Law and Orders: UCLA campus police “found it necessary” to repeatedly taser an Iranian student already lying helpless on the ground

Cops in America are heavily armed and trained to be bullies, and they routinely hurt people who are not posing any serious threat to anyone, in order to make sure that they stay in control of the situation. They have no trouble electrifying small children, alleged salad-bar thieves; or pregnant women possibly guilty of a minor traffic violation, if they get tired enough of being talked back to and if their bellowed orders are no longer sufficient to end an argument—even without any plausible reason whatsoever for fearing any physical threat to themselves or others. When they are caught in the act police administrators will wring their hands, make up some lies to try to excuse the assault, promise an investigation, find that Official Procedures were followed, and then do nothing at all, except perhaps question the decision to arm the pigs with tasers (as if the equipment were the issue here). This is a cellphone video of what happened to UCLA student Mostafa Tabatabainejad when he refused to show identification to campus police and then demanded that they not touch him while he left the library.

(Link and story via Brian Doherty @ Reason Hit and Run 2006-11-16.)

Here is the story from The Los Angeles Times:

The latest in a recent spate of cellphone videos documenting questionable arrest tactics surfaced Wednesday, this one showing a UCLA police officer using a Taser to stun a student who allegedly refused to leave the campus library.

Grainy video of the Tuesday night incident at UCLA’s Powell Library was broadcast Wednesday on TV news and the Internet, prompting a review of the officers’ actions and outrage among students at the Westwood campus.

The footage showed the student, Mostafa Tabatabainejad, falling to the ground and crying out in pain as officers stunned him.

According to a campus police report, the incident began when community service officers, who serve as guards at the library, began their nightly routine of checking to make sure everyone using the library after 11 p.m. is a student or otherwise authorized to be there.

Campus officials said the long-standing policy was adopted to ensure students’ safety.

When Tabatabainejad, 23, refused to provide his ID to the community service officer, the officer told him he would have to show it or leave the library, the report said.

After repeated requests, the officer left and returned with campus police, who asked Tabatabainejad to leave multiple times, according to a statement by the UCLA Police Department.

He continued to refuse, the statement said. As the officers attempted to escort him out, he went limp and continued to refuse to cooperate with officers or leave the building.

Witnesses disputed that account, saying that when campus police arrived, Tabatabainejad had begun to walk toward the door with his backpack. When an officer approached him and grabbed his arm, the witnesses said, Tabatabainejad told the officer to let go, yelling Get off me several times.

Tabatabainejad encouraged library patrons to join his resistance, police said. The officers deemed it necessary to use the Taser.

Officers stunned Tabatabainejad, causing him to fall to the floor.

The video shows Tabatabainejad yelling, Here’s your Patriot Act, here’s your … abuse of power, the Daily Bruin reported, adding he used a profanity.

It was beyond grotesque, said UCLA graduate David Remesnitsky of Los Angeles, who witnessed the incident. By the end they took him over the stairs, lifted him up and Tasered him on his rear end. It seemed like it was inappropriately placed. The Tasering was so unnecessary and they just kept doing it.

Campus police confirmed that Tabatabainejad was stunned multiple times.

By then, Remesnitsky said, a crowd of 50 or 60 had gathered and were shouting at the officers to stop and demanding their names and badge numbers.

Remesnitsky said officers told him to leave or he would be Tasered.

Tabatabainejad declined to comment. He was arrested Tuesday night and cited by campus police for resisting and obstructing a police officer and was released.

The incident was the third videotape of an arrest to surface in the last week in Los Angeles.

One video showed a Los Angeles Police Department officer dousing a handcuffed suspect in the face with pepper spray as the suspect sat in a patrol car.

That video came to light Monday, just days after the LAPD and the FBI launched investigations into another videotape showing a police officer hitting a suspect in the face several times after a foot chase in Hollywood.

UCLA Assistant Police Chief Jeff Young said Wednesday that he had viewed the video of the campus incident on the Internet and would view any other videos that were shot.

We will gather as many samples as we can find, from different sources, Young said. We’ll use it for our own administrative investigation.

— Amanda Covarrubias and Stuart Silverstein, Los Angeles Times (2006-11-16): A third incident, a new video

Here is the campus police’s military necessity justification for repeatedly electrifying an unarmed man already lying on the ground and offering no physical resistance, let alone physical threat, to the armed and uniformed gang of peace officers surrounding him:

Tabatabainejab encouraged library patrons to join his resistance. A crowd gathering around the officers and Tabatebainejad’s continued resistance made it urgent to remove Tabatabainejad from the area. The officers deemed it necessary to use the Taser in a drive stun capacity.

