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84-Year-Old Peppered Sprayed Grandma is a Dynamite Activist

84-Year-Old Peppered Sprayed Grandma is a Dynamite Activist

They say dynamite comes in small packages and this woman is no exception to the rule.  I did some research on this 84-year-old woman and like myself, we have a case of “dynamite comes in small packages”.  Rainey is a little woman of 4’ 10” and while my 4’ 11” frame may shrink to less than that, I hope to possess as much spark as she does when I am older.

Dorli Rainey, who police sprayed with pepper spray in Seattle’s Occupy, is an Old Lady in Combat Boots and a career liberal activist.  According to John Jones of the Guardian, she is the new iconic martyr of the Occupy Movement, “a humiliated Christ in a modern context”.

Rainey resembles a humiliated Christ in this picture. She is supported by two men, one on either side, who both lower their faces – one has his eyes closed in self-protection, the other wears defensive goggles – in what may be a sensible precaution to avoid getting sprayed themselves, but which also looks like a gesture of compassion, of quiet rage and dignified sorrow. It is at once a real moment – the men shielding their eyes while showing her hurt to the camera – and an image straight out of a Christian Renaissance painting.

Now that Jones mentions it, the picture does rather resemble that, but I think that is overstating the situation and on closer inspection of the picture he referred to, he appears to overstate the situation dramatically.

She told Keith Olbermann:

"Thank heavens a young Iraq veteran grabbed me," she said. "…Otherwise I would have been on the ground trampled."

I sometimes have nightmares and day-mares about people in such a situation trampling me.  I understand her feelings well.

When I first saw the picture Seattle PI took of her, which went viral around the world, all I could do was sound like Stanley of South Park, only I said, “You sprayed Grandma!  You bastards!”  If you heard my voice on the God Discussion BlogTalk Show, then you can imagine what I sounded like.

A woman old enough to be a grandmother is quickly becoming the face of Occupy Seattle.

Huffington Post is not “whistling Dixie”.  She could be anyone’s grandmother at the age of 84, but she is currently the grandma at Occupy Seattle and possesses spunk, which I admire and hope to imitate, as I get older.  She told Olbermann she got on her usual bus back home after the incident, informed others, when asked, that police pepper sprayed her, and educated people about the Occupy Protest, even with the remains of the pepper spray on her.

Digging deeper, I find this spunky little lady could create a resume of activism, which goes back to the 1950s.  I would describe her as a human rights feminist activist, just looking at what all she did over the past 60s years by way of activism, along with her participation in Occupy Seattle.  Not only that, but she also educated people, not just children, and served in the military as an interpreter.

Rainey has been active in politics and Seattle public life since the 1950s. A former schoolteacher, she ran for a seat on the King County Council in the 1970s and lost. During the same period, she was a school board member in Issaquah, a nearby city. Last year, she ran for mayor but eventually withdrew from the race saying, "I am old and should learn to be old, stay home, watch TV and sit still." But that doesn't mean she doesn't have a good rapport with the current mayor. On Twitter, one of her fellow Seattle supporters Norman Sigler posted an amicable photo of Rainey, himself and Seattle mayor Mike McGinn

Born in Austria, she came to the United States in 1956 and became an activist because she was disappointed with some things she saw in her new country, one of which was the idea of free speech.

On her blog, she describes herself as an all around troublemaker.

The tech-savvy activist also has her own blog called Old Lady in Combat Boots where she describes herself as an "all-around troublemaker." "I believe change begins in the streets, and all citizens have the power to make a difference," she writes in the blog's about section. "Together we can make our voices heard in the ivory towers of government, so lace up your combat boots, log in and turn on!" She hasn't quite kept the blog running: the last post is from 2009. Past posts include articles on feminism and tunnel projects. Other activities include being a member of the Seattle chapter of Women in the Black. According to its website, it's an international network of women who "stand in silent vigil, calling for peace, justice and non-violent solutions to conflict."

Since the police pepper sprayed her, she told Seattle Times that her computer has over 2000 messages, which she cannot answer all of them, and her phone rings non-stop.  After the pepper spray, she supposedly developed a strange cough and chest pressure.

