It was actually pepper spray—right in the eyes and mouth as she was attempting take a photo of the SPD knocking a woman to the ground on 4th and Olive downtown at around 8 o'clock tonight. (Here's a photo of Erica right afterward that a TV photographer snapped and forwarded our way.)
I was trailing a block behind Erica, on the other side of the police phalanx, and got a picture of the next scene as the SPD threw the same protester into a squad car. I had no idea Erica had been pepper sprayed.
In fact, as I was trying to call her, Erica—now totally blinded—was getting shoved along with a bunch of protesters by bike cops who were yelling "Move back!" as the protesters chanted: "Whose streets? Our streets."
About ten minutes later my phone rang and it was Barnett, who filled me in from her perch in an alley behind Olive8, where she'd fled.
Oh, I looked to my right and saw her sitting on a low brick wall. "I see you. I see you. On my way."
I found Erica crying pepper spray and told her it was a badge of honor. (She wasn't here in '99).
We walked south through the alley and came out on the other side where we ran into our old colleague from the Stranger, Brendan Kiley, who gave Barnett a bottle of white antacid solution that he'd put in a plastic mini-Listerine bottle. Thanks Brendan.
Then we walked back downtown, Erica blind as a bat and saying she was going to throw up, and over to the office as the action headed the other way. The cops were pushing the protesters east to Capitol Hill, windows getting smashed en route and flash bombs going off to disperse the crowd.
Back downtown, people seemed unaware of the melee, and gawked at Barnett. "What's going on?" a young, clean-cut college couple asked. They were startled and seemed genuinely concerned when I told them Barnett got pepper sprayed trying to take pictures. Barnett did look a mess.
She's all safe and sound now and just sent me this text:
Clairification: I started out on 4th and Olive, trailing Erica for a couple of blocks; she started at 5th. I was a half a block behind Erica when I got the pic of the SPD putting the protester in a squad car at 6th, and I can confirm: They were shoving the protester as they took her to the car. I apologize if the geography was confusing readers; the problem was that it was being told from my POV, not Erica's. Hope this clears things up.