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Sohmer writes: "But has anything come to define our collective moral outrage and societal decay quite like pepper spray has in 2011? Pepper spray, in fact, has acted as the mirror held up to our faces, even more so than Occupy Wall Street. Is this the era in which we live now? Have our local (and campus!) police departments become so militarized and apathetically insensitive as to treat nonviolent protesters like lab rats? Have some citizens taken it upon themselves to use it as a weapon in everyday life?"

UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike uses pepper spray to move Occupy UC Davis protesters blocking a walkway in the quad on Friday, 11/18/11. (photo: Wayne Tilcock/Davis Enterprise)
UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike uses pepper spray to move Occupy UC Davis protesters blocking a walkway in the quad on Friday, 11/18/11. (photo: Wayne Tilcock/Davis Enterprise)



Should Pepper Spray Be TIME's Person of the Year?

By Slade Sohmer, HyperVocal

12 December 11

 

hat started out as a joke has become an increasingly real proposition: Even though it's not a "person," we must now begin to debate whether Pepper Spray should grace TIME's most discussed cover.

No person, place or thing has come to define the absurdity of 2011 more than the "food product, essentially," this suddenly ubiquitous lachrymatory agent/chemical weapon.

Pepper spray, essentially, gave birth to the national media's recognition of the Occupy Wall Street movement when NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna cowardly pepper-sprayed some unwitting young women. Without his depraved indifference to the freedom to assemble and the freedom of speech, the national media, and by extension the nation, might never have begun to discuss income inequality in earnest.

The pepper-spraying incidents then moved west: The notoriously corrupt Tulsa police department doused some eyes while evicting the Occupy protesters in that city, then Seattle police sprayed 84-year-old Dorli Rainey as she checked out the protests there. Portland police continued the Pacific Northwest trend, and the instantly iconic image of a young woman taking it in the face went viral.

And who can forget about the breathtaking nonchalance of Lt. John Pike, who callously pepper sprayed nonviolent protesters on the UC Davis campus? That gave birth to two amazing memes: Pike spraying things and people throughout history, and FOX News' Megyn Kelly's speciously defending the tactic by equating it to something you might put on a salad. Mmm, tastes like deceit.

Then came America's favorite holiday, Black Friday, which saw two such incidents: A Southern California woman used the product to gain some sort of discount shopping advantage, while in Kinston, North Carolina, off-duty officers used pepper spray to make an arrest at a local Walmart.

Now we can add several more incidents, the first at a New York City high school.

A 14-year-old Harlem student blasted her classmates with pepper spray Tuesday, sending eight students to the hospital with minor injuries.

Education officials are investigating the incident, which occurred in an Academy for Social Action classroom around 2:30 p.m.

Eight students who inhaled the noxious chemicals were rushed from the W. 129th St. school to St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, Education Department spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said.

Police who responded to the incident issued a summons to the student.

Also, at a protest of an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting in Phoenix: The protesters for the most part were orderly, but at one point, police used pepper spray to move a group of about half a dozen people who were not clearing an area in front of an entrance.

The protesters for the most part were orderly, but at one point, police used pepper spray to move a group of about half a dozen people who were not clearing an area in front of an entrance.

There's also been recent reports of pepper spray incidents at Banana Kelly High School in the Bronx, a high school in New Haven, Connecticut, and Vancouver's Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Between Black Friday and these latest episodes, it's clear that civilians have picked up on the trend, one that's evidently more dangerous and disturbing than planking or Tebowing. In our monkey-see, monkey-do culture, a world filled with copycats, it's unlikely we've heard the last of such incidents.

This year is not without its quality candidates: Clear cases could be made for Occupy Wall Street (and TIME could get cheeky with "The 99%" or "The 1%"), Anonymous, Steve Jobs, Casey Anthony, Arab Spring protesters, Herman Cain, The Fukushima 50, Gabby Giffords and others.

But has anything come to define our collective moral outrage and societal decay quite like pepper spray has in 2011? Pepper spray, in fact, has acted as the mirror held up to our faces, even more so than Occupy Wall Street. Is this the era in which we live now? Have our local (and campus!) police departments become so militarized and apathetically insensitive as to treat nonviolent protesters like lab rats? Have some citizens taken it upon themselves to use it as a weapon in everyday life?

