Casually Pepper Spray Everything Cop

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.[17]

A photo of Lieutenant John Pike pepper spraying seated students at the UC Davis protest was taken by Louise Macabitas and posted to Reddit[1] on November 19th, 2011.

Photo by Louise Macabitas

Photoshop Meme

Two photoshopped versions of Macabitas' photo surfaced on Reddit on November 20th. The first image[2] featured Strutting Leo photoshopped over Lt. Pike. The second[3] removed Lt. Pike, placing him in the 1819 painting Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull.[4] The same afternoon, Lt. Pike was placed in Georges Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte[5] (1884) by Tumblr blog It Makes No Sense[6] 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[15] and BoingBoing[16] on November 20th. The next day, additional compilations were posted on Washington Post[11], ABC News[23], the Metro[24], Gawker[12], and Buzzfeed.[13][14] Four separate single topic Tumblrs were also created that day.[7][8][9][25] Redditor andresmh created an interactive Pepper Spray Cop[10] 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[44], CNet[45], The Week[46] and Scientific American.[47]

Identity Revealed

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.[41]

John A. Pike POLICE LIEUTENANT - MSP UC Davis JOB TITLE 2010: POLICE LIEUTENANT - MSP 2009: POLICE LIEUTENANT - MSP 2008: POLICE LIEUTENANT - MSP 2010 PAY Base pay: $116,454.00, Overtime: $0.00, Other:$0.00 Total pay: $110,243.12 2009 PAY Base pay: $110,727.00, Overtime: $0.00, Other:$0.00 Total pay: $107,792.20 2008 PAY Base pay: N/A, Overtime: $0.00, Other:$0.00 Total pay: $105,000.00

In March 2012, a judge ordered that the names of the other officers involved not be released to the public[42], which led to a legal battle between California newspapers The Sacramento Bee and the New York Times. The newspapers won[43] the case that June and a judge ordered the University of California to release their names.

Notable Examples

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.

The Constitution of the United States, is 0de-to m anore perfect Osio, establib』artice, anee 4e he geeena Welleremi secure the Blessings of Liberty to ouselves and our Postenity, o ordain and establish shis CONSTITUTION for the United Saaes of Anenmca SECTION I. All legislative Powers bemein ganied sball be sied in ss ofahe Uni Saes, bich shallgensist of Semale and House of Repe House of Representetives sball be composed of Meabers chesm every secend Yeam by'he Pople of sbe seyeral Stale eack Saa t be a Represestative wbe shall not have atiained to the Age af tuesty-e yhar,ad y ves and dinect Taxes sball be apportioned among the seeal d ectsal Esumenation sbal tbey sball bemble net of the Unted l have the ar Profit ande

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[27] the same day. On November 22nd, the video was posted to BuzzFeed[26], The Daily What[28] and The Examiner,[29] while a petition[33] for Kelly to “drink a full dose of pepper spray on national televsion” was launched by Slacktory[34] editor Nick Douglas. The same day, an advice animal image macro series featuring Megyn Kelly and the phrasal template X, Essentially appeared on Reddit[30][31], 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.[32]


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.[36] The customer review parodies were first prompted by online petition community via Twitter.[35] 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.[37]


Meanwhile, a fake Pepper Spraying Cop Twitter account, @PepperSprayCop[39], 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.

Ballad of the Pepper Spray Cop by harryshearer

Official Response

The UC Davis police chief Annette Spicuzza later told the Sacramento Bee[19] 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[18] 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.[20][21]

On November 21st, University of California President Mark Yudof placed Chief Spicuzza on leave as well.[22] 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[54] 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[38] 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[40] 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[41] 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.[55]

The news of Lt. Pike's employment status change was submitted to Reddit[48] 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[49], San Francisco Weekly[50], NPR[51], CNN[52] and the Los Angeles Times.[53]

Workers' Compensation Claim

On October 23rd, 2013, the San Francisco Gate[56] 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[59],USA Today[60], NPR[61], Boing Boing[62] and The Daily Dot.[63] Additionally, The Atlantic[57] 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.[58]

Online Rebranding Campaign

On April 13th, 2016, the news site The Sacremento Bee[64] 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.

