My Deadhead comrades report that there was a violent event this year at the Rainbow Gathering (which the Yippies used to lovingly call "The Rainbozo"), if you can believe it. The first Gathering (also known informally as the "gathering of the tribes") was in 1972, and has been held annually ever since during the first week of July, on National Forest land. There are also other Rainbow Gatherings on other continents, but I don't know much about those.
I have investigated, and apparently, this IS true. (((EYES BUG OUT, AS IN OLD TEX AVERY CARTOONS: BOINN--NNN-GGGG-GGGGG!))) For those of us who remember The Rainbozo as one of the most mellow, peaceful, accepting places on earth, this is something of a shock.
The idea of violence invading the Gathering is upsetting enough to cause actual disorientation.
It's interesting that my own experience with The Rainbozo was in West Virginia, and everyone warned us that the local rednecks would not countenance naked hippies dropping acid in the woods. That turned out to be totally untrue; nobody cared, or if they did, not enough to make trouble. This pattern would be re-enacted over and over again, as various participants in places like Arkansas and North Carolina were warned that Dangerous Rednecks Hate the Hippies, and they will attack. To their credit, the Rainbow Family always said nonsense--we welcome the locals! We LOVE YOU! PEACE AND LOVE! COME ONE, COME ALL!
Every Gathering had funny stories about locals who came to jeer at the hippies and, unprepared for the unconditional love (much less the powerful acid), "went native" and ended up joining the Rainbow Family for keeps.
I don't remember any problems ever reported at previous Gatherings, although readers can certainly correct me if they know of any other incidents I may have missed. (But Wyoming??? I just want to stop and draw everyone's attention to that word: WYOMING!!!! It didn't happen in the south!)
Accounts are just now trickling in, since the Gathering just ended, and my Deadhead spies do not write the most coherent emails, particularly after tripping in the woods for a week, but hey. All of the accounts sound more or less the same: law enforcement decided to go roust the Gathering, at long last. What didn't even happen in 1972, has happened now, in 2008.
My investigation turned up the usual "warnings" issued before the Gathering, that the Rainbow Family has heard since its inception. From Rivertonradio.com, this story dated June 28:
Federal officials began arriving in Riverton earlier this month to prepare for the arrival of the group, which calls itself the Rainbow Family of Living Light.God forbid, you displace the BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA!!!!
Anywhere between several hundred to a few thousand members of the group are expected, and their arrival has already drawn the ire of some locals. Civilians and councilmembers alike are concerned over rumors and speculation which seem to follow the group around the country.
To help aleviate fears, the Rainbow Family participated in a town hall meeting in Pinedale last week, saying they were a "people of peace," and asking for a moment of silence.
Still, local law enforcement in Green River has advised the public not to pick up hitchhikers as members of the group begin to arrive in the area for the gathering, which is scheduled to begin in full July 1. Residents who are disturbed by the arrival of the group have cited reports of fires and crime which have arisen in the last week near the area where members of the Rainbow Family have already assembled to justify concerns.
Rescue searchers found the pickup of missing 24-year-old Garrett Bardin this week in the Big Sandy area of Pinedale, not far from where the Rainbow Family has been gathering in recent weeks for its event.
On Monday, a wildfire was extinguished in Lander after it had burned a quarter of an acre in the same area where residents had complained about the behavior of some of the group's members.
Some of the rumors about the clan may not be entirely unfounded. In February, officials in Florida relocated the group as they hosting a similar meeting at the Ocala National Forest near Orlando. The group was forced out, and officials cited some members for minor violence, drug use, and violation of federal land permits.
Earlier this month, the Boy Scouts of America conceded that the arrival of the Rainbow Family had forced them to reschedule a planned forest restoration project.
Wyoming Senator John Barrasso has written a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, complaining the group has not respected the process of reserving federal land.
"The Rainbow Family Gathering displaced the Boy Scouts of America who had planned to do an ecological project," wrote Barrasso, as reported by the Casper Star Tribune on Friday. "In addition, livestock permittees, recreationists, cabin owners and lodge visitors are impacted by this gathering. All of these users have completed the appropriate permit process and worked with the agency to properly plan their activities."
