Casually Pepper Spray Everything Cop
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Pepper Spray Cop (also known as "Casually Pepper Spray Everything Cop") is a photoshop meme based on a photograph of a police officer offhandedly pepper spraying a group of Occupy protesters at the University of California Davis in November 2011.
UC Davis Occupy Protest
On November 18th, 2011, a group of students at the University of California Davis gathered on campus for an Occupy protest, during which they formed a human chain by linking their arms together. When they refused to comply with the police request to leave, UC Davis Police officer Lieutenant John Pike and another officer walked across the the group, administering orange pepper spray straight down the line of unmoving students.
A photo of Lieutenant John Pike pepper spraying seated students at the UC Davis protest was taken by Louise Macabitas and posted to Reddit on November 19th, 2011.
Two photoshopped versions of Macabitas' photo surfaced on Reddit on November 20th. The first image featured Strutting Leo photoshopped over Lt. Pike. The second removed Lt. Pike, placing him in the 1819 painting Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull. The same afternoon, Lt. Pike was placed in Georges Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884) by Tumblr blog It Makes No Sense where it received over 2400 notes in a day.
Compounded by previous episodes involving the police use of pepper spray against Occupy protesters, the story of the incident itself was quickly picked up by nearly all major U.S. news media outlets, reaching its peak on November 22nd in terms of Google News volume.
Compilations of the images began appearing on Facebook community Occupy Lulz and BoingBoing on November 20th. The next day, additional compilations were posted on Washington Post, ABC News, the Metro, Gawker, and Buzzfeed. Four separate single topic Tumblrs were also created that day. Redditor andresmh created an interactive Pepper Spray Cop where users can take the exploitable cop and shoot pepper spray throughout the Trumbull painting.
Over the next month, Pepper Spray Cop images were shared and discussed on CBS News, CNet, The Week and Scientific American.
On November 19th, Anonymous hacktivists in support of the Occupy Movement released contact information, home address and salary records of the UC Davis police officer Lt. John Pike, which was quickly picked up by a number of Anonymous-affiliate outlets on Twitter and Tumblr. As a result of the controversy, Pike has reportedly received more than 10,000 text messages and 17,000 emails critiquing his actions.
In March 2012, a judge ordered that the names of the other officers involved not be released to the public, which led to a legal battle between California newspapers The Sacramento Bee and the New York Times. The newspapers won the case that June and a judge ordered the University of California to release their names.
Throughout the week, hundreds of photoshopped images were shared online, many of them placing Lieutenant Pike into various historical events and milestones in civil rights, ranging from the signing of the U.S. constitution to Picasso's famous anti-war painting Guernica.
Fox News Commentary
On November 21st, 2011, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly appeared on political commentator Bill O’Reilly’s talk show The O’Reilly Factor to discuss the UC Davis pepper spray incident. In discussing the effects of pepper spray, Kelly described pepper spray as a food product:
Bill O'Reilly: "First of all, pepper spray -- that just burns your eyes, right?"
Megyn Kelly: "It's like a derivative of actual pepper. It's a food product, essentially."
Bill O’Reilly went on to defend the officer saying, “I don’t think we have the right to Monday-morning quarterback the police. Particularly at a place like UC Davis, which is a fairly liberal campus.”
A YouTube upload was subsequently posted to Gawker the same day. On November 22nd, the video was posted to BuzzFeed, The Daily What and The Examiner, while a Change.org petition for Kelly to “drink a full dose of pepper spray on national televsion” was launched by Slacktory editor Nick Douglas. The same day, an advice animal image macro series featuring Megyn Kelly and the phrasal template X, Essentially appeared on Reddit, captioned with dismissive statements downplaying the effects of various human rights abuse, including use of chemical weapons, war crimes and torture tactics. The advice animal has a page on Quickmeme.
Customer Reviews on Amazon
On November 21st, 2011, Amazon reviewers and users began posting spoof reviews for the specific brand of pepper spray canister that was purportedly used by Lt. John Pike. The customer review parodies were first prompted by online petition community Change.org via Twitter. Amazon reviewer D-bag of Liberty wrote:
"Whenever I need to breezily inflict discipline on unruly citizens, I know I can trust Defense Technology 56895 MK-9 Stream, 1.3% Red Band/1.3% Blue Band Pepper Spray to get the job done! The power of reason is no match for Defense Technology's superior repression power."
Additionally, reviewers uploaded Pepper Spray Cop photos as customer images of the product.
Meanwhile, a fake Pepper Spraying Cop Twitter account, @PepperSprayCop, was launched to provide satirical commentaries on the development of the photoshop meme. After it launched on November 21st, the account gained over 130 followers in the first three days. Though it has not been updated since April 2012, the account has acquired 1960 followers as of August 2012.
