Tuesday night, Seattle police pepper-sprayed 84-year-old Dorli Rainey in the face in an obvious act of unnecessary police brutality. This striking image has gone viral. It has become the face of the national Occupy Wall Street movement at the time of a nationwide police crackdown. The photograph has been picked up by everyone from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times. More important, this image may give pause to centrists applauding the crackdown.
Some pictures seem beyond spin. Sadly, they are not. While most reasonable people will see what is really there, some observers (newspeople, included) will shrug this incident off as mere collateral damage, a fluke in an otherwise spotless police crackdown. Some particularly agile pundits might even justify spraying the defenseless old woman, blaming the victim for being in the wrong place at the wrong time--then cite the bravery and courage of police confronted with difficult situations. Anyone who has ever been involved in a protest, who has stood with a flimsy sign facing a phalanx of riot police, knows that intimidation is a tactic, and this sort of "overreaction" is part and parcel of clearing an area. No, it shouldn't be. Will you find this tactic in a law enforcement manual? Probably not.
Sure, cops have a tough job, but don't mention their bravery and courage, not this time. The real bravery and courage in this case is embodied by a woman in her eighties who stood up for what she believed, despite the obvious risks. It may sound counter intuitive, but this little old lady might be braver than all those tough guys on the riot squad decked out like Darth Vader with machine guns and nightsticks and teargas and pepper spray. Today, we applaud the courage of Dorli Rainey.
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In this clip, eighty-four-year-old activist Dorli Rainey tells Keith Olbermann about her experience getting pepper-sprayed by the police during an Occupy Seattle demonstration and the need to take action and spread the word of the Occupy movement. She cites the advice of the late Catholic nun and activist Jackie Hudson to “take one more step out of your comfort zone” as an inspiration, saying, “It would be so easy to say, ‘Well I’m going to retire, I’m going to sit around, watch television or eat bonbons,’ but somebody’s got to keep ’em awake and let ’em know what is really going on in this world.”