November 17, 2011 in Nation/World

Crackdowns fire up protests

Elderly activist hit by pepper spray
Rob Hotakainen McClatchy
 
Associated Press photo

Seattle activist Dorli Rainey, 84, reacts after being hit with pepper spray during an Occupy Seattle protest Tuesday at Westlake Park in Seattle.
(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – After getting pepper-sprayed Tuesday night in downtown Seattle, 84-year-old Dorli Rainey of the Occupy Seattle movement felt fired up, ready for more protesting.

And like many other Occupy activists and social-trend analysts Wednesday, she said that similar police confrontations taking place across the country will have a predictable effect.

“It just grows the movement,” Rainey said.

As they prepare for a “national day of action” today, protesters from Seattle to New York are feeling energized, preparing to turn out perhaps the biggest crowds yet of the 2-month-old Occupy Wall Street movement. Unions and liberal groups are teaming up with Occupy groups across the country in an attempt to boost the turnouts.

With thousands expected to participate, all eyes will be on the police, who have cracked down on protesters from coast to coast in recent days.

Marchers are expected to take to the streets in major cities including Seattle, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Portland, Miami, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Washington.

In Washington, protesters hope to form a human chain that will stretch from Georgetown across the Key Bridge into Virginia. The rallies are intended to draw attention to bridges across the country that could be repaired to create more jobs.

David Schultz, a professor at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., predicted that protesters will try to provoke police in an attempt to win public sympathy for their cause, noting that it was a winning strategy during the Vietnam War.

But, he said: “Police have gotten smarter in 40 years.”

Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism, sociology and communications at Columbia University who helped lead protests against the Vietnam War, predicted that today’s demonstrations “are going to be very big.”

He said that police actions are bringing out “extremities of feelings,” adding: “I think a lot of people feel that their energy is restoked by this.”

That’s certainly the case with Rainey, a longtime activist who said she feared she’d get trampled when she got pepper-sprayed Tuesday night. She said a young Iraq War veteran helped her get off the ground as police pushed protesters back and helicopters whirred overhead.

“He saved my neck,” Rainey said.

Rainey said she still had a cough and a lump in her throat on Wednesday but was doing fine otherwise, ready to return to action.

“We just cannot let them win,” she said.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email