The group's website stresses that this year's gathering will be peaceful, and says the group "is an international loose affiliation of individuals who have a common goal of trying to achieve peace and love on Earth."
And hey! Happy 4th of July to you too!
Five arrested in Rainbow Family clash with fedsThis is so ridiculous, I can't believe how ridiculous it is.
By BEN NEARY – July 4, 2008
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — About 400 members of the Rainbow Family threw rocks and sticks at 10 federal officers as they tried to arrest a member of the group, the U.S. Forest Service said Friday.
Five members of the group were arrested and one officer was slightly injured. A government vehicle was also damaged.
About 7,000 members of the Rainbow Family are camping this year on Forest Service land near Big Piney. The Rainbow Family is a loose affiliation of eccentrics, young people and hippie types who choose a forest each year in which hold a weeklong national gathering.
Ten Forest Service officers were patrolling the main meadow of the Rainbow Family's camping area Thursday night and apprehended one person described as being uncooperative, Rita Vollmer, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service, said in a statement Friday.
"Officers began to leave the gathering site with the subject and were circled by more Rainbow participants that began to physically interfere," Vollmer said.
About 400 Rainbows surrounded the officers trying to leave, she said.
"The mob began to advance, throwing sticks and rocks at the officers," Vollmer said.
State troopers have also arrested two people this week on felony drug charges for allegedly possessing 96 hits of LSD, said Sgt. Stephen Townsend of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
The Jackson Hole Star-Tribune seemed far more liberal in its coverage:
Arrest leads to Rainbow riotAnd finally, the American Civil Liberties Union has been called in. (Don't leave home without em!)
By TOM MORTON
Star-Tribune staff writer
U.S. Forest Service officers pointed weapons at children and fired rubber bullets and pepper spray balls at Rainbow Family members while making arrests Thursday evening, according to witnesses.
"They were so violent, like dogs," Robert Parker told reporter Deborah Stevens of the libertarian-oriented, Round Rock, Texas-based We the People Radio Network after the incident.
"People yelled at them, 'You're shooting children,'" Parker said during an interview on the network's "Rule of Law Show."
About 7,000 people have arrived at the gathering near Big Sandy in the Wind River Mountains for the annual Gathering of the Tribes, a seven-day event of fellowship, partying including illicit drug use, praying, and living on the land.
They camp on Forest Service land around the country every year, but the Rainbow family's non-hierarchical methods -- no one can speak for the Rainbows, much less sign a land use permit -- often have stymied their relationships.
But rarely do the tensions escalate into violence.
The Forest Service's Incident Command Team in Rock Springs issued a press release Friday morning, saying officers were patrolling the main meadow of the gathering Thursday evening when they contacted a man who fled and was later caught. Another Rainbow was detained for physically interfering.
Officers began to leave the area with the subjects and were circled by Rainbow participants, according to the news release from Rita Vollmer of the Incident Command Team.
Ten officers were escorting the detained subjects when about 400 Rainbows surrounded the squad, and more officers were requested, according to the news release.
"The mob began to advance, throwing sticks and rocks at the officers. Crowd control tactics were used to keep moving through the group of Rainbows," the news release said.
Other law enforcement agencies were called to the scene, the news release said.
Officers made five arrests; one officer suffered minor injuries and was cleared by a local hospital; and a government vehicle sustained damage, the news release said.
"This lawless behavior is unacceptable and we will not tolerate it," said John Twiss, Forest Service director of law enforcement. "The safety of our employees, public and Rainbow participants is our number one priority, and we will continue to protect everyone on the national forest."
Vollmer of the Forest Service Incident Management Team did not return calls requesting comment Friday.
Rainbow Family members' accounts told a different story.
One member who identified himself only as "Ryan" told Stevens he was with his two children in his tent at the Rainbows' Kid Village north of the main meadow where the major prayer circles and dinners are held.
One of the 10 officers pointed a pepper spray gun at him and his children, he said. His girlfriend was using the latrine outside when four officers came to her and asked if she was smoking marijuana.
The officers then ran through the Kid Village and through its kitchen, and chaos erupted, he said.
Other witnesses recounted seeing about 10 officers of the Forest Service's incident command team drag an older man from the woods near the Kid Village, according to interviews by Stevens.
