that reasonable force begins with verbal commands, hands on means to escort someone out, but escalates as necessary. He said it's difficult to comment on this case, but that the taser does need to be used in some cases.

And a text has come in from Mister Bijou, on a little island in the South China Sea. He asks:

"Why are Americans so violent?"

Our listener Dan came back to ask whether it was necessary to taser him so many times, even after he appeared to be handcuffed.

The debate will continue after the news. But in the mean time the texts and emails are coming in thick and fast.

Ken, Cleveland The student didn't sound very "relaxed" after the first shock, so why did they persist?

Lawrence from Nigeria
The officers were doing their job.The student behaved unruly and should be disciplined by the university authorities.

McKinley, Tennessee, USA
Police abuse is a grown problem in the US, and it is only going to get worse. Individual officers, other wise predisposed to anti-social behavior, now feel emboldened because of laws such as the Patriot Act.

Chris,Univ.Of Delaware student
On UCLA story-if the student refused,what other options do the police have?

And emails are coming in too:

As a Black woman in America who is also a Public Service Librarian, I sympathize with the minority student community in California. But I must also say that the student in question had a responsibility to cooperate with the officers regardless of any perceived bias.

Tom, Columbus, Ohio
Typical California whining about simply responding to reasonable request. This isn't a freedom of speech issue and makes our country look like a bunch of idiots. Should there be an investigation? Sure, but student's don't necessarily have that right. Please remind the students that their tuition does not fully pay for the cost of their privileged education.

Patrick in Germany said this is somebody not following the university rules, and in that position you can expect to have a conflict with authority.

Ros asked if this was too heavy handed.

Patrick agreed this was a bit heavy handed. But the first time was right, officers don't know if he's a threat when he's yelling.

Tim in Minnesota said he's not even sure the first time is right. He's seen statistics suggesting that people die from having a taser used on them.

David Lazar has written about this for the UCLA newspaper the Daily Bruin. He says the first tasering was justified, and that Mostafa Tabatabainejad brought this largely on himself with his behaviour.

Rose joined us, she's going to the protest, and she said she was in shock that this could happen in a university library. This is a violation of every form of human rights, and was unbelievable. This student was not a threat, and the tasering was not necessary.

David Lazar said that the police often don't know who is going to be threatening or not, and if you're yeling, it can be perceived as a threat.

We crossed to the UCLA campus, where Rabiya said her parents were worried about her being a Muslim student on campus. Another student said the police used excessive force in this situation, and asked if this was what was in store with things like the Patriot Act - if people don't show their ID card, they would get tasered.

More texts coming in:

Javad, LondonWould the police have used teiser gun if they knew they were being filmed?

Suppose he did forget his id and decided to leave. If they were suspicious, they could have followed him out. Just as a matter of fact…don't think what happened there does not happen to many people under the authority of the police.

Joe, Los Angeles
I work for a law firm that practices civil rights law and we would never take this case. This kid wants to be treated like an adult, he should grow up and act like one.

James, London
The safety of everyone in that building was threatened by this individual who could have been armed, dangerous, was not compliant with repeated requests by the police and they were absolutely within their remit to taser him.

Steve , Utah, USAThis video shows the power of citizen journalism. We are in places that professional journalists cannot or are not at. After watching this video, I shudder to wonder how many incidents like this have occured but have not recieved the attention that they deserve

Next up, we were joined by our listener Marcy, to pitch an idea she wants to hear on the show - the issue of violence in school. She wants to know if the situation in other parts of the world is as bad as it is in Detroit, and what people think should be done about it. Follow the link above to read more, and leave your thoughts to be part of the show when we discuss this next Tuesday.

A huge story which broke a couple of hours before the show is that the Dutch government has given its approval to a proposal which would include a ban on Muslim women from wearing veils that cover their faces entirely. Already the texts are flooding in on this one:

Mike, Nigeria
It is a liberattion to muslim women because most of them wear it against thier wishes. I hope it is also banned in my country

Abuami, Zanzibar
i advise european governments to refrain from interfering with matter of faith otherwise they will regret it sooner than later

Netherlands:Banning clothing that masks the face,is a fair deal.But equally important is social & economic security...

