Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a Member »

Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.

There haven’t been very many iconic images or art works coming out of the Occupy Wall Street movement yet things may be changing. In addition to the OWS “bat signal” that we posted about earlier today, this photograph in The Guardian by AP photographer Randy L. Rasmussen may be one of the most incredible images captured during the international protests.

Taken yesterday, during the November 17 day of action at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Oregon, the young protester being pepper sprayed by riot police is a visual symbol of the power imbalance taking place at these protests. Seemingly faceless black-clad police with visors and helmets are pushing back and harming non-violent protesters. Here the protester’s face is fully exposed to a stream of pepper spray, according to the caption, while an adjacent protester holds up the peace sign. We can only imagine the brutal burning sensation the protester was about to experience the moment after this image was taken.

The Latest


Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

29 replies on “One of the Most Chilling Photos from OWS”

  1. that was a good shot, must have been an elite swat team, usually the only things cops could aim that well is donuts into their own mouths

  2. I don’t agree that there haven’t been any iconic images/imagery… the one of 84 year old Dorli Rainey being supported on either side with her face completely red from being pepper-sprayed comes immediately to mind… but so do sooo many others, including endless video. Unlike other eras we are now 24/7 inundated with imagery because everyone and their grandma has access to recording devices and because the OWS movement itself is making sure there is constant video coverage. It’s up to editors to pull out ones like the one you posted above and brand them “iconic” but my eyes have seen plenty… the video footage of Seattle police jumping off their bicycles with pepper spray guns or hoses or whatever they were blasting is etched into my mind forever.

  3. This morning the women to her right (doing a peace sign with her hand) called into KPOJ and told her story… they were on the sidewalk — not the street — and were not doing anything to warrant attack. She said that she was the more boisterous one, in fact. Very chilliing.

  4. I think she is loving the attention. 🙂

    Half joking aside there were no iconic images because the police restrains itself as it should.

    The protesters face a tough dilemma. If they stay calm and civil as they should legally, they won’t get into the news because the police will leave them alone. They could stay there protesting for years and nobody will care. So some of the peaceful protesters sooner or later will start to provoke the police to produce some police brutality that they can finally show around as proof there is no freedom of speech in the country. I’m not taking sides, just a prediction based on past similar movements.

    1. You are assuming way too much. I guess you didn’t read the text or the response above yours. Their have been so many instances of the police aggressively assaulting people who are not doing anything but exercising their rights that I cannot believe you are actually writing this. What is becoming clear is the overwhelming police brutality all the way across America. Not just at OWS, but everywhere in the “land of the free”. This is a real problem and it is growing daily. You may say most police are just doing their jobs, and I agree. I was an MP in the military. But that is no excuse Police brutality is very real and MUST be taken seriously by every American. Otherwise we make a mockery of the rule of law and liberty.

    2. If by restraint you simply mean they haven’t actually murdered anyone yet, then yes they have restrained themselves.  Funny how that is being mentioned so often to defend the police… that they haven’t actually killed anyone (yet), as if that makes their criminal assaults and their infringements of civil rights somehow better or more defensible.   There has been no need to provoke police brutality.  It has been going on without provocation.  You only need to do a few seconds of research on the web to find photos and videos of it from multiple locations throughout the country.

      1. Pepper spray is the most peaceful method to make the crowd listen to your demands. It doesn’t have lasting effects. This is not police brutality by any standard. The police is just doing their job. Both sides go overboard perhaps at times a little bit, but it’s easy to judge retrospectively from the comfort of your armchair. When you’re there emotions easily boil over. If this is brutality for you than you’re been living in a bubble.

        In real police states bones broken, people are killed and many disappear without trace probably in jails for brutal interrogation. That’s police brutality, this is not.

          1. Sure, it’s not pleasant, but it doesn’t have lasting effects. I have tried it. So my argument still stands.

            I support pepper spray, because every other method is much worse. Beating, water guns, sonic weapons, rubber bullets etc. are all much worse and much more dangerous. If the crowd doesn’t respond I think pepper spray is the best bet.
            No wonder it’s free to buy in most European countries for self defence.

          2. Actually, there is one other method that isn’t much worse…. not violently cracking down on people for protesting.

        1. No, pepper spray is a non-lethal compliance weapon, not a crowd control weapon or a “way to make people listen”.  If you believe it isn’t police brutality and that it is police simply doing their jobs, then perhaps you should bother to check the actual laws and their actual codes of conduct in relation to pepper spray.

          You speak of me judging retrospectively from the comfort of my armchair, but what exactly do you think YOU are doing?

          I never said America was a police state and that is not the subject being discussed in the first place.  We don’t need to live in a police state for there to be police brutality, abuse of power, or criminal behavior.

  5. Many of the police are professional but too many “act up” hurtfully and seem to expect to get away with it–I wonder why. There cannot be impunity ie transfer to some cushy back office as “punishment” — if anything. Still, the militarization of police tactics need to be questioned. In the vast majority of the protests police presence is unnecessarily overwhelming & even serves as an incitement as well as intimidating.

    But as far as images– we can assemble images of police “embodying” the force that the state imposes on us invisibly, though its policies favoring the super rich and the super corporate. But what remains invisible (through media disinterest) is the faces and stories of all those who are truly struggling in this economy. We should make them our celebrities and not Demi Moore and Kim Kardashian etc.

  6. The left is once again searching for fake martyrs. They could not care less who gets hurt. I’ve seen it all before. It was called the sixties. Although I must say that this is a pretty poor imitation of that outing. 

    The protestors are nothing more than useful idiots that the left employs to excite their fantasies.

    1. You’re right of course. OWS is amateurville in comparison. Their biggest hardship is lice, and lack of deodorant.

      1. “I hate rich people and I want some of their stuff” is a pretty pathetic rallying cry coming from middle class students in 21st century America. 

        1. What are you basing that on? Sounds like you haven’t really engaged with the crowds and rallies because those are all stereotypes. I suggest going to a rally and talking to people. The crowd is more diverse than you realize, and not all middle class, students, etc.

          1. You mean liberal union members, left wing antiwar activists, left wing authors and artists,  and one or two people who went through foreclosure because they bought homes they could not afford ( thank you Fannie and Freddie Mac), or they can’t find a job thanks to Obamanomics?

Comments are closed.