pepper spray cop

Remember this guy? Turns out, he’s going to be collecting just over thirty-eight thousand dollars in workers’ compensation, as part of a settlement with the University of California, due to anxiety, stress and death threats that have plagued him since the incident that made him (in)famous. For those who may have forgotten, that’s eight thousand more than was given to the students that Pike was suspended for spraying. The settlement has already been approved by an administrative law judge. (Photo via Wayne Tilcock / The Davis Enterprise) source

Edited to reflect the fact that, while Pike was put on paid leave for his actions, his former supervisors can’t legally reveal the circumstances of his departure from UC Davis.

What Do Occupy Protesters Think About the Pepper Spray Cop Being Awarded $38,000?

Remember pepper spray cop? He’s the campus police officer at the University of California, Davis who decided to handle a seated line of peaceful, non-threatening Occupy demonstrators in the most rational way he could: by calmly firing a stream of pepper spray directly into their eyes from close range, like a landscape gardener squirting pesticide at some overgrown flowerbeds.  

At first, everyone was outraged at Officer John Pike’s blasé manner of temporarily blinding peaceful protesters, then the internet got involved, turned the image into meme—photoshopping Pike into basically every pop culture image ever created—and everyone kind of forgot about it. Until last week, when it emerged that he has been awarded $38,000 in workers compensation by California’s Department of Industrial Relations—more than the $30,000 each of his victims received—for the “psychiatric injuries” he’s experienced since that day in November of 2011. UC Davis will foot the bill, in addition to the $70,000 the school paid him in salary while he was on adminstrative leave. 

I spoke to Bernie Goldsmith—an ex-Wall Street attorney and social activist who was an Occupy organizer at UC Davis and there the day of the pepper spraying—about what his fellow protesters think of Pike’s payout.

Bernie Goldsmith.

VICE: What happened that day? How did it escalate to the pepper spray incident?
Bernie Goldsmith:
 We all put up our tents in the middle of the day and predicted that the police would come at about 3 or 4 AM,  arrest a few of us and allow the others to leave. We thought it would be a very typical protest. Instead what happened was a shockingly stupid mismanagement from the administration and the police force. The [UC Davis] administration decided that, instead of doing the sensible thing of evicting us at night, the police should evict us at 3 PM, surrounded by students.

Which riled everyone in attendance up a bit, I suppose.
That’s an understatement. I was a scout on the day, looking out for police approaching the quad. And, to my great surprise, instead of two or three officers coming and quietly writing tickets and telling us to leave, I observed a phalanx of fully armored riot police with helmets and shields. We’d moved the tents into a circle in the middle of what is basically a giant field, so there was no obstruction being caused. Protesters got into a ring around the circle and locked arms. Then the police tore apart the ring, handcuffed a couple of people in this first group, and started tearing down the tents. 

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Tumblr Tuesday: 5 Questions With Pepper Spraying Cop

We’re getting particularly zeitgeisty in this week’s Tumblr Tuesday, in which we virtually sit down with Brady, creator of the Pepper Spraying Cop Tumblr

Some background: Reactions to the UC Davis infamous pepper spray incident have been varied. Some commentators, including Megan Garber of the Nieman Journalism Lab, are saying the event, specifically the iconic video and images generated by cellphones and cameras, will be very valuable to the Occupy Movement at large. 

At UC Davis students held both a creepily silent protest aimed at Chancellor Katehi and a rally on Monday. Meanwhile the glorious internet has been busy creating a meme out of the image of pepper-spraying Lt. Pike (at least one such image made it to the UC Davis rally on Monday). Buzzfeed Editor Matt Stopera told NPR "this is definitely going to be one of the bigger, more important memes.“

Brady Hall has launched a Tumblr collecting these images. We asked him 5 questions via email. 

1. Who or what gave you the initial idea to put the image of Lt. Pike in historical images?

I saw the photos and video of PSC when they first broke a few days ago and was just as disgusted as everybody else. I’ve been a supporter of the OWS movement and have moved my money into a credit union (the best and most tangible thing us average people can do!) so the actions of this guy were really shockingly terrible and somehow managed to outshine the previous top dog example of police brutality, namely the photo of 84 year old Dorli Rainey post-pepper spray. Suddenly last night (Sunday, November 20) I saw an image of PSC blasting the lady in Seurat’s famous painting [below] and knew a Tumblr was in order.

2. Are the images you’re getting mostly submissions or originals?

At this point it’s mostly submissions. I made the first one (Christina’s World) and the 2001, Guernica, Kent State and a few others. But when I roused myself from bed this morning I noticed a flood of submissions. I’m still going through them and queuing them.

3. What actions do you think should be taken at UC Davis after the incident? Do you think administrative leave is an adequate punishment for the UC Davis police chief?

I think that the people in charge at UC Davis should be fired or at the very least severely disciplined. The rank and file cops do not beat and pepper spray peaceful protesters unless there is either an order to do so or a lack of an order not to do so. In my mind either of those scenarios are equally inappropriate and especially in light of the constant stream of police brutality images in the past month. When people simply sit, and do nothing else, and do not threaten physically, they should not be subjected to this kind of treatment.

4. Which image so far is your favorite? Do you think any of them could become iconic images?

I hate to toot my own horn but the 2001 star child one makes me laugh out loud still. It’s that puny little arm trying so hard to hose down omnipotent Dave Bowman Baby.

5. What plans do you have going forward? Any other Tumblrs planned, specifically OWS-related?

I have no plans. I’ll just keep updating as long as there is interest. I am realistic and understand that crap like this has an amazingly short shelf life!



You can submit your own "proof of PSC pepper spraying somebody in history” to peppersprayingcop@yahoo.com.