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Society

Dorli Rainey, Symbol of Occupy Movement, Dies at 95

August 21, 2022

SEATTLE — Dorli Rainey, a self-described “old lady in combat boots” who became a symbol of the Occupy protest movement when she was photographed after being pepper-sprayed by Seattle police, has died. She was 95.

The longtime political activist died on Aug. 12, the Seattle Times reported. Her daughter, Gabriele Rainey, told the newspaper her mom was “so active because she loved this country, and she wanted to make sure that the country was good to its people.”

Rainey was a fixture in the local progressive movement for decades, demonstrating for racial justice, affordable housing and public transit, and against war, nuclear weapons and big banks.

In November 2011, in the early days of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Rainey, then 84, joined protesters in blocking downtown intersections. She was hit when Seattle police used pepper spray to clear the crowd.

Fellow protesters poured milk over her face to ease the sting, and a seattlepi.com photographer, Joshua Trujillo, captured a stunning image of her staring defiantly into the camera, her eyes red and milk dripping off her face.

The photo become a worldwide symbol for the protest movement. She was profiled by The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Associated Press and The Guardian.

“It’s a gruesome picture,” she told the AP. “I’m really not that bad looking.”

Then-Mayor Mike McGinn apologized and ordered a review of the incident. Rainey was back out protesting a couple days later.

“Dorli is legendary, and deservedly so, for her activism,” McGinn said Friday. “She was just omnipresent and a conscience and a voice for change, and I deeply, deeply, deeply respected her.”

Rainey was born in Austria in 1926. She was a Red Cross nurse and then worked in Europe as a technical translator for the U.S. Army for 10 years. She married Max Rainey, a civil engineer who got a job with Boeing, and they moved to the Seattle area in 1956.

She worked as a court-appointed special advocate, representing children who have experienced abuse or neglect, and as a real-estate agent. She served on the Issaquah School Board and ran for King County Council a half-century ago, and she made a brief run for Seattle mayor in 2009.

She had three children, Gabriele, of Asheville, North Carolina; Michael, of Boston; and Andrea, who died in 2014. She was also preceded in death by her husband, Max.

 

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