— University of California Police Department (2006-11-15): Powell Library Incident

The Powell Library is university property, and authorized agents of the university have every right to force out someone who does not use the library according to the policies set by the university. What they have no right to do is to carry out those aims by repeatedly using powerful electric shocks to immobilize a helpless man with pain, over and over again, when he is already lying on the ground, solely in order to keep control of the situation or to ensure students’ safety when the students themselves feel far more threatened by the belligerent and violent police. Whether or not they found it necessary to torture Tabatabainejab with electric shocks in order to accomplish those things is quite irrelevant. As Edmund Burke once wrote,

To prove, that these Sort of policed Societies are a Violation offered to Nature, and a Constraint upon the human Mind, it needs only to look upon the sanguinary Measures, and Instruments of Violence which are every where used to support them. Let us take a Review of the Dungeons, Whips, Chains, Racks, Gibbets, with which every Society is abundantly stored, by which hundreds of Victims are annually offered up to support a dozen or two in Pride and Madness, and Millions in an abject Servitude, and Dependence. There was a Time, when I looked with a reverential Awe on these Mysteries of Policy; but Age, Experience, and Philosophy have rent the Veil; and I view this Sanctum Sanctorum, at least, without any enthusiastick Admiration. I acknowledge indeed, the Necessity of such a Proceeding in such Institutions; but I must have a very mean Opinion of Institutions where such Proceedings are necessary.

— Edmund Burke (1757): Vindication of Natural Society

There are three things about the video that are just terrible to watch and to hear. The first is the obvious one: Tabatabainejad screaming in pain and writhing on the floor as cops assault him again and again. But the second is just as awful: the crowd of 50 or 60 students, outraged at the police’s ongoing assault, and doing nothing about it other than yelling at the cops and indignantly demanding their badge numbers—apparently in the fantastical belief that a The Law is somehow going to protect them from violence at the hands of its own rampaging hired goons. The third are the comments from the bare-fanged sadists who inevitably came along, as they come along in every case like this one, to add remarks like this:

if you don’t cooperate you get tazed. it’s very simple to understand.

— trappednAZ, in replies to YouTube (2006-11-16): UCLA Student Tasered by UCLA Police for not showing ID

Or this:

I have a medical condition! Hahaha, so good. Damn that was funny. If you don’t wanna get tasered, then don’t a dick to the police. They’re just doing their job.

— symonwill, in replies to YouTube (2006-11-16): UCLA Student Tasered by UCLA Police for not showing ID

Or this:

This is why you dont scream like a 5 year old at police when they tell you to do something. The guy wouldnt comply with anything the police were saying. He deserved it. This shouldnt even be an issue.

— c17h25n, in replies to YouTube (2006-11-16): UCLA Student Tasered by UCLA Police for not showing ID

Did you know that if a college student has a bad attitude towards armed strangers giving him orders, that justifies the cops using violence, up to and including hitting him with immobilizing electric shocks, over and over again, while he lies on the ground, in response? Apparently in the world of authoritarian creeps and bureaucratic sociopaths, it does.

Further reading:

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11 replies to Law and Orders: UCLA campus police “found it necessary” to repeatedly taser an Iranian student already lying helpless on the ground Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Labyrus

    Excellent post, but I respectfully disagree on this point:

    “The Powell Library is university property, and authorized agents of the university have every right to force out someone who does not use the library according to the policies set by the university.”

    Tabatabainejab is a student there, and the University has no right to put arbitrary and unreasonable security conditions on student’s freedom to move around their own campus like demanding IDs. The University administration has no right to decide on behalf of the students who is and isn’t “undesirable” and deserves removal.

    And the library, whatever it’s legal status, isn’t private property. Morally, it belongs to the students who use it, not the people who administer it.

  2. brownfemipower

    I agree with Labyrus-isn’t that sort of police state-ish? the idea that if you don’t have your “papers” on you, you can be forcibly removed from some place? I haven’t heard even most evil commenter say that the kid was doing anything wrong while he was at the library—he just happened to not have his ID. It’s illegal to be on public property without papers?

    In a weird way this and the recent affirmative action vote and the nonsense with the black face—all of that is tied together for me. POC are not welcome in the academic arena—and pretty much any method possible will be used to keep us out. It’s disheartening.

    I’m also wondering where this idea came from (the one expressed by the commenters) that the state is allowed such control over its citizens that there is a prescribed certian way to act when interacting with the state—the state is justified in destroying the bodies of its citizens for not anticipating and submitting to their bodies to the control of the state. I just want to scream some times—where are all the people who spew out the “founding father” bullshit when the nation/state is tazering people, shooting people in the streets, beating the hell out of unarmed civilians? where are all the gun owners who scream about the right to bear arms???

    Sigh. Sorry for the all over the place thoughts—I’m disgusted and horrified and angry and weeping all at the same time…

  3. Discussed at www.unpartisan.com

    Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator:

    Tasered Student Alleges Racial Profiling

    A student who was shocked by a campus police officer’s Taser gun after he refused to show his ID at

  4. Roderick T. Long

    My op-ed on this incident is online here.

  5. Rad Geek

    Thanks for the comments and the links, y’all.

    Labyrus and brownfemipower,

    I agree with you that the school’s policy is idiotic—there’s no reason why a university should have hired goons should go around demanding proof of ID from people using the computer lab when nobody in the computer lab has offered any suggestion that they have a complaint or want protection from them. It is creepy and it is yet another example of the increasing regimentation and Stasi-statism of our culture. And if anyone believes that Tabatabainejad was picked out for the Ihre Papiere, bitte treatment as a neutral policy decision, or that it had nothing to do with his ethnicity, then I have some prime south Florida real estate that they may be interested in buying, too.

