Dorli Rainey, lifelong activist and Occupy symbol, dies at 95

By Joseph Wilkinson, New York Daily News, 

Dorli Rainey, the Seattle woman who constantly fought for what she believed in and briefly became a national symbol during the Occupy movement, died Aug. 12. She was 95.

Rainey’s cause of death was not announced.

Though she was known for years in the Pacific Northwest, Rainey rose to national prominence after Seattle police pepper-sprayed her during Occupy protests in 2011.

Dorli Rainey's expression is captured after she was pepper-sprayed in 2011 by Seattle cops.

Dorli Rainey’s expression is captured after she was pepper-sprayed in 2011 by Seattle cops. (Joshua Trujillo/AP)

Fellow demonstrators poured milk on Rainey’s face to counter the effects, and a photographer snapped an iconic image of the then-84-year-old Rainey immediately afterward. She became something like the face of the movement.

“It’s a gruesome picture, I’m really not that bad looking,” Rainey said afterward.

Dr. Helen Caldicott, right, a physician and anti-nuclear activist, shares a laugh with with activist Dorli Rainey on April 15, 2012, in Richland, Wash.

Occupy Seattle/Occupy Wall Street was just one of many causes that Rainey fought for throughout her life. She marched in racial justice protests, railed against nuclear weapons with other anti-war activists and was arrested protesting evictions in Seattle, among many other actions.

“She was so active because she loved this country, and she wanted to make sure that the country was good to its people,” her daughter, Gabriele, told the Seattle Times. “Anything that needed fixing to make the world a better place, she was involved in it.”

Born in 1926 in Austria, Rainey was a Red Cross nurse and worked as a translator for the U.S. Army for 10 years in Europe. She married a man named Max Rainey, he got a job at Boeing, and they moved to Seattle in 1956.

“What I really was interested in was the freedom of speech, the Constitution,” she told the Seattle Times of her arrival in the States.

By that point, Rainey was already known for her determination to fight for what was right. She began working as a court-appointed advocate for Seattle kids who had been abused.

On Nov. 15, 2011, Rainey said she was taking a bus downtown when she heard helicopters overhead.

Dorli Rainey, who was pepper-sprayed by police while taking part in an "Occupy Seattle" protest, smiles before speaking on Nov. 18, 2011, in front of police headquarters in Seattle.

“Oh boy, I’d better go show solidarity with New York,” she thought at the time. She joined a group of Occupy Seattle protesters.

Seattle police “picked up their bicycles and started shoving them at us and confining us in a very small place and they started to pepper-spray,” she said of the incident that made her famous worldwide. photographer Joshua Trujillo captured the image that introduced Rainey, a self-described “old lady in combat boots,” to the globe. Then-Mayor Mike McGinn called Rainey to personally apologize. He already knew her from her longtime work.

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

Originally published:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *