Unlike New York and Oakland, the city of Seattle has recently expressed support for occupy protesters. However, this may not include the police, who yesterday took the eminently necessary step of pepper-spraying a tiny octogenarian.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the City Council approved a resolution Monday in support of the protesters' right to free speech. But on Tuesday, marching Occupy protesters clashed with police on bicycles, who pepper-sprayed about twelve of them, including a pregnant woman, a priest, and 84-year-old Dorli Rainey. Seattle police spokesman Jeff Kappel says, "Pepper spray was deployed only against subjects who were either refusing a lawful order to disperse or engaging in assaultive behavior toward officers." But Rainey wrote to The Stranger with a different take:
Something funny happened on my way to a transportation meeting in Northgate. As I got off the bus at 3rd and Pine I heard helicopters above. Knowing that the problems of New York would certainly precipitate action by Occupy Seattle, I thought I better check it out. Especially since only yesterday the City Government made a grandiose gesture to protect free speech. 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. 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."
Tuesday's events recalled violence at Occupy DC earlier this month, where a driver hit a pregnant protester and her family with his car, and a 78-year-old attendee at the conservative AFP summit fell or was pushed down a flight of stairs. Of the elderly woman, a member of the Occupy DC media team told me, "there's no evidence that anyone from Occupy DC injured her directly or indirectly." She added that DC police had "straight up choked" protester Georgia Pearce — Occupy DC later posted video of that event.
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If protesters pose a physical threat to police or civilians, then police obviously need to act. But in several instances, they seem to have acted in the absence of such a threat — was 4-foot-10-inch octogenarian Dorli Rainey really perpetrating a dangerous assault? And in other cases, they've failed to protect protesters themselves, as when they refused to cite the driver who hit pregnant Brandy Sippel and her family. Dealing with Occupy protests has been an important test of officers' ability to keep protesters and others safe while guaranteeing free speech for all. Unfortunately, some police forces are failing.
New Face Of Occupy: Pepper-Sprayed Woman, 84 [Newser]
Dorli Rainey, 84, Pepper Sprayed By SPD At Occupy Seattle Protest [Stranger]
Elderly Woman, Priest Pepper-Sprayed During Occupy Protest [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]