The employment of this chemical weapon has gotten so out of hand that the expert who helped the FBI develop it in the 1980s and set the guidelines for its use by police, Kamran Loghman, says he's "shocked" and "bewildered" by what he's seen lately.

Think about the iconic moments of the year: Osama bin Laden's killing, the Arab Spring revolutions, the Japanese tsunami and nuclear scare, some high-profile weather-related tragedies. Now think about the iconic *images* of the year. Perhaps it's because they're more recent, but doesn't your brain go to UC Davis, an elderly lady in Seattle, a Walmart shopper and the madness of it all?

Here’s your cover right here:


Or maybe this one:


If TIME can give a lifetime achievement award to Mark Zuckerberg for his role in developing the social network, surely they can honor pepper spray, which is clawing at our social fabric.

 

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+39 # futhark 2011-12-12 22:28
The use of pepper spray is the moral equivalent of having the Cossacks charge into a crowd of protesters with drawn sabers. The Cossack commanders didn't end up on the winning side and neither will the pepper sprayers.

Adolf Hitler was TIME magazine's "Man 0f The Year" for 1938, so there is a good precedent for the recognition of outstanding evil in this award. Just don't give the pepper sprayers or the drone attack commanders the Nobel Peace Prize.
 
 
+13 # Rita Walpole Ague 2011-12-13 03:54
Certainly wrong on a moral basis, and quite possibly deadly, when combined with Tear Gassing and/or other 'non lethal' weaponry.

Peaceful, non-violent Occupiers in Denver, when recently brutalized and tortured by Denver cops, had a most serious incident occur. An Occupier, pepper sprayed and tear gassed, began severe seizing. The cops, when begged by Occupiers for help in calling 911 for an ambulance, rufused any assistance. The Occupiers picked up the man as he seized, and carried him to a nearby library, where they called in an ambulance.

That, combined with all those Occupiers who had great difficulty breathing when so brutalized, is tragedy (i.e. wrongful death) about to happen.

Come on, docs and nurses and your associations. Speak up against such police state brutalizing and torture. You supported efforts to curtail lethal drunk driving. How about speaking out against potentially lethal greed and power addiction of our villainaire rulers, also potentially deadly for the 99%ers, with orders given to spray, tear gas, Taser, rubber bullet, etc. the liberty, justice, and peace seeking Occupy Wall Streeters?
 
 
+38 # DaveM 2011-12-12 23:07
Watch for some legislator to restrict civilian ownership of pepper spray ("for our own good", of course). It's already unavailable in some states and in some forms. Though the police have a good supply of course, in case they run into some threatening situation like....some people sitting on the ground...
 
 
+39 # objectiveobserver 2011-12-12 23:15
I vote for THE CORPORATION as the winner of the Person of the Year award for his/her achievement in expanding the definition of the word person beyond logical reasoning and getting away with it.
 
 
+24 # Yarrow 2011-12-12 23:42
While pepper spraying may have come into its own this year, let's not forget that in 1997, Humboldt County sheriff deputies used pepper-spray soaked Q-tips to wipe the eyes of non-violent Headwaters Forest protesters. Ultimately, the eight protesters prevailed in court with a finding that Humboldt officers had used unconstitutiona l excessive force. Some lessons seem to be hard to learn. For more info on that outrageous use of pepper spray, check out the No Pepper Spray website.
"Humboldt County Sheriff's Deputies and Eureka Police Officers used unconstitutiona l excessive force when they applied pepper spray with Q-tips directly to the eyes of the eight nonviolent forest defense protesters in three incidents in 1997. Three of the activists were also sprayed directly in the eyes from inches away. Two of the young women were juveniles, aged 16 and 17."
 
 
+3 # Bodiotoo 2011-12-13 00:06
It is time to Tar and Feather any Police Officer that uses weapons on unarmed peaceful protesters. PERIOD!
 
 
+8 # nice2blucky 2011-12-13 00:48
The Occupy Protest Movement should be the Persons of the Year.
 