Nevins associates C HA R TER E Markcting Publkc Relats Adverising Proactive Online Brand and Reputation Enhancement Campaign for University of California, Davis Nevins & Associates is prepared to create and execute an online branding campaign designed to clean up the negative attention the University of California, Davis and Chancellor Katehi have received related to the events that transpired in November 2011. This campaign also includes consultation services from David Nevins, founder and President of Nevins & Associates, to provide further support to the reputation enhancement efforts of the university and Chancellor Katehi, as desired Online evidence and the venomous rhetoric about UC Davis and the Chancellor are being filtered through the 24-hour news cycle but it is at a tepid pace. Our campaign will expedite this process through strategic placement of online content and an increased adoption of Google platforms that will serve to specifically target viral content found on YouTube and in search results on Google. David Nevins will also tap his experience serving in various positions within the higher education industry that includes his service to the University System of Maryland Board of Regents as well as his expertise in consulting clients in higher education throughout the nation The tactics we intend to employ require varying degrees of collaboration with the UC Davis marketing team and select representatives from the Chancellor's office but they can be performed both in-person and remotely. Objectives: Launch an aggressive and comprehensive online campaign to eliminate the negative search results for UC Davis and the Chancellor through strategic modifications to existing and future content and generating original content as needed Provide consultation services as desired by the Chancellor and her team for brand enhancement as well as for internal and external communications Advise and support UC Davis' adoption of Google platforms to expedite the eradication of references to the pepper spray incident in search results on Google for the university and the Chancellor Engage in a knowledge transfer process with UC Davis staff to educate about the responsibilities contained within the proposal Measure results and provide monthly reports on efforts

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,[65] 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,[66] The Washington Post[67] and CBS Local.[68]

Search Interest

Search for "pepper spray cop" began in September 2011, coinciding with Occupy protests:

External References

[1] Reddit – Police Pepper Spraying UC Davis Students

[2] Reddit – Pepper Spray

[3] Reddit – The pepper spray cop

[4] Wikipedia – Trumbull's Declaration of Independence

[5] Wikipedia – A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

[6] It Makes No Sense (via Wayback Machine) – The Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande UC Berkeley…

[7] Tumblr – So I Pepper Sprayed Them (page unavailable)

[8] Tumblr – Fat Cop With Pepper Spray (page unavailable)

[9] Tumblr – Pepper Spraying Cop

[10] Scratch – Pepper Spray Cop Interactive

[11] Washington Post – Pepper-spray cop works his way through art history

[12] Gawker – UC Davis Pepper Spray Cop Is Now a Meme

[13] Buzzfeed – Spray It Aint So – Worst of the UC Davis Pepper Spray Cop

[14] Buzzfeed – The Pepper Spraying Cop Meme

[15] Facebook – Occupy Lulz

[16] BoingBoing – Occupy Lulz

[17] Wall Street Journal – Pepper Spraying at UC Davis Leads to Police Suspensions

[18] The New York Times | The Lede – U.C. Davis Calls for Investigation After Pepper Spraying

[19] Sacramento Bee (via Wayback Machine) – 10 Occupy protesters arrested in UC Davis quad

[20] CNN – California campus police on leave after pepper-spraying

[21] Huffington Post (via Wayback Machine) – UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident Prompts Suspension Of Officers

[22] Atlanta Journal-Constitution – Univ. police chief on leave after pepper spraying (page unavailable)

[23] ABC News – Officer John Pike: Pepper-Spraying Meme

[24] Metro – Lt. John Pike: Is it wrong to make fun of the UC-Davis pepper spray cop?

