The ‘Casually Pepper Spary Everything Cop’ as a meme

Posted on November 22, 2011 by


For those that don’t know the latest news story, first a brief to get you on the same page. Friday Nov. 18 , in Sacramento California, #OccupyWallStreet was in full force at UC Davis University. A group of students blocked off a sidewalk and locked arms so no one could pass through. This act is a typical protest occurrence that many across the nation take part in with #OccupyWallStreet; apparently still going strong, especially on college campuses. In the case of UC Davis University, a peaceful protest was not what campus police had in mind. The students/protesters that lined the streets of campus were dowsed in pepper spray. Most of the students keep their heads down and covered with hoods; but to make a point, some keep their heads up. Now the dose of pepper spray was not the dose typically sold to the public. This was police strength dose of pepper spray. The cop that responded, Lt. John Pike, was apart of the task force for the campus. Lt. John Pike used the pepper spray like a spray paint gun; pacing up and down the line of protester coating them several times with pepper spray. As this was happening, a crowd surrounded the scene chanting “shame on you” directed toward the task force police. Of the protesters, most were treated by medics on scene, but two were hospitalized.

Quick to respond was not only Chancellor Linda Katehi, but also the viral aspect of the story. Chancellor Linda Katehi issued an official apology early Saturday morning, and already had a task force put together to investigate the incident. The disturbing response from the law enforcement official was that this act “was fairly standard procedure,” from the Sun Times.

But this story is still alive and spiraling all over the web. This meme is one of the fastest growing memes I’ve seen hit the web in awhile. A meme (for those that need clarification) is something that takes over the internet. Many memes consist of YouTube videos of any kind. But the meme of the ‘casually pepper spraying everything cop’ not only has gone completely viral with the video, but has branched into classic works of art. Several bloggers, tweeters, and graphic artist have essentially owned the picture of Lt. John Pike spraying the students. What has happened with the original picture is people have taken classic paintings such as Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull and place Pike right in the middle of the painting. This essentially has Pike spraying our forefathers. Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is also one of the top memes that have surfaced in regards to this story. Several more even within the last hour has surfaced, this story has gone completely viral.

From the NPR story on the matter, the author questions whether or not the public is taking this story seriously.

But does this kind of “fun” trivialize a serious event? After all, as inevitably happens on the Web, the meme has gone on to have Pike spraying adorable little kittens.”’s Matt Stopera tells NPR “There is that danger, but Stopera makes the case that the news about what occurred at UC Davis is now reaching a whole new — and probably younger — audience. If they jump from Tumblr posts with funny or sarcastic images to search for news about what’s going on, they end up learning about what happened.”

I think Stopera is absolutely correct. This whole story has gone completely viral, and this generation is rarely never on the internet. That being said, with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube videos, and memes that are surfacing, it would be very difficult to not find the seriousness of the story. In taking so many classic pieces of art and Photoshopping Pike in to the piece, infers the serious aspect of the story. Its a horrible thing that happened, and when well-known art pieces are being used as memes; the story become much more than a news story, it has become a meme.

Why are memes important? Memes, in most cases are naturally satirical. A news story that gets turned into a an auto-tuned song Bed Intruder , or Rebecca Black’s “Friday” or Megyn Kelly from FOX NEWS. The meme involving Megyn Kelly is actually an spin-off meme of the “Casually Pepper Spray Everything Cop.” Memes are important to study because it allows the public to become aware of socially issues or injustices that occur. By bringing these instances to the public eye, the audiences can make critical inferences on their own, not just the academic world.