Lt. John Pike pepper-spraying student protesters at Occupy UC Davis (Source: Reuters)
During the Occupy Wall Street protests of late 2011, there lacked a unified visual presence for the movement, with no standout videos or pictures that attained a certain icon status. There were not many visual logos to stand by, either. Many in the Occupy movement would suggest that this was on purpose, and that for some reason, the Internet renders such icons irrelevant, due to the various angles one can take. The problem with that theory is that it assumes that people are capable of aligning with a movement on pure reason alone, which is presumptuous. Nevertheless, a single image did stand out from the protests: That of University of California at Davis police officer John Pike pepper-spraying student protesters at Occupy Davis. It was not so much the fact that he was spraying the seated and nonviolent protesters, so much as the manner in which he did so: Walking down nonchalantly and bored, spraying protesters as if he were watering his lawn. The image of Pike's spraying caused so much of an uproar that he would lose his job as UC Davis cop last year, as did the chief of the UC Davis.
Now, John Pike is claiming that he is a victim in this event. Pike is suing UC Davis for worker's compensation, claiming that he suffered psychiatric injury from the spraying. He has scheduled a settlement conference for August 13 in Sacramento, according to state sources. There is a small amount of merit to the claim that Pike has been mentally distressed: Following his identification as the pepper-sprayer, hackers in support of the Occupy movement attacked him online and posted his information, leading to threats on his life. This in turn led to the redacting by Alameda County courts of police officer names in determining who was involved in the Occupy Davis crackdown that led to the pepper-spraying, an order that was only lifted last week.
Arguably, John Pike is entitled to some privacy and protection. However, the imagery invoked speaks for itself: The people he sprayed were seated, and in no position or intent to attack him or other officers. There was no defensive posturing or aggression on Pike's part. Just mere boredom and apathy. There is something incredibly cold when that is how one handles that sort of situation. This is not to say in any way that he deserved threats on his life, but it does say that one must seriously take into account the consequences of their actions, especially when acting so callously. "Psychiatric injuries" are a weak excuse.