A woman in the village told the officers to take their guns out of the Kid Village. An officer threw that woman to the ground and pulled her head back by her hair while she was being handcuffed, one Rainbow named Rick told Stevens.
"I got out and yelled, 'what the f--- are you doing?'" Rick said. "That got it started."
The officers backed up in a defensive position, and some used their Tasers on Rainbows, he said.
Rainbows called for their crisis management team, and Rainbow family elders urged the crowd to remain calm, he said. However, the crowd kept moving, and the Forest Service officers began randomly spraying the crowd with pepper spray bullets.
The officers, with their two suspects in custody, found an exit trail from the main meadow, and the peacekeepers urged the crowd to let them go, he said.
"These people deliberately, for hours, were aggressively working the camp over and working the people over," Ryan said. "They chose the kiddie village -- the one place, the kids, to take their stand and create a riot, and I bought into it. ... They were looking for an excuse to do some damage to us."
Ryan's partner, Feather, told Stevens she was pepper-sprayed, and saw another Rainbow with welts all over his body.
Feather also recounted seeing a couple with a young child and an infant who had just emerged from the woods and didn't know what was happening.
The couple asked the officers what was going on, and the officers pointed their guns at the children. The officers walked away, but one turned around and pointed his rifle at the baby, she told Stevens.
Robert Kinn of Afton told the Casper Star-Tribune in an interview Friday that he and his family had been camping and drove to Big Sandy because they'd never been to a gathering.
Forest Service officers gave Kinn a citation and a $175 ticket for allowing someone to ride on his vehicle's trailer, and said the officers weren't polite. "I was scared, was harassed."
Kinn and his family went to the main circle for dinner, when they heard people yelling about needing help to put out a fire in the Kid Village.
About 10 minutes later, people came back to tell the main circle the fire was over, and the crowd resumed eating, he said.
One of the senior Rainbows gathered the crowd and explained the clash with the Forest Service, and another man showed where rubber bullets hit him in the stomach, Kinn said.
Kinn and his family drove home that night, he said.
ACLU plans to investigate Rainbow Family treatmentItalics mine, of course. Stating they have "clashed before" is interesting. They have? Translation: The Feds have harassed the Rainbow Family before, and the Rainbow Family has always relied on love and peace to talk the various authorities out of mass arrests for LSD and reefer.
By BEN NEARY – July 6, 2008
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union said Saturday that it plans to investigate the actions of federal law enforcers who arrested five Rainbow Family members in western Wyoming during their annual gathering.
The U.S. Forest Service says a mob of about 400 members of the Rainbow Family, a group of hippie types and eccentrics who camp on public land every year, threw rocks and sticks at Forest Service officers who tried to arrest a member of the group.
Up to 60 federal and local law enforcers responded, Forest Service officials say, and fired "pepper balls" — similar to paint balls but containing a pepper solution — at the crowd to control it.
As many as 7,000 members of the Rainbow Family camped out this year on Forest Service land near the Big Sandy Reservoir. The group holds a weeklong gathering on public land in a different area each year.
The Rainbows and federal officers have clashed before, and in 1998, the Forest Service established a national response team to deal with the group.
The ACLU plans to accept collect calls from Rainbow Family members for the next two weeks to hear their version of events, Linda Burt, executive director of Wyoming's ACLU, said Saturday.
Burt said she has been concerned to hear reports that Rainbow Family members have been ticketed for small traffic infractions. She also said she has heard reports that officers have walked among the Rainbow camps asking people whether they're using drugs.
"I have some real concerns about how this is handled," Burt said. "Particularly the pretext arrests — the idea that people are just cruising around looking for people to arrest when there have been no complaints and no reason for them to be there."
Burt said the ACLU's response to the matter will depend on what it learns from Rainbow Family members. It's possible the ACLU will issue a report, she said, and it may also consider posting observers at future Rainbow Family gatherings.
Rita Vollmer, spokeswoman for the Forest Service, declined Saturday to name the five people arrested Thursday or say why the agency was trying to arrest the first person.
I guess this time--? What happened differently?
I'd like to know.
EDIT 7/10/08: I got a couple of emails asking "Just who is the Rainbow Family?"--and this is the best description I have found online.
Listening to: Grateful Dead - The Music Never Stopped