Woman, 84, hit with pepper spray during Occupy Seattle protest

Activist Dorli Rainey, 84, reacts after being hit with pepper spray during an Occupy Seattle protest on Tuesday at Seattle’s Westlake Park. Many protesters refused to leave the intersection they had marched to from their campsite when told by police, sparking police to spray pepper spray into the gathered crowd.
Associated Press

By Chris Grygiel
Associated Press

SEATTLE — An 84-year-old woman in Seattle has quickly become a face of the national Occupy Wall Street movement after she was hit with pepper spray during a march.

A Tuesday night photo of Dorli Rainey with the chemical irritant and liquid used to treat it dripping from her chin went viral soon afterward, becoming one of the most striking images from the protests that have taken place in cities across the globe.

“It’s a gruesome picture, I’m really not that bad looking,” Rainey said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press.

The photograph shows Rainey, wearing a scarf and jacket, being helped by two people. One man is cradling her head in his arms as they walk away from the area.

Rainey said she was on a downtown bus when she heard helicopters and thought, “Oh boy, I’d better go show solidarity with New York.” Occupy Seattle protesters had gathered Tuesday evening following police actions in New York City that cleared a Manhattan park of people.

The Seattle activists were blocking downtown streets. Rainey said police told the group they had to move.

“They picked up their bicycles and started shoving them at us and confining us in a very small place and they started to pepper spray,” she said.

Seattle police on Wednesday referred reporters to a statement they released late Tuesday. Officers gave multiple verbal warnings and only used pepper spray against people who were “refusing a lawful order to disperse or engaging in assaultive behavior toward officers.”

Six people were arrested. Rainey said she was not among them.

Rainey is a former school teacher who is well known in local political circles. A self-described “old lady in combat boots,” she briefly entered the 2009 Seattle mayoral race. She quit that contest, saying she was too old.

She said Wednesday she’ll still be taking part in the local Occupy Seattle movement.

“I’m pretty tough, I guess,” Rainey said.