It would, as Alexis Madrigal points out at The Atlantic, be a mistake to think that this is all about Lt. John Pike:
Let’s not pretend that Pike is an independent bad actor. Too many incidents around the country attest to the widespread deployment of these tactics. If we vilify Pike, we let the institutions off way too easy.
Neither should John Pike be let off scot-free. Fired? Perhaps, though if he loses his job it will be a political move, intended to make people forget the institutional—and, indeed, societal—failures that allowed him to so cavalierly injure peaceful protestors.
But firing is too good for John Pike. John Pike should spend the rest of his life, until he publicly repents, feeling insecure. And so should every officer who followed him at UC-Davis.
They should not be able to go out to eat without knowing whether their food will be spat in, or worse.
Their babysitters should be chronically unavailable.
They should not be able to get their oil changed without knowing whether their drain plugs will be left loose, or park without knowing if they are going to get another door ding.
They should not be able to rely on the people who collect their trash, who cut their lawns, who cut their hair. All of the conveniences of modern American life that we take for granted should, for these officers, be unreliable.
The idea is symmetry itself. These officers are men and women who were to serve and protect the people. By attacking peaceful protesters they failed to protect those who needed their protection, and they instead served the political class by using violence against the people.
The people are insecure: they cannot trust the police because the police have shown themselves to be the enemy. That the people can’t fight injury with injury (the police are better-armed, and pepper-spraying a cop is likely a felony) does not mean that the people can’t fight back.
The idea of sabotage can be as crippling as physical sabotage. I remember reading once of a saboteur who left empty sugar bags on the ground near the open gas caps of his adversary’s vehicles. He hadn’t added sugar to the gas, but the idea that he had forced his adversary take the vehicles out of service. Not every waiter need spit in UC-Davis police officers’ food. Not every check they send need be “lost in the mail.” But these officers should be forced forever to wonder what, out of the million things that anonymous people can make go wrong, will go wrong for them next.
And when things do go wrong (as inevitably they do) they should wonder whether it is because they were there at UC-Davis and because they didn’t say, “stop!”