Montana Mudd raid at Michigan Nationals, 2002

topic posted Fri, October 21, 2005 - 10:22 PM by  Kokopelli
i've been looking for the media coverage of this event since it happened. as some of you may know, i was involved. i heard ht covered it, and what do you know? i found it. check it out:

Law enforcement steps up the harrassment at the National Rainbow Gathering.

WATERSMEET, MI--Before noon on the Fourth of July, thousands camped for the National Rainbow Gathering in Michigan's Ottawa National Forest began to silently drift west, past tents and campfires smoldering from the night before.

At a bottleneck on the east bank of Sucker Creek, pilgrims in tie-dyes and cut-offs reverentially inhaled from a stick of burning sage before crossing a hand-built bridge. They ascended a hill, where 2,000 Rainbows' silent prayers for peace would bubble into chant, then explode into dance.

On the way, they passed under a half-dozen mounted US Forest Service officers, lined at the top of a ridge. Another dozen officers, most on horseback, guarded the prayer circle perimeter.

"They were dumping our water, they ran someone down with their horses, said Jessie Just, 26, one of 15 people from one communal kitchen arrested June 1 for resisting arrest and illegally being in the forest. "These aren't Rainbow rumors. It's really happening, and it is horrible."

For 30 years, the National Rainbow Gathering has drawn thousands to different national forests to live a vision of paradise where money is banned, cooperation is practiced and food and companionship are free.

This year, they were confronted by the most intense law enforcement many had ever seen. Officers from a laundry list of agencies threw up roadblocks, wrote hundreds of tickets, prevented access to drinking water and forced supply trucks to dump their loads. "They are just more aggressive this year than they've been in the past," said Alex Forest, 48, an antique dealer from Massena, NY, who has been to 11 Gatherings.

Zealous law enforcement contributed to the smallest National Gathering in decades. Only about 7,000 people communed in the woods on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, about one-third of what both Rainbows and the Forest Service expected.

"Word gets out," said Scottie Addison, an environmental planner from St. Louis. "People decide not to come."

By the end of Independence Day, Forest Service officers alone had written 341 tickets, most for traffic infractions or illegal land use, and hauled 25 people to jail on misdemeanor charges. There was only one felony arrest, for arriving in a vehicle reported stolen.

"It is unbelievable," said Bill Andrus, supervisor of nearby Stannard Township. "It's just harassment, is what it is."

Since the first Gathering in 1972, Rainbows have refused to get a permit to use Forest Service land, which is regularly mined, logged and grazed. Agency regulations require permits for events with more than 74 people.

"This gathering is completely illegal," said Malcolm Jowers, head of the Forest Service's incident command team, said without shifting his eyes from the silent Fourth of July crowd.

Rainbows argue the Constitution guarantees the right of free assembly, and that no one could get a permit on their behalf. At the Gathering, like at a pick-up basketball game, strangers meet, cooperate, then leave with no formal arrangement.

On June 23, eight days before the Gathering was to begin in earnest, the local forest supervisor signed a "closure order" barring use of most the intended site. The order shoe-horned the Gathering into an area one-third the size it usually needs. The only sources of drinking water, including a working well, were on the other side of the Forest Service's line.

"They transplanted the Gathering from a perfect site to a small, slightly adequate site," said M.K., a government contractor in San Diego and longtime Rainbow. "Some would say it's not adequate at all."

Forest Service officials say they did it protect archeological remains of Choate, a turn-of-the-century logging camp that ran for 12 years before being destroyed by fire. Locals, many of whom recall using the site as a dump, scoff at claims that the grassy, rutted hilltop is significant. It's "hogwash," says Supervisor Andrus. "There haven't been artifacts out there for 70 years."

Locals shouted down Jowers at a public meeting June 28, after learning his officers were dumping water and indiscriminately handing out tickets at a roadblock. "They told me I was at an illegal gathering and they had to arrest me if I went there," said Ryan Moller, 20, who was forced to dump two 55-gallon drums of water. "I said my family is in there, and the water is for women and children."

The roadblock was quickly dropped in the face of local opposition, and water deliveries allowed to resume. The Forest Service canceled another public meeting scheduled for later in the week.

A float festooned "Rainbows Rock" and "Is it wrong to pray for world peace?" won second place at the Fourth of July parade in nearby Bruce Crossing.

At the Gathering, Independence Day ended with defeat, as mounted officers pushed the Rainbows back across Sucker Creek
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