    That said, while I think the policy is idiotic and creepy, I also think that schools have a right to impose idiotic, creepy policies on their own property. Labyrus is right that the status of the property here is complicated because UCLA is heavily funded by the piratical loot of both the state and federal governments—which undermines the claim that the school has a legitimate claim to ownership of buildings such as the library building. But while I’d like for the school to be the rightful property of those who use it (faculty, students, and staff), I don’t think they have an exclusive claim on most state schools, either. (Higher ed, even government higher ed, is also heavily funded from private sources, in the form of tuition, fees, voluntary donations, income from endowments, etc.) So I think the administration’s rights towards setting policy for the use of the library are probably more than nothing but less than what they claim. In any case it is hard to sort out, and I’d need to know a lot more (e.g. were the policies enacted by the Board? the University executives? the school IT department? the librarian? etc.) to sort it all out, so I wanted to focus on an issue that remains clear no matter who can rightfully set policies for using the computer lab: the issue of proportionality, and the fact that this man was tortured with electric shocks while lying on the ground, when he posed no threat to anyone at all, and his worst crime was getting a bit indignant and questioning the orders of the armed strangers who were shoving him around. I don’t know if you’ll agree, but I hope that helps explain a bit, at least.

    brownfemipower,

    I definitely understand feeling like you don’t know how to say everything, or anything, after the video. It’s horrible—I just sat there and stared at the screen for a long time after it finished. If I didn’t already have a series of posts that I was basically copying and re-applying to a new case, I don’t know how I would even begin to write anything about it.

    In a weird way this and the recent affirmative action vote and the nonsense with the black face—all of that is tied together for me. POC are not welcome in the academic arena—and pretty much any method possible will be used to keep us out. It’s disheartening.

    I’m also wondering where this idea came from (the one expressed by the commenters) that the state is allowed such control over its citizens that there is a prescribed certian way to act when interacting with the state—the state is justified in destroying the bodies of its citizens for not anticipating and submitting to their bodies to the control of the state.

    Definitely. And it’s interesting (depressing) to watch the same people who moan and complain about all those uppity women and people of color, with their supposed sense of being entitled to an education, turn around and rush to defend the petulant sense of entitlement and sadistic arrogance of any two-bit punk with a badge and a gun. It takes a hell of a sense of entitlement over the lives and bodies of the powerless to believe that you have any kind of right to shove people around and bellow orders and shock someone over and over again for daring to talk back, or for not standing up on your orders after you’ve already immobilized him with pain. But we don’t hear about that from the entitlement mavens because in the mind of right-wing creeps, what matters is not the but the who of the demands. If the demands come from people who have historically been powerless, who rest the claim on little or nothing other than their human dignity and the obvious unfairness of how they have been treated so far, then right-wing creeps turn away in disgust. If the demands come from the armed henchmen of the State, who rest their claims on overwhelming force and the power of the Sovereign, then they start acting like it’s all your fault for not meekly submitting to whatever arbitrary demands they come up with, for not asking how high? as soon as they bellow jump, etc.

    And I think the problem with a lot of the people who go around spouting off about The Founders and their infinite wisdom these days is just that those people really are a lot like the Founders. For some people’s rights they have all the high sentiment and stirring defenses in the world; for everyone else, they have the bullwhip.

  6. brownfemipower

    Thanks for your words, radgeek—you just sort of talked me through a break down. :-)

    Seriously, some times the only thing that helps me feel better is knowing that there are others out there who get it—who don’t think i’m crazy when I say that the government wants to control our very cells.

    This line really brought things home for me—The Founders and their infinite wisdom these days is just that those people really are a lot like the Founders.

    don’t know why it took so long for the lightbulb to flash over my head, but I finally get it—time to start challenging the idea that the founding fathers made a few mistakes (uh, slavery, genocide, rape) but were on the whole, good dudes.

    getting stronger again—thanks for the stregnth..

— 2007 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2007-12-01 – What a shock.:

    […] alleged salad-bar thieves, pregnant women possibly guilty of a minor traffic violation, or an already prone and helpless student who may have been guilty of using the computer lab without pro…. They are willing to pepper spray lawyers for asking inconvenient questions and to beat up teenaged […]

  2. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2007-12-07 – Law and Orders #4: Wichita cops take control by shocking a deaf man for not following orders he couldn’t hear:

    […] they have no trouble electrifying small children, alleged salad-bar thieves, pregnant women, or an already prone and helpless student who may have been guilty of using the computer lab without pro…. They are willing to pepper spray lawyers for asking inconvenient questions and to beat up teenaged […]

— 2008 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-05-10 – Cops are here to protect you. (#3):

    […] 75 year old grandmothers guilty of blocking the line at a McDonald’s drive-through, or an already prone and helpless student who may have been guilty of using the computer lab without pro…. They are willing to beat a handcuffed woman bloody for demanding to use the phone, to slam a […]

— 2010 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2010-01-18 – In Their Own Words: Master and Commander edition:

    […] GT 2006-11-16: Law and Orders: UCLA campus police found it necessary to repeatedly taser an Iranian … […]

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