Wednesday, November 23, 2011



Thanks to everyone who linked to my visual riff on the UC Davis Pepper Spray/Lt. John Pike incident and subsequent photoshop this meme. The offending officer appears in the pieces I mashed which are the following; Thomas Eakins, The Gross Clinic 1875, Willard’s The Spirit of 76’, 1875, Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, 1948, EakinsArcadia c. 1883, and finally Manet’s Le Déjeuner Sur L’herbe, 1863. Anyone know who started the Seurat, The Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884–1886? How about the brilliant take on John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence.”

It appears that Lieutenant John Pike has made himself into an icon of casual brutality, spraying students as though they were garden weeds. I’m sure he believes that’s what they are.

I’ve been watching this dynamic since several years ago protesters in an office with their arms linked inside pipes were forced apart by a “John Pike” straddling each young woman and painting capsiasin directly onto her eyelids. Eyelids look a lot like labia. They are equally sensitive. The girls‘ faces were forced back at crotch level. I’m sure these men had erections. Violence and sex go together like -- what? Mustaches and pecs?

One of the Occupy demonstrators in another place was holding up a pre-emptive sign: “Don’t spray me! My mother’s here!”

John Pike sent two people to the hospital. Others were treated on site.

Hikers and hunters in the mountains near here, which is grizzly country, are told that bear spray is a better deterrent than a firearm -- more effective and easier to deploy. Wikipedia, shaky a source as that can be, advises us:

“In 2006, it was discovered that tarantula venom activates the same pathway of pain as is activated by capsaicin.”. . .

“In large quantities, capsaicin can cause death. Symptoms of overdose include difficulty breathing, blue skin, and convulsions.” . . .

“Capsaicin is a highly irritant material requiring proper protective goggles, respirators, and proper hazardous material handling procedures. Capsaicin takes effect upon skin contact (irritant, sensitizer), eye contact (irritant), ingestion, and inhalation (lung irritant, lung sensitizer). Severe over-exposure to pure capsaicin can result in death; the lethal dose (LD50 in mice) is 47.2 mg/kg.” . . .

“Although considered a less-than-lethal agent, it may be deadly in rare cases, and concerns have been raised about a number of deaths where being pepper sprayed may have been a contributing factor.” . . .

“The Journal of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science published a study that concluded that single exposure of the eye to OC is harmless, but repeated exposure can result in long-lasting changes in corneal sensitivity.” . . .

“The European Parliament Scientific and Technological Options Assessment (STOA) published in 1998 “An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control” with extensive information on pepper spray and tear gas They write: “The effects of pepper spray are far more severe, including temporary blindness which lasts from 15–30 minutes, a burning sensation of the skin which lasts from 45 to 60 minutes, upper body spasms which force a person to bend forward and uncontrollable coughing making it difficult to breathe or speak for between 3 to 15 minutes.” . . .

“The Los Angeles Times has reported at least 61 deaths associated with police use of pepper spray since 1990 in the USA. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) documented 27 people in police custody who died after exposure to pepper spray in California since 1993. However, the ACLU report counts any death occurring within hours of exposure to pepper spray. In all 27 cases, the coroners' report listed other factors as the primary cause of death, though in some cases the use of pepper spray may have been a contributing factor.

“The US Army concluded in a 1993 Aberdeen Proving Ground study that pepper spray could cause "[m]utagenic effects, carcinogenic effects, sensitization, cardiovascular and pulmonary toxicity, neurotoxicity, as well as possible human fatalities. There is a risk in using this product on a large and varied population". . . .

“For individuals not previously exposed to OC effects, the general feelings after being sprayed can be best likened to being "set alight". The initial reaction should the spray be directed at the face, is the completely involuntary closing of the eyes (sometimes described as leading to a disconcerting sensation of the eyelids "bubbling and boiling" as the chemical acts on the skin), an instant sensation of the restriction of the airways and the general feeling of sudden and intense, searing pain about the face, nose and throat. Coughing almost always follows the initial spray.

“Subsequent breaths through the nose or mouth leads to ingestion of the chemical, which feeds the feeling of choking. Police are trained to repeatedly instruct the target to "breathe normally" if they complain of difficulty, as the shock of the exposure can generate considerable panic as opposed to actual physical symptoms.

“The burning reaction lasts, in some cases, for up to 4 hours. Intense headaches can result in some situations. On occasion seasoned offenders have complied immediately after production of OC spray cannisters, often requesting TASER usage as opposed to OC spray usage due to total time of effects.”

Deaths from taser use are now being noted. Some subjects have been shocked repeatedly in close succession for more than a dozen times. To a guy with a taser gun or a spray can, everyone looks like a threat.

The issue, of course, is control. Except in degree this no different from using police dogs or fire hoses or rubber bullets or truncheons or Kell lights (steel flashlights that make effective clubs), all technically sub-lethal. But why does anyone need to control these idealistic, pacifist, educated young people?

This will backfire in a major way. It loses us credibility in places where we are trying to assure the population that democracy will set them free. It indelibly marks these sprayed people with a deeper determination to oppose and co-opt authority figures. The related video of the Chancellor walking to her car along an aisle of seated, silent, witnessing figures was far more powerful than the chaos caused by Lt. John Pike, who had probably better look for a different line of work. He has lost the bright line between preserving order and demonstrating oppression. His casual firespray image will join that of the tortured hooded man at Abu Graib.

And no one even said “fuck.”

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