Is this the face of the Occupy movement ? Photos of 84-year-old Dorli Rainey being helped by fellow activists after Seattle police blasted a crowd of Occupy protesters with pepper spray Tuesday have popped up on news websites and blogs around the world. Occupy Seattle condemned the force, posting a statement on its website shortly after the incident saying “we offer our sympathies to the many protesting patriots that were indiscriminately pepper sprayed including a 4’10” 84 year old woman, a priest and a pregnant woman who as of this writing is still in the hospital.”
Rainey is a well-known activist who has supported liberal causes in Seattle since the 1950s. The former mayoral candidate is a member of the Seattle chapter of Women in Black, an international network of women who “stand in silent vigil, calling for peace, justice and non-violent solutions to conflict,” according to its website.
In a 2010 interview with Talking Stick, a weekly program airing on a Seattle community cable access channel, Rainey described her desire to represent inequalities in the system. “Freedom of speech is a concept. It is not always practiced in this country,” says Rainey, whose blog, Old Lady in Combat Boots, talks about her civic activism. “I think she’s a role model among activists that walks the walk,” Talking Stick TV producer Mike McCormick wrote in an email. “She’s passionate, thoughtful, well informed, dogged, fearless, in-your-face but not in an intimidating way, warm, caring, humorous, doesn’t pull her punches kinda activist you want right next to you when the s–t hits the fan.”
Seattle police spokesman Jeff Kappel told the Associated Press he didn’t have the details on the Rainey confrontation, but he said pepper spray is “is not age specific. No more dangerous to someone who is 10 or someone who is 80.” Kappel noted on the department’s blog the protesters began blocking traffic on 3rd Avenue and “officers gave numerous verbal warnings to get out of the street and back onto the sidewalk.” He said at one point during the march a woman tried to hit an officer but failed to hit him. Also a man threw an “unknown liquid” into an officer’s face. The officer was not injured. “Pepper spray was deployed only against subjects who were either refusing a lawful order to disperse or engaging in assaultive behavior toward officers,” Kappel wrote on the blog. Seattle fire department spokesman Kyle Moore said the city’s paramedics treated several people, including the pregnant woman.
Many of the protesters used homemade remedies, such as milk to counteract against the pepper spray, Moore added.
Rev. Rich Lang, pastor of the University Temple United Methodist Church in Seattle was pepper sprayed in Tuesday’s march. He joined the movement as a pastoral counselor a few weeks ago after the Occupy Seattle moved its encampment to Seattle Central Community College from Westlake Park. Lang said he broke up a series of altercations between protesters and police before he was pepper sprayed in the face by six officers. “Last night was interesting,” Lang said Wednesday. “The Occupy movement took care of me…rinsed my eyes out. Pepper spray feels like a severe burn. In your eyes…it’s just misery.” Lang wrote a letter to explain what happened and to urge his fellow clergy members to get involved in the movement. “I walked between the lines, I was alone, I was in full clergy dress, everyone knew who I was and what I was…six officers turned their spray on me thoroughly soaking my alb and then one officer hit me full throttle in the face,” he wrote. “My question to my clergy colleagues is this: Where are you?”
Officers arrested six people in the incident.
With files from the Associated Press