By now, nearly everyone in the world has seen the image of UC Davis policeman Lt. John Pike pepper-spraying a group of peaceful, Occupy Wall Street protesters. (If you’re one of the few who hasn’t seen the video, it’s here.) The incident breathed new life into the Occupy movement, raised questions about the militarization of campus police, and damaged America’s image abroad.
The casual recklessness of Lt. Pike’s actions and the early dismissiveness of campus police (UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza saying, “The students had encircled the officers. They needed to exit. They were looking to leave but were unable to get out.”) painted an ugly picture of peaceful protest in America.
Without a hint of irony, the Chinese government has embraced the incident, covering Lt. Pike’s actions online, in newspapers, and on CCTV. Even though the Chinese government regularly suppresses online videos of domestic police brutality, they weren’t shy even about posting satirical images of the UC Davis incident on the People’s Daily, the government’s primary newspaper.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, “The notion that police in the U.S. would respond in such a way to a peaceful protest has proven disappointing to many in China, with one blogger warning: ‘Don’t entertain any illusions about the United States – if we want to change the current situation, we have to rely on ourselves.'” One reader from Hong Kong wrote to James Fallows calling the policeman’s actions “a huge gift to the Chinese government”: Continue reading