[25] Tumblr (via Wayback Machine) – EAT MY SPRAY!

[26] BuzzFeed – Fox News On Pepper Spray

[27] Gawker – Fox News Starts Spinning Pepper Spray Cops

[28] The Daily What – Say What Now of the Day

[29] The Examiner (via Wayback Machine) – Megyn Kelly calls pepper spray a food product

[30] Reddit – Megyn Kelly

[31] Reddit – Megyn Kelly on Pepper Spray

[32] Quickmeme – Megyn Kelly

[33] – Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly: Eat or drink a full dose of pepper spray on national television

[34] Slactory – The only site on the internet

[35] Twitter – status for @Change

[36] Amazon – customer reviews for Defense Technology 56895 MK-9 Stream, 1.3% Red Band/1.3% Blue Band Pepper Spray

[37] Amazon – customer images for Defense Technology 56895 MK-9 Stream, 1.3% Red Band/1.3% Blue Band Pepper Spray

[38] Huffington Post (via Wayback Machine) – Annette Spicuzza, UC Davis Police Chief, Resigning After Pepper Spray Incident

[39] Twitter – @PepperSprayCop

[40] The Reynoso Task Force Report

[41] Sacramento Bee (via Wayback Machine) – Officer at center of pepper-spraying incident no longer works at UC Davis

[42] Sacramento Bee – Judge orders officers' names redacted in UC Davis pepper spray report (page unavailable)

[43] CBS Local – Judge Orders UC To Release Officers’ Names In Davis Pepper Spraying

[44] CBS News – UC Davis pepper spray cop once lauded

[45] Cnet – Pepper-spraying cop now getting the full Internet treatment

[46] The Week – The 'Pepper Spray Cop' meme: Silly, offensive, or important?

[47] Scientific American – Why One Pepper-Spraying Cop Image Dominates

[48] Reddit – John Pike, the pepper spray cop from UC Davis, is no longer a cop. His employment ends today.

[49] Huffington Post – Lt. John Pike, UC Davis Pepper Spray Cop, No Longer Working At University

[50] SF Weekly (via Wayback Machine) – Lt. John Pike, UC Davis Pepper Spraying Officer, Out of a Job

[51] NPR – 'Pepper Spray Cop' Is No Longer On UC Davis Police Force

[52] CNN – Pepper-spraying policeman departs U.C.-Davis

[53] Los Angeles Times – Officer who pepper-sprayed UC Davis students leaves job

[54] ALCU – Students Sue UC Davis for Constitutional Violations Over Pepper-Spraying Incident

[55] Huffington Post (via Wayback Machine) – John Pike, Pepper-Spraying Cop, Seeks Workers Comp From UC Davis

[56] SF Gate – UC Davis pepper-spray officer awarded $38,000

[57] The Atlantic – The UC Davis Pepper-Spraying Cop Gets a $38,000 Settlement

[58] CBS SF Bay Area – UC To Pay Nearly $1M To Pepper-Sprayed Occupy Protesters

[59] Yahoo! News – Pepper spray cop awarded $38K in workers comp claim

[60] USA Today – Ex-campus cop who pepper-sprayed protesters awarded $38K

[61] NPR – UC Davis' 'Pepper Spray Cop' Wins $38K In Workers' Comp

[62] Boing Boing – UC Davis's Officer Pepper Spray gets a $38K payout for mental trauma of being hated by the entire world

[63] The Daily Dot – Cop who pepper-sprayed college kids awarded $38,000

[64] Sacramento Bee – UC Davis spent thousands to scrub pepper-spray references from Internet

[65] Reddit – UC Davis spent thousands to scrub pepper-spray references

[66] Gizmodo – UC Davis Tried Really Really Hard

[67] The Washington Post – UC Davis thought it could pay to erase a scandal from the Internet

[68] CBS Local – UC Davis Spent $175,000 To Suppress Pepper Spray Incident

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