Songs & Videos
On November 21st, YouTube musician Andrew Lusk uploaded a pop punk rock tribute song titled "Pepper Spray Cop's Lament," (shown below, left) which was played during a CNN report. The following day, a Downfall parody of Hitler reacting to the viral rise of Pepper Spray Cop meme was uploaded by YouTuber Sarahharbin (shown below, right).
Over the next week, YouTube musician Jimmy Wong posted an acoustic tribute to Lt. John Pike titled Dear John (The Pepper Spray Song) and Harry Shearer, the voice actor behind Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, released a song titled "Ballad of Pepper Spray Cop" via Soundcloud.
The UC Davis police chief Annette Spicuzza later told the Sacramento Bee that the officers decided to pepper spray the students because they were obstructing the path:
“There was no way out of that circle. They were cutting the officers off from their support. It’s a very volatile situation.”
However, over a dozen videos of the incident from different angles were uploaded to YouTube within the first 24 hours of the incident, showing the officers clearly walking around the area. As these photos and videos continued to circulate online, police Chief Spicuzza placed two unnamed officers on paid leave the following Sunday.
On November 21st, University of California President Mark Yudof placed Chief Spicuzza on leave as well. The school officials also announced that the charges against 10 students have been dropped and it will compensate for the medical expenses of students who were pepper sprayed at the protest. In February 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) assisted 19 students and alumni file a lawsuit against several UC Davis administrators, including Chancellor Linda Katehi, for violating their right to free speech, but there have been no updates on the case.
After an investigation into the incident, Chief Spicuzza announced that she was stepping down from her position as police chief and retiring on April 18th, 2012. Her resignation may have been in response to a independent task force report released on April 11th that blamed the incident on poor communication and decision making from all levels of the school administration, from the policemen themselves to those in command. On July 31st, 2012, the Sacramento Bee reported that Lt. John Pike is no longer employed by U.C. Davis, not confirming whether he was let go or left the position on his own accord. In 2013, Pike requested workers compensation payments from the university, saying that he had been traumatized by the incident.
The news of Lt. Pike's employment status change was submitted to Reddit the next day, where it received 8681 upvotes and 2572 points, reaching the front page. Major news outlets also covered the story including the Huffington Post, San Francisco Weekly, NPR, CNN and the Los Angeles Times.
Workers' Compensation Claim
On October 23rd, 2013, the San Francisco Gate reported that John Pike (shown below) had been awarded more than $38,000 in workers’ compensation as part of a settlement over claims of psychiatric injury resulting from the backlash he received following the pepper spray incident. According to the suit, Pike claims that he received more than 17,000 emails, 10,000 text messages and hundreds of physical letters from people reprimanding his actions or threatening to hurt him, despite changing his phone number and moving several times since November 2011. The following day, the settlement was discussed on a number of news media outlets and internet culture blogs including Yahoo! News,USA Today, NPR, Boing Boing and The Daily Dot. Additionally, The Atlantic pointed out that his settlement is more than the one given to the victims of the pepper spraying incident as part of a $1 million dollar settlement made in September 2012, which averaged out to roughly $30,000 for each of the 21 students.
Online Rebranding Campaign
On April 13th, 2016, the news site The Sacremento Bee published an article titled "UC Davis spent thousands to scrub pepper-spray references from Internet," which reported that recently released documents revealed that UC Davis spent upwards of $175,000 on contracted consultants to "scrub the Internet of negative online postings" following the incident. Additionally, the article contained a scanned contract to the marketing and public relations company Nevins & Associates, to whom UC Davis paid $90,000 for a six-month "online branding campaign" that included "eradication of references" to the incident in Google search results.
Additionally, the article contained a response from UC Davis spokeswoman Dana Topousis, who confirmed the university took action to improve its reputation following the incident:
"We have worked to ensure that the reputation of the university, which the chancellor leads, is fairly portrayed. We wanted to promote and advance the important teaching, research and public service done by our students, faculty and staff, which is the core mission of our university."
Meanwhile, the article was linked on the /r/nottheonion subreddit, where it gathered upwards of 6,000 votes (94% upvoted) and 860 comments in four hours. In the coming days, several other news sites reported on the rebranding campaign, including Gizmodo, The Washington Post and CBS Local.
