Pepper Spray Cop Becomes an Internet Meme

Lt. Pike pepper-spraying the subject of Andrew Wyeth's painting "Christina's World."

Video of a UC Davis campus cop, Lt. John Pike, in full riot gear confronting peaceful student demonstrators and then casually pepper-spraying them went viral on Friday. The reaction from authorities to the viral clip has been swift: two police officers and the police chief were placed on leave, and UC President Mark Yudof has called for a review of police procedures across the entire system.

The school said in a statement that police Chief Annette Spicuzza was placed on “administrative leave to restore trust and calm tensions.” The campus is in an uproar. And rightfully so.

Besides the damage that this has been done by this truly disturbing video, a clever Internet meme has popped up to comment on the outrage.

Pike has been placed in a number of classic paintings, shown pepper-spraying patriots, angels, and picnickers just because. The Washington Post has a number of them on its Arts blog, each clever in their own way.

In a more pop culture version of the meme, Pike is pepper-spraying Cartman from South Park, Super Mario, and, in a little meme-on-meme action, the Sad Keanu meme.

“I already have taken steps to assemble experts and stakeholders to conduct a thorough, far-reaching and urgent assessment of campus police procedures involving use of force, including post-incident review processes,” Yudof said in a statement.

“…[F]ree speech is part of the DNA of this university, and non-violent protest has long been central to our history. It is a value we must protect with vigilance. I implore students who wish to demonstrate to do so in a peaceful and lawful fashion,” he continued.