Taser dispute rouses plans for protests

A group of students against the University Police Department’s proposed use of Tasers hosted a meeting in the Richard Oakes Multicultural Center, Cesar Chavez Student Center room T143, Tuesday, to discuss plans to protest Taser use until its demands are met.

The demands include full disclosure of UPD’s Taser regulations and reduction of lethal weapons carried by campus officers.

The group voiced ideas including a march in front of 19th  and Holloway avenues, a protest in front of the Administration Building and possibly occupying it.

Shortly after the start of the meeting, an Xpress reporter and photographer identified themselves, but were asked to leave by group leaders who said the meeting wasn’t open to the public.

Earlier in the day, the group sent out a mass email inviting a list of recipients to attend what was dubbed an “emergency meeting” to discuss the introduction of Tasers. Three members of the Xpress staff were on the list.

The email said “We are meeting up at Malcolm X Plaza, to plan out our next step.”

Tuesday’s meeting follows a similar conference that took place Thursday at Malcolm X Plaza where about 50 students, faculty and staff gathered to discuss their concerns about UPD’s Taser use.

The meeting was to serve as an open platform for students to speak out about Tasers, Donna Olivera, event organizer and SF State international relations major said.

“This (assembly) was called by a group of students who are concerned about police brutality,” Olivera said.

During the assembly students brought forth many concerns, but focused on matters of physical and mental safety along with the possibility of Taser misuse and its costs.

Some group members said they believe the UPD needs to be better versed in non-violence training and needs better communication with students.

Students said a campus-wide vote on the issue would be most beneficial, an idea SF State President Leslie E. Wong rejected at a campus safety forum last month.

“We need to act strategically. Numbers do matter,” student Ryan Sherman said. “We need numbers, power and voice.”

Citing the removal of the Occupy SF State camp in 2011, some at the assembly said they thought the administration’s decision to authorize the weapons use will come during winter break.

Garrett Agins, a second-year transfer student, recalled getting Tased in a controlled environment at his community college criminal justice class.

During a presentation he was given a rubber knife to participate in a scenario where he tried to attack an officer 15 feet in front of him, while another officer Tased him from behind.

“I went on the ground instantly,” Agins said. “I personally never felt any pain, I felt as if I lost control of my muscles and dropped to the ground.”

Agins said he has no issue with the UPD wielding Tasers.

“I think if used correctly Tasers could save lives in situations where deadly force would have been used,” said Agins, who said he only felt the discomfort of a Taser when the barbs were removed from his back.

Although Agins sees the benefit of the UPD wielding Tasers, he did express discontent with the implementation of the policy by campus officials.

“I believe that since he (President Leslie E. Wong) knew this was going to be a hot issue, he should have consulted with more of the student body,” Agins said. “President Wong should make the UPD’s use of force policy available to students and explain how Tasers would fit into that policy and hopefully do so in a public setting.”

Students ended the assembly after they brainstormed alternative solutions to Tasers.

Many said an expansion of the Campus Alliance for a Risk Free Environment (CARE), a campus escort service, would be of benefit. Some considered starting a community escort service to expand past the mile radius CARE operates.

“We need to take the high road,” said Mazin Mahgoub, an SF State junior who organized the event. “We need to put aside our hatred for police if we want anything to happen. We need to compromise and collaborate.”

The group said it plans to host another meeting as soon as possible and plan to take action as early as this week, or during the Thanksgiving break.