 
+2 # Peace Anonymous 2011-12-13 04:15
I think "Pepper Spray" is an admirable suggestion. As I looked at the photos it is easy to see that without it how would guys like Pike or Bologna every achieve any notariety. What else would set them apart form the herd and single them out for accolades from their superiors? Without "pepper spray" where would they be? They might consider renaming it to "Success in a Can."
 
 
+5 # cordleycoit 2011-12-13 04:53
Pepper Spray, thug cops and J.P. Morgan all people of the year thanks to a bought and paid for court system. Thug Cops can do nothing if they are restrained by their handlers. But when the orders to be thugs comes down the chain we the people become victims of chemical warfare.
There are no international courts of justice just jungle law. This is not miscarriage of justice, it is a crime against humanity and the Mayors are responsible. The poor stupid, brutal, frightened cop is a world wide symbol of Bankers Justice as long as we allow this to happen.
 
 
+1 # cvm79 2011-12-13 05:18
I nominate the 1% as the Persons of the Year.
 
 
+5 # Carolyn 2011-12-13 06:38
The level of humanity's communal consciousness is being raised. in these terrible times. the appearance of OWS, like grass that grows from sea to sea, is a demonstrations of the oneness of life on earth.The consciousness of "We" the people, is arising.
We are bringing in a civilization of compassion. it WILL come, as it is universal -- for the good of the whole -- rather than on self aggrandizement. "The sun shines on the just and the unjust. It is the nature of the universe to be creative.
The level of consciousness of self-serving, heartless men is contrary to the spirit of creativity, which belongs (longs-to-be) in mankind.
Those who are pepper-srayed, handcuffed, and arrested,simply for BEiNG, are the martyrs of today, martyrs who have the heart to endure abuse in order to evoke the sense of the oneness of mankind. They are shining light on the pepper-spraying police sent out by the 1%.
 
 
+2 # mwd870 2011-12-13 07:14
Yes, I like the idea, especially if the cover story can focus on the points and photos in the article above, discuss OWS, and include the inane statements of Fox commentators.

Next choice would be OWS. They opened the eyes of the public and started a movement that has the potential to end our corrupt political system.
 
 
+2 # fredboy 2011-12-13 08:17
Yes. And jack boots. And Gingrich as the movement's Fuhrer.
 
 
+1 # RMDC 2011-12-13 08:36
Yes, I think Pepper Spray should be Time's Person of the Year. Mr. (or is it Ms.) Spray has become the national spokesperson for the government authorities in the US. When they need to communicate with caring citizens who are concerned about the direction the nation is taking, they send Mr. Spray to do the talking. He's not polite and not reasonable. In fact he is quite irritating to communicate with.

What the hell? Mr. Pepper Spray for President.
 
 
+4 # oakes721 2011-12-13 09:26
"ONE PERCENT"
~ NOW IN THE CONVENIENT SPRAY CAN ~
IN YOUR FACE, AMERICA!
 
 
0 # Friend 2011-12-13 10:07
Consider Pepper Sprayers et al. as persons of the year. Like Adolph et al, both domestically and internationally , they are lowering the customary norms of morality and law, thus far with no effective official accountability or victim remedies, and distorted mainstream media reporting.
 
 
+1 # Roger Kat 2011-12-13 10:11
San Francisco Chronical headlines read UC
Davis president in tears over Occupy UC Davis. How about the tears of the occupiers being sprayed w/modern day Mustard Gas? When she finally came out of her office building, the protestors didn't say a word. They just looked at her. My cousin who delivered the commencement speech at UCB said that policy was unfair to American students there.
 
 
+2 # Klanders 2011-12-13 10:36
The photographs of Police Officers using Pepper Spray on OCCUPY demonstrators is reminiscent of seeing pictures of Selma Alabama during the Civil Rights Marches of the 60's. They are also reminiscent of photographs of demonstrations held during the Anti-War in Vietnam era. Neither memory is very positive in terms of how one views the United States. Have we not grown up?
 
 
0 # wwway 2011-12-13 11:39
We militarized our police and created a war in Iraq over 19 people. With nothing else to do with that military grade equipment and training the exercise agaisnt terrorism is being waged against peaceful Americans. As the saying goes, "people do dumb things when they are fearful."
 
 
0 # jwb110 2011-12-13 12:40
Looks to me like the 1% are reaping what they have sewed.
 

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