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Published on Thursday, June 29, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
Hippies Homeland Security Threat
Mass Citations At Rainbow Family Gathering in Colorado
A permit for a pilgrimage?
by Karen Kilroy and Alan Canfora
The Rainbow Family, an ad-hoc collective of free-spirited individuals, has made an annual spiritual pilgrimage since 1972 to various national forests. This year's Rainbow Family Gathering is outside of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and will be held from July 1-7. The National Forest Service has determined that a permit is required this year and is arresting people as they arrive. Hundreds of early arrivals have been arrested, ticketed, held in detention camps, tried in secret inside a cramped garage without proper representation, fined, and ordered to leave within 24 hours.
Over the past several days, a federal "National Incident Team" has been assembled to deny these individuals their constitutional right to assemble. The line between the power of the state and the federal government has been compromised, as Colorado State Patrol Troopers, county sheriffs, and local police have been brought into the National Incident Team.
Why is this the year in which a socially conscious group of people is being confronted? Why is the media being fed stories about fire potential, with no mention of the ongoing battle of the Bush Administration to try to shut down their right of free assembly?
In response to Hurricane Katrina, Rainbow Family members ran free food kitchens at which even FEMA personnel ate meals.
Don E. Wirtshafter, an attorney, wrote a plea for help. He suggests that the Bush Administration wants to make this a precedent to discourage groups from open assembly without a permit.
What will happen once the expected 20,000 participants start to arrive at the meeting ground? Many of them will not know what is going to await them because they are generally not a cell-phone/e-mail culture. Many have spent the last weeks hitchhiking to the site or nursing along a car that breaks down every few miles, held together by duct tape. This is their spiritual gathering. They use any peaceful means to get there.
Will they just "go away"? According to a website that allows the Rainbow Family to share messages, it doesn't look like it."*Ignore all rumors of cancellation or organization! Live Lightly with the Land and People*" is the prominent message posted on the site.
There has already been an incident (ABC News, Denver, Colorado) in which about 200 people encircled a police checkpoint, armed with sticks and rocks. The Forest Service drew their weapons, but retreated.
The gathering is being held in a meadow with only one road out. The media has been given word that the reason they cannot assemble is because of potential for fire. This is another distortion of facts. For years now, the Rainbow tribe has waged an ongoing legal battle to defend constitutional freedoms.
Attorney Wirtshafter requests that you call your congressperson now and alert them to this situation. Ask them to get the Administration to stop violating the constitutional rights of the Rainbow Gathering participants.
The U.S. Government should make serious efforts to avoid, not provoke, another Waco or Kent State incident in our National Forests. In recent years, the conservative movement has openly declared a culture war against all remnants of the powerful 1960's movement for peace and freedom. Progressive activists should take action now and speak out against this looming dangerous battle in the modern culture war.
Karen Kilroy is a web developer and videographer specializing in progressive political causes. Alan Canfora is Director of the Kent May 4 Center in Kent, Ohio, and was wounded at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. For more information on the Rainbow Family, see their unofficial website: http://www.welcomehome.org/
Following are some instructions on who to write and/or call
We hope to start flooding the Department of Agriculture and the
Forest Service with complaints starting Monday morning and not
stopping until harassment stops. It is especially important that we
get a few Congressional representative and Senators concerned enough
to write the Forest Service for an explanation of why so much money
is being spent to keep people from camping in the National Forest set
aside for exactly that purpose.
Please keep the pressure on these bureaucrats until we are able to
spread the word that the government has backed off and that the
gathering can proceed unhindered.
If you do not know the contact information for your Congressman or
Senator, you can find this here. You can call your representative at
212-224-3121. Besides your representatives in Washington, please call
and write the following people to voice your protest to this harsh
treatment of people who just want to go on a camping trip in the
woods. Keep the calls coming until word is passed around that the
government has called off their dogs. Please forward this letter to
your friends and feel free to re-post it on any listserv or website
you wish. Email me if you have any questions.
Don E Wirtshafter
Attorney at Law
Box 18 Guysville, OH 45735
740 662 5297
USDA, Natural Resources & Environment
Mark Rey, USDA Undersecretary
1400 Independence Ave. SW, .. 217-E
Washington, DC 20250
202-720-7173 Fax: 202-720-0632
Kathleen Gause, Director 202-205-8534
USDA Forest Service
Civil Rights Staff
Stop Code 1142
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington., DC 20250-1142
Tel (202) 205-1585
Office of the Chief
Dale Bosworth, Chief
USDA Forest Service
Yates Federal Building (4NW Yates)
201 14th Street, SW - Washington, DCÊ20250
202-205-1661; Fx: 202-205-1765
Executive Assistant...Karla Hawley, 202 -205-1195
Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests,
Mary H. Peterson, Supervisor
2468 Jackson Street -- Laramie, WY 82070-6535
307-745-2300 Fax: 307-745-2398
U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region (R-2)
Rick Cables, Regional Forester
Mail: P.O. Box 25127 -- Lakewood, CO 80225-0127
Richard Stem, Deputy Regional Forester, Resources: 303-275-5451
Steve Silverman, Office of General Counsel, Regional Attorney:
Bill Fox, Law Enforcement & Investigations, Special Agent in Charge:
Jerome Romero, Deputy Director of Civil Rights: 303-275-5340
Some resources to research these issues further:
The best Rainbow website:
A good article written before the feds came down hard:
More recent coverage: