SEATTLE – Dorlee Rainey, the self-described “old lady in combat boots” who became a symbol of the Occupy protest movement when she was photographed after Seattle police pepper sprayed her. She was 95.
The longtime political activist died on August 12, the Seattle Times reported. Her daughter, Gabriela Rainey, told the newspaper that her mom was “so active because she loved this country and she wanted to make sure the country was good for its people.”
Rainey has been a local progressive for decades, advocating for racial justice, affordable housing and public transportation, as well as 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 pain, and seattlepi.com photographer Joshua Trujillo snapped a stunning photo of her staring defiantly into the camera, her eyes red and milk streaming down her face.
The photo became a global symbol of the protest movement. The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Associated Press and The Guardian talked about her.
“It’s a terrible picture,” she told the AP. “I really don’t look that bad.”
Then-Mayor Mike McGinn apologized and ordered a review of the incident. Rainey returned protesting a couple of days later.
“Dorley is legendary, and deservedly so, because of her activism,” McGinn said Friday. “She was just omnipresent and a conscience and a voice for change, and I had a deep, deep, deep respect for her.”
Rainey was born in Austria in 1926. She was a Red Cross nurse and then worked in Europe for 10 years as a technical translator for the US Army. She married Max Rainey, a civil engineer who took a job at Boeing, and they moved to Seattle in 1956.
She has worked as a court-appointed special advocate representing children who have suffered 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 in 2009 she briefly ran for mayor of Seattle.
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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