Landon, Budapest
I was living in Amsterdam when van Gogh was killed. There are thousands of muslims. Few wear a burka. This is more likely a last minute electoral ploy for elections tuesday.

Chris, Montreal
In liberal societies, like the NDL, where church and state are separate, the place for religious expression is the mosque or church or whatever. If people's faith cannot be separated from their daily lives, Saudi Arabia is that way.

I do see burkas on the streets here in amsterdam. As a woman and as well a foreigner, it does give me a feeling of provocation. What is worse is the huge change in mentality in this country. The dutch are not so open and accepting as before.

Simon in Zambia.
I think its better for everyone. We need to see each others faces. With all due respect.

Andrew, in Russia.
Banning the Burka? It could be a step towards appartheit.

I support the action of the government of the netherland. The ban should be copied by other countries in the world.


I wonder why Islam and Islamic tradtion are loathed by the west.

Mohamed, Memphis, USA
The western world have developed whats called islamic phobia.There scared of rapid spread of islam but banning of code of muslim dress will stop any thing.

Dr Hassan joined us from London. He's from Egypt, and says the veil can sometimes be a security issue, but it's easy to resolve - just ask someone who they are. The security issue is a red herring.

Armana joined us from the Netherlands, to say there are more important issues to think about, such as the treatment of the handicapped.

And more texts:

In my opinion, the Dutch government's vote to ban burkas in public is just going to push Muslim women further to the fringes of society. These women can only go outside of their homes if wearing the burka. Should they just stay inside and be further repressed because this move is not going to change someone's interpretation of Islam. It will just cause further repression.

Caitlin, Washington D.C.
The burka "hinders integration"?!? That's bunk! Anti-Muslim attitudes and xenophobia, both of which are rampant in the West, hinder integration.

Eric Detroit, Michigan (US)
No where on the internet is this story being covered. Is there some attempt to hush this in American media?

Steve, Virginia, USA
In Miami a couple years ago, the Police tasered a 6 year old student at a school because they said he was threatening to cut himself with a piece of glass and they said the only way to have stopped him was to taser him. Something tells me Miami either has liars or total weaklings for cops if that's the case.

Today's show has generated loads of emails - normally we'd post them all separately as comments to the blog, but seeing as I don't want to be here at midnight, I'll put the best of them here:

On the UCLA Tazer incident

Anders, Australia
I was personally repulsed by the actions of the officers in the video. Certainly the individual was over-reacting to the situation but the level of force used seems to be incongruous with the level of resistance that was occuring. Most importantly though - at the end of the video we see a female student asking the officers involved for their names and badge numbers and being threatened with tasering by the officer closest to her. Such actions can only make me think that the police knew that they were doing something wrong.

Makena in Denver, Colorado
It would seem to me that we need to discuss the constant profiling that is done in the U.S. People of color in the U.S. are constantly tagged, harrassed, and punished based upon the arbitrary condition of being black, hispanic, and in this instance Iranian. I want to know if the police asked other students for their I.D.'s??? Did they have a true reason to even ask him for identification??? Or was this just another instance of useless profiling. No - I don't feel safer with such random, unsuccesful, and unproven tactics of the police.

Eric, Michigan (US)
No where on the internet is this story being covered. Is there some attempt to hush this in American media?

Steve, Virginia, USA
In Miami a couple years ago, the Police tasered a 6 year old student at a school because they said he was threatening to cut himself with a piece of glass and they said the only way to have stopped him was to taser him. Something tells me Miami either has liars or total weaklings for cops if that's the case.

And on the Dutch decision to ban the Burkha

Lynda, Waitakere, New Zealand
Another religious group, the Amish, have lived separately to US society for generations and it works. They dress differently, don't send their children to state schools, they don't even pay US taxes - so if the USA can accept this level of non-assimilation (and why not, everyone has a right to live their spiritual lives as they see fit) then every country should accept it.

And what other fashions or garments will be regulated. Will the religious right ban the Brazilian thong. Perhaps Halloween in the states, or Carnival in Venice should be banned, as people wear masks.

As a Dutch citizen from an Iraqi Origion, I support banning not only the Burka but also Islam itself, because Islam is a voilent, dangerous, evil and racist dogma.


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