Search for "pepper spray cop" began in September 2011, coinciding with Occupy protests:
 Reddit – Police Pepper Spraying UC Davis Students
 Reddit – Pepper Spray
 Reddit – The pepper spray cop
 Wikipedia – Trumbull's Declaration of Independence
 Wikipedia – A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
 It Makes No Sense (via Wayback Machine) – The Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande UC Berkeley…
 Tumblr – So I Pepper Sprayed Them (page unavailable)
 Tumblr – Fat Cop With Pepper Spray (page unavailable)
 Tumblr – Pepper Spraying Cop
 Scratch – Pepper Spray Cop Interactive
 Washington Post – Pepper-spray cop works his way through art history
 Gawker – UC Davis Pepper Spray Cop Is Now a Meme
 Buzzfeed – Spray It Aint So – Worst of the UC Davis Pepper Spray Cop
 Buzzfeed – The Pepper Spraying Cop Meme
 Facebook – Occupy Lulz
 BoingBoing – Occupy Lulz
 Wall Street Journal – Pepper Spraying at UC Davis Leads to Police Suspensions
 The New York Times | The Lede – U.C. Davis Calls for Investigation After Pepper Spraying
 Sacramento Bee (via Wayback Machine) – 10 Occupy protesters arrested in UC Davis quad
 CNN – California campus police on leave after pepper-spraying
 Huffington Post (via Wayback Machine) – UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident Prompts Suspension Of Officers
 Atlanta Journal-Constitution – Univ. police chief on leave after pepper spraying (page unavailable)
 ABC News – Officer John Pike: Pepper-Spraying Meme
 Metro – Lt. John Pike: Is it wrong to make fun of the UC-Davis pepper spray cop?
 Tumblr (via Wayback Machine) – EAT MY SPRAY!
 BuzzFeed – Fox News On Pepper Spray
 Gawker – Fox News Starts Spinning Pepper Spray Cops
 The Daily What – Say What Now of the Day
 The Examiner (via Wayback Machine) – Megyn Kelly calls pepper spray a food product
 Reddit – Megyn Kelly
 Reddit – Megyn Kelly on Pepper Spray
 Quickmeme – Megyn Kelly
 Change.org – Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly: Eat or drink a full dose of pepper spray on national television
 Slactory – The only site on the internet
 Twitter – status for @Change
 Amazon – customer reviews for Defense Technology 56895 MK-9 Stream, 1.3% Red Band/1.3% Blue Band Pepper Spray
 Amazon – customer images for Defense Technology 56895 MK-9 Stream, 1.3% Red Band/1.3% Blue Band Pepper Spray
 Huffington Post (via Wayback Machine) – Annette Spicuzza, UC Davis Police Chief, Resigning After Pepper Spray Incident
 Twitter – @PepperSprayCop
 The Reynoso Task Force Report
 Sacramento Bee (via Wayback Machine) – Officer at center of pepper-spraying incident no longer works at UC Davis
 Sacramento Bee – Judge orders officers' names redacted in UC Davis pepper spray report (page unavailable)
 CBS Local – Judge Orders UC To Release Officers’ Names In Davis Pepper Spraying
 CBS News – UC Davis pepper spray cop once lauded
 Cnet – Pepper-spraying cop now getting the full Internet treatment
 The Week – The 'Pepper Spray Cop' meme: Silly, offensive, or important?
 Scientific American – Why One Pepper-Spraying Cop Image Dominates
 Reddit – John Pike, the pepper spray cop from UC Davis, is no longer a cop. His employment ends today.
 Huffington Post – Lt. John Pike, UC Davis Pepper Spray Cop, No Longer Working At University
 SF Weekly (via Wayback Machine) – Lt. John Pike, UC Davis Pepper Spraying Officer, Out of a Job
 NPR – 'Pepper Spray Cop' Is No Longer On UC Davis Police Force
 CNN – Pepper-spraying policeman departs U.C.-Davis
 Los Angeles Times – Officer who pepper-sprayed UC Davis students leaves job
 ALCU – Students Sue UC Davis for Constitutional Violations Over Pepper-Spraying Incident
 Huffington Post (via Wayback Machine) – John Pike, Pepper-Spraying Cop, Seeks Workers Comp From UC Davis
 SF Gate – UC Davis pepper-spray officer awarded $38,000
 The Atlantic – The UC Davis Pepper-Spraying Cop Gets a $38,000 Settlement
 CBS SF Bay Area – UC To Pay Nearly $1M To Pepper-Sprayed Occupy Protesters
 Yahoo! News – Pepper spray cop awarded $38K in workers comp claim
 USA Today – Ex-campus cop who pepper-sprayed protesters awarded $38K
 NPR – UC Davis' 'Pepper Spray Cop' Wins $38K In Workers' Comp
 Boing Boing – UC Davis's Officer Pepper Spray gets a $38K payout for mental trauma of being hated by the entire world
 The Daily Dot – Cop who pepper-sprayed college kids awarded $38,000
 Sacramento Bee – UC Davis spent thousands to scrub pepper-spray references from Internet
 Reddit – UC Davis spent thousands to scrub pepper-spray references
 Gizmodo – UC Davis Tried Really Really Hard
 The Washington Post – UC Davis thought it could pay to erase a scandal from the Internet
 CBS Local – UC Davis Spent $175,000 To Suppress Pepper Spray Incident
Nov 21, 2011 at 01:36AM EST
Apr 14, 2016 at 02:38PM EDT
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