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 years old.
The longtime political activist died Aug. 12, the Seattle Times reported. Her daughter, Gabriele Rainey, told the newspaper that her mother was “so active because she loved this country and wanted to make sure the country was good for her people”.
Rainey has been an integral part of the local progressive movement for decades, demonstrating for racial justice, affordable housing and public transit, and against war, nuclear weapons and big banking.
In November 2011, at the start 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.
Other protesters poured milk on her face to relieve the sting, and seattlepi.com photographer Joshua Trujillo captured a stunning image of her staring defiantly into the camera, eyes red and milky dripping from his face.
The photo has become a global symbol of the protest movement. She has been featured by The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Associated Press and The Guardian.
“It’s a horrible picture,” she told the AP. “I’m really not that bad.”
Then-Mayor Mike McGinn apologized and ordered a review of the incident. Rainey was back to protest a few days later.
“Dorli is legendary, and rightly so, for his activism,” McGinn said Friday. “She was just ubiquitous and a conscience and a voice for change, and I respected her deeply, deeply.”
Rainey was born in Austria in 1926. She was a Red Cross nurse and then worked in Europe as a technical translator for the US 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 has worked as a court-appointed special advocate, representing child victims of abuse or neglect, and as a real estate agent. She served on the Issaquah School Board and ran for King County Council half a century ago, and she had a brief run for mayor of Seattle in 2009.
She had three children, Gabriele, of Asheville, North Carolina; Michael, of Boston; and Andrea, who died in 2014. She was also predeceased by her husband, Max.