“This is what democracy looks like”

Dorli Rainey found out the hard way that "free speech does have it limits." A photo of her pepper sprayed by police—helpless—has become one of the most disturbing images to emerge from the Occupy movement. 


Janet Kornblum


Published Nov 16, 2011   Updated Mar 3, 2020, 10:33 am CST

The Web is full of images of Occupy protesters getting arrested. But today, one stands out from the others: that of Dorli Rainey. Flanked by two men, one of whom cradles her head in fingerless gloves, her face drips with pepper spray.

Her gaze is steady, staring straight into the camera.

This is not just one more photo of a protester sprayed by police in a demonstration.

Rainey is 84–and looks it.

While many have focused on the youthfulness Occupy protesters—some even going so far as celebrating them for their looks— Rainey’s picture, taken Tuesday by Joshua Trujillo for seattlepi.com, shows that this is not just a millennials-only movement.

Transfixed by the photo, people are sharing it quickly. They reblogged it on Tumblr, shared links to news stories about the incident, and linked to Rainey’s letter to The Stranger, in which she noted that she’s been a longtime protester and had just happened to stop at the protest on her way to another civic engagement.

“Well free speech does have its limits as I found out as the cops shoved their bicycles into the crowd and simultaneously pepper sprayed the so captured protesters,” she wrote. “If it had not been for my Hero (Iraq Vet Caleb) I would have been down on the ground and trampled. This is what democracy looks like. It certainly left an impression on the people who rode the No. 1 bus home with me. In the women’s movement there were signs which said: ‘Screw us and we multiply.’”

Over on Reddit, people were impressed with her, and a discussion got so many upvotes it wound up on the front page.

“Those Grannies who went through the great depression and saw the rise of fascism in WW2 and the McCarthy era; they might have a damn good idea of what is going on right now,” wrote RubyBean.  “Knowledgable people are dangerous. Grannies are dangerous. Gotta keep them in line.”

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*First Published: Nov 16, 2011, 5:24 pm CST