What Do Occupy Protesters Think About the Pepper Spray Cop Being Awarded $38,000?
Remember pepper spray cop? He’s the campus police officer at the University of California, Davis who decided to handle a seated line of peaceful, non-threatening Occupy demonstrators in the most rational way he could: by calmly firing a stream of pepper spray directly into their eyes from close range, like a landscape gardener squirting pesticide at some overgrown flowerbeds.
At first, everyone was outraged at Officer John Pike’s blasé manner of temporarily blinding peaceful protesters, then the internet got involved, turned the image into meme—photoshopping Pike into basically every pop culture image ever created—and everyone kind of forgot about it. Until last week, when it emerged that he has been awarded $38,000 in workers compensation by California’s Department of Industrial Relations—more than the $30,000 each of his victims received—for the “psychiatric injuries” he’s experienced since that day in November of 2011. UC Davis will foot the bill, in addition to the $70,000 the school paid him in salary while he was on adminstrative leave.
I spoke to Bernie Goldsmith—an ex-Wall Street attorney and social activist who was an Occupy organizer at UC Davis and there the day of the pepper spraying—about what his fellow protesters think of Pike’s payout.
VICE: What happened that day? How did it escalate to the pepper spray incident?
Bernie Goldsmith: We all put up our tents in the middle of the day and predicted that the police would come at about 3 or 4 AM, arrest a few of us and allow the others to leave. We thought it would be a very typical protest. Instead what happened was a shockingly stupid mismanagement from the administration and the police force. The [UC Davis] administration decided that, instead of doing the sensible thing of evicting us at night, the police should evict us at 3 PM, surrounded by students.
Which riled everyone in attendance up a bit, I suppose.
That’s an understatement. I was a scout on the day, looking out for police approaching the quad. And, to my great surprise, instead of two or three officers coming and quietly writing tickets and telling us to leave, I observed a phalanx of fully armored riot police with helmets and shields. We’d moved the tents into a circle in the middle of what is basically a giant field, so there was no obstruction being caused. Protesters got into a ring around the circle and locked arms. Then the police tore apart the ring, handcuffed a couple of people in this first group, and started tearing down the tents.