[TRIGGER WARNING: image of violent assault of peaceful protesters, bullying.]
Readers may recall an incident in November of 2011 wherein police officer Lt. John Pike pepper sprayed students peacefully protesting tuition increases at University of California, Davis, while he and other cops blocked their exit from the school’s quad. Much has been written about the incident, and we won’t recount that here—except to say that at the time it was one among several high-profile reports of excessive force deployed by law enforcement against non-violent Occupy protesters.
But this incident was special. The images and video footage splashed all over the news was a gut check for many Americans, in that it portrayed exactly what our militarized police forces were capable of doing once a fascist impulse took hold. Pike’s casual nonchalance made the incident all that much more disturbing. This was no Kent State massacre, but the difference was one in degree, not in kind.
And then the Internet responded—but wait, I’ll get back to that in a minute.
Now comes news of the latest and perhaps final chapter in the story of Lt. John Pike:
UC Davis pepper-spray officer awarded $38,000
A former UC Davis police officer whose pepper-spraying of protesters gained worldwide notice thanks to a viral video has been awarded more than $38,000 in workers’ compensation from the university for suffering he experienced after the incident.
Former police Lt. John Pike, who gained a degree of infamy for his role in the incident, was awarded the settlement Oct. 16 by the state Division of Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. The claim “resolves all claims of psychiatric injury specific or due to continuous trauma from applicant’s employment at UC Davis.”
I know. Galling, isn’t it? Especially in light of the fact that the three dozen protesters Pike assaulted each received less than that amount in their settlement with UC Davis earlier this year. But as it turns out, there is more here than meets the eye:
More than 17,000 angry or threatening e-mails, 10,000 text messages and hundreds of letters were sent to Pike after the video went viral, according to the police union.
Pike repeatedly changed his phone number and e-mail address and lived in various locations. He left the campus police force in July 2012.
It may be tempting to scoff at Pike, and perhaps it is perfectly natural to feel some satisfaction upon the deliverance of vigilante justice. But it is not one of our nobler moral impulses. That’s why advanced civilizations have impartial justice systems—as flawed and as prone to human foibles as ours most certainly is. Still, here’s the thing:
NO ONE DESERVES TO BE HOUNDED, THREATENED, DRIVEN FROM HOME TO HOME AND PSYCHOLOGICALLY TORTURED TO THE POINT OF PERMANENTLY DISABILITY.
No one. Not John Pike. Not even Dick fucking Cheney, the sociopathic war criminal responsible for the torture, deaths and/or displacement of millions of people.
For the record: I am very glad that Lt. Pike will no longer be working as a police officer. That is the just and necessary outcome for his assault on unarmed student protesters. But I am deeply saddened that it came about in this way.
People are entitled to voice their outrage: in my opinion, that is also a just and necessary outcome in response to a police officer assaulting unarmed student protesters. But there are constructive ways to do it, and it will not surprise Loyal Readers™ that among our most favored tactics in this regard is High Mockery. In the case of Lt. Pike, the Internet rose to the occasion with one of the most perfect memes of all time. Behold…Pepper Spray Cop.