In this particular piece of visual satire, the artist(s) comment on the way one presents oneself in a leadership role as part of the UC Davis Campus Police Department. Perhaps you recognize Lt. Pike. He's been all over the internets ever since his video went viral. [h/t John Roach for the art find]
Unfortunately, Lt. John Pike is a real person, who really used a chemical weapon, spraying it into the faces of non-violent student protesters because the protesters were a threat to him and to fellow officers. That would be the fellow officers in riot gear, who stood passively by and let their leader do this, as the photo below so unfortunately illustrates. Look! Look how threatened they appear. Those kids on the sidewalk: so violent and threatening!
What kind of man does it take to pepper spray students sitting on the sidewalk because they were a threat to you as you strutted by. It takes an asshat. And this asshat's name is Lt. John Pike.
What an embarrassing display. It's no wonder students, faculty and alumni of UC Davis are completely dismayed, and are seeking the resignation of the school's chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi. The chancellor saw no need to criticize the actions of Pike and his officers... until photos and videos of his shameful display went viral, giving the rest of the nation -- the whole world -- a chance to see how badly she and her team managed this relatively low wattage protest action. Chancellor? You, ma'am, are an asshat as well. Congratulations.
The Los Angeles Times reports the president of the University of California System, Mark G. Yudof, said he was "appalled" at what took place on the UC David campus... and he wasn't talking about the students sitting on the sidewalk, either.
“Free speech is part of the DNA of this university, and non-violent protest has long been central to our history,”Yudof said. “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. I expect campus authorities to honor that right.”
If anything good comes of this (aside from the officers' suspensions and perhaps the resignation or firing of the chancellor), it is that this fiasco has brought forward questions about the role of police who introduce violence into otherwise non-violent protest actions. As Phillip Kennicott of the Washington Post writes, it's not just the use of chemical weapons... it's the seemingly indifferent attitude of the offending officers and their disregard for the victims.
It looks as though he’s spraying weeds in the garden or coating the oven with caustic cleanser. It’s not just the casual, dispassionate manner in which the University of California at Davis police officer [Lt. John Pike] pepper-sprays a line of passive students sitting on the ground. It’s the way the can becomes merely a tool, an implement that diminishes the humanity of the students and widens a terrifying gulf between the police and the people whom they are entrusted to protect.
This is the American way of life that the members of our armed forces fight to preserve? No. No it is not.