Internet Justice

There were these college students who were objecting to huge hikes in tuition.  It’s one of those “clear messages” people have been demanding of protesters in the Occupy movement.  You can gather in groups peacefully to grumble about stuff, supposedly.  It’s in the Constitution.  The students put up some tents, and the college didn’t want that so they sent police in to break it up.  The students were told to take down the tents, and they did, but apparently they weren’t dispersing fast enough, or some of them were upset about that Constitutional thing.  They sat down in a circle around some cops.  They didn’t have weapons or armor, and the police did.  Lt. John Pike, ex-marine, decorated campus cop, got on his helmet-radio:

“They’re sitting down at us.  It looks ugly.  Please advise, over?”

He received some sort of tactical information, which must have reassured him, because he walked to the perimeter of the circle of sitters, and stepped over them to exit.  Nobody tried to grab his legs or anything.  They were sitting.  So, in response to the terrible crime of being “sat at”, Lt. Pike walked up and down the line of sitters, pepper-spraying them.  That’ll teach those dirty Constitution-lovers.

No, it isn’t as bad as if he had shot them or beat them with a baton, but Pike’s action is not defensible as any sort of measured response, because there was no threat.  However, the news photos and viral videos of what occurred have inspired the best kind of internet meme.  Pepper Spraying Cop ( is now an icon of art.  People are presenting his appearances throughout news history, and in different genres of painting and photography.  That’s my favorite way to deal with monsters.  You have to laugh at them.


Filed under Ethics and Morality, humor

12 responses to “Internet Justice

  1. I think Christina’s World is greatly improved by the cop.

    • You may be right. It was pretty kitschy to begin with, and now more so. You should see him in Guernica, The Last Supper, and in Times Square in WWII, next to that couple disturbing the peace by kissing.

  2. These are strange times, aren’t they? I don’t know if you have heard about the protesters occupying land around St Paul’s in London. It’s caused all sorts of tumult within the church, including resignations. When the protesters set up camp, St Paul’s was initially closed to the public for ‘health and safety’ reasons: a ridiculous decision. I saw the encampment; it was extremely peaceful and very well organised. And the vast majority of land around the cathedral was completely unoccupied. I don’t know what health threat they would have presented to anyone wanting to go into the cathedral: perhaps someone might have tripped over a tent peg. Services were even held behind closed doors, with just clergy present. As one protester wrote across their tent: What would Jesus have done? Something different, methinks.

    • I have read about the activities near and in St. Paul’s with delight. It must be difficult for the clergy. They see the similarities to Imperial Rome’s attitude and response toward those pesky Jews and Christians. It’s a discomforting sense of deja vu.

  3. sb

    When I first saw the video clip of this on the news, I thought I missed the first half of it or something. Why would an officer just pepper spray a row of students and such close range? With a gigantic thanks to DVR, I was able rewind the channel and see the full clip… The students didn’t really do anything. I’m not a supporter of this whole Occupy thing, but I will admit that what the officer did was quite unwarranted… And unusual!

    • The tactics employed by both sides continue to evolve. This was merely the latest, most egregious example of using pepper spray against non-existent threats. Yes, it’s non-lethal, but so were most cases of mustard gassing in WWI. It’s a chemical weapon deployed against unarmed, unresisting persons, when they could have arrested them, or better still, done nothing. Why were police even there? The students were doing what they had a right to do, and there had been no violence.

      I guess we had all better be careful to know what it is we sit for.

  4. Are we having flashbacks to the 60s?

    • Newt Gingrich must be. He said they should all “take a bath and get a job.” I personally think this is better than the 60s. No draft, less dissipation of focus by diversion into hard drugs, and the current youth aren’t “dropping out”. They are plugged in! The communications and witnessing (recording) technologies are all miniature and mobile now.

  5. Pie

    I heard about this pepper spraying cop and I’ve seen the tumblr site, which is hilarious.

    You’d have thought something in the brains of these cops would’ve clicked in when they saw people were exercising their right to protest peacefully. A bit of independent and critical thinking would’ve been in order. A feeling of being under threat would also had been a factor in the action taken. Sitting down, according to them was a sign of clear and present danger. Those pinko hippies had to be sprayed, god damnit! Well, thanks to that sterling effort to protect the American people from the dangers of sitting, our man has enjoyed plenty of media attention and much deserved derision.

    I bet he wishes now that he’d just backed off.

    • If I were him I would regret it, but I don’t know his position. It will probably come out in court, because those students are going to sue, and the only debate most people are having is how much they should be compensated, and whether or not the cop will have to do time. It will be rather chilling if he presents an “I was only following orders” defense.

  6. Hah!! After reading this I now know what this was in reference to:

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