"I haven't gotten any sleep. I've gotten to the point where I'm getting confused," she said Thursday afternoon. "My computer's up to 2,000 messages, and I can't answer them all. The phone doesn't stop ringing."

The burning sensation in her face has subsided, but she said, "My lungs still feel a little pressure, and I've got a strange cough."

Other than that, she appears as though she is going strong and will rejoin Occupy Seattle soon.  However, she does not wish to be a heroine.  She only wants to help make a change in our society.

"I don't want to be the 'hero' of this thing. I want to be able to be a person that speaks to the issues," Rainey said to the Times. "It's easy for people to see the picture and say, 'Cops stink.' There's a reason why we are where we are right now, and that needs to be discussed."

Seattle Mayor, Mike McGinn, supposedly, spoke to Rainey in person and apologized for what happened.

McGinn said he spoke personally to Dorli Rainey, the former school teacher and activist who was photographed by seattlepi.com with red, swollen eyes just after she'd been doused with pepper spray Tuesday. The photo went international and captured an iconic moment for the Occupy movement.

The protesters replied, saying that the apology did not go far enough.

"While we are gratified that Mayor Mike McGinn has apologized to those who were pepper sprayed last night, his statement of apology does not go far enough to assure us that we are in fact protected by the Seattle Police Department or to hold the SPD accountable for their misuse of power," the statement said.

The statement said the protesters had informed police of their march in advance.

As seen on Olbermann, Rainey has a good sense of humour about the ordeal.  When Olbermann asked her how she was, she replied:

"I'm feeling great," she said. "I'm so energized. It's amazing what a little pepper spray will do for you."

Amy Goodman, of Democracy Now, not only interviews Rainey, but also runs down more of Rainey’s activism career.  Rainey openly stated that she is a member of Occupy Seattle and feels police brutality is getting progressively worse and our freedoms curtailed.

I am a member of Occupy Seattle. I spent five days in D.C. with the October 2011 group, which was a wonderful thing to go to, and I hope to go to that group again in March.

I got pepper-sprayed because we were penned in by the motor—by the bicycle groups, until there was no way out. And the minute the people had us penned so tightly that we could barely move, they started letting loose with the pepper spray. And it was not just a few people that were targeted. When you look at the pictures, you will see that the pepper spray fog and the stream of pepper spray is all over.

My problem is not only with police brutality, it is with the progressive getting worse attitude of the police. I was tear-gassed—and thank you, Norm Stamper—in Seattle when the WTO was there in Seattle. And I also was in a workshop with Arundhati Roy when she was in Seattle for the WTO. These locations, while they were pretty violent outside, were not nearly as bad as what we see now. It is getting progressively worse. Our freedoms are getting curtailed. And I just listened to the press being banned at Wall Street—this in a country where we export our sort of democracy all over the world at gunpoint.

And what we have to do is change the mindset of people that guns will not solve our crisis. The President going to Australia to introduce troops into Australia, I fear for Australians, because, sooner or later, they will be occupied like our troops are occupying practically half of the world. Once the troops get there, there’s no getting them out.

The transcript of the interview below is on Democracy Now website.

84-Year Old Dorli Rainey, Pepper-Sprayed at Occupy Seattle, Denounces Police Crackdowns from Democracy Now! on Vimeo.

Maybe Rainey does not want to be a heroine, but I think she is most definitely a role model for many people.

About Mriana

Mriana is a humanist and the author of "A Source of Misery", who grew up in the Church of God, Anderson Indiana. After she became an adult, she joined the Episcopal Church, but later left the Church and became a humanist. She has two grown sons and raises cats. Mriana raised her sons in the Episcopal Church, but in their teen years, they left the Church and she soon followed. One of her sons became a "Tao Buddhist" and the other a None, creating his own world view. She enjoys writing, reading, science, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects. Mriana is also an animal lover, who cares for their welfare as living beings, who are part of the earth. She is a huge Star Trek fan in a little body.
  • Great research, Mriana!


    • Thank you. 🙂 Inquiring minds wanted to know who she was, so I decided to deliver. 😀

  • Sometimes I hate activists. Sometimes I think the world do need them.

    • I'm not sure what is wrong with this activists. I like her.

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