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Dorli Rainey, 84–year–old Occupy Seattle protester, who was pepper sprayed by Seattle Police. Photo courtesy of Joshua Trujillo, Seattle P–I.

Dorli Rainey, 84–year–old Occupy Seattle protester, who was pepper sprayed by Seattle Police. Photo courtesy of Joshua Trujillo, Seattle P–I.

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Occupy Seattle Year One: A Defining Moment

Liz Jones

Monday [October 1] marks the one year anniversary of Occupy Seattle. The group sprang up soon after demonstrations started on Wall Street. Within weeks, a protest in downtown Seattle grabbed the national spotlight. It focused on an 84–year–old woman named Dorli Rainey.

When police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd, Rainey got a direct hit. A Seattle P–I photographer captured a striking image of her that quickly went viral. The photo shows two men propping Rainey up and pulling her from the crowd. She looks straight at the camera — her face dripping with pepper spray and milk poured over it to stop the burn.

Rainey told her story to KUOW's Liz Jones about what happened that night.


Rainey: "The 15 of November, the date of the pepper spray. As I got off bus there by Macy's, I could see helicopters and floodlights and police cars."

Farris: "You know, I think it's rush hour and the police are upset. My name is Joshua Farris. I was in tactical working group in Occupy Seattle. The crowd had marched back towards Westlake. It was at, I think, 5th and Pine and we did this sit–in right there in the street."

Rainey: "So, I went to check it out. And that was it. We just started talking and all of the sudden the police said 'you need to disperse.' "

Video sound: "Sgt. Tracey, Seattle Police Department. I'm hereby issuing you a second public safety order to disperse from the area."

Farris: "The officer in charge, he's on the mic and he's talking. You know it's coming. "

Video sound [Police talking]: "Move back ... move to the curb."

Rainey: "And, uh, I turned around — "

Farris: "The police march in with their bikes and just"

Rainey: "And there came the bicyclists and the pepper spray all over, right there. "

Farris: "They're spraying everybody in the face. And Dorli's right there ..."

Rainey: "Right there".

Farris: "... in the middle of it."

Video sound [Protesters yelling]: "Spray!"

Rainey: "All of the sudden this thing hit my face and I didn't see anything. You don't see anything for a while. And these kids next to me just hung on to me for dear life."

Farris: "And what was it — Tom and a couple other guys — they grabbed her out of there and sort of carried her to a safe area and were just trying to help her out."

Rainey: "Well, first of all made me very angry. It was uncalled for. Then I said to the guys next to me, 'Well, we just did it. We got ourselves on the map.' People next to me were going to take me to the medic tent and I said, 'No, I want to go home.' So I got on the bus. I had no clue what I looked like. And you know what I looked like if you've seen the picture. It looked like a Halloween mask. And the bus driver says 'what in the hell happened to you?' I did not sleep all night. I was so pumped up and so angry and trying to figure out what am I going to do next. And the phone started ringing at 6:00 in the morning. The first one was Keith Olbermann. He did that interview that same afternoon. From then on my phone when off the hook; my computer ran over. I get invited to speak constantly. I'm travelling a lot. I'm a peacekeeper in all the marches. I've always been a nonviolent person. I teach it. And people see this — and this has turned a lot of people who really thought that we were just a bunch of hoodlums. And they still say — yeah, yeah that was awful what they did to you and I say 'no, it was the best thing ever happened in my life.'"

That was long–time Seattle activist Dorli Rainey. KUOW Reporter Liz Jones produced her story. The sounds you heard of the protest that night are from amateur videos on YouTube.

Liz Jones, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW

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