RAINBOW GATHERING attacked in AZ
Gathering on Public Lands is becoming a crime. The National Forests are the last "Commons" remaining to us here in this country. With Fee Demo restrictions and Charter Forest privatization schemes, suddenly not only is the Forest Disservice making money off our public lands, they also want to keep US off our public lands. This fight has been raging on for a couple decades between the Rainbow Family and the Forest DisService. Here is the latest.
Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2002 06:41:29 -0700
From: "PCU_//_Free Assembly Project"
Subject: Az Incidents
PCU_//\_Free Assembly Project _an Association of Volunteers_/ ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `
PUBLIC INFORMATION RELEASE: 5 April 2002
FOREST SERVICE TARGETS 'RAINBOWS' IN CORONADO NATIONAL FOREST ~
Campers Forced Out by Citations and 'Special Closure'
From March 12-16 U.S. Forest Service police officers put
heavy enforcement pressure on a small cluster of people camped in the
Turkey Creek area of Coronado National Forest, in southeast Arizona.
Over three days they made repeated incursions and
contacts, issued numerous federal citations carrying stiff fines,
then finally came in with a Special Closure Order from the Forest
Supervisor, forcing them to leave the forest under threat of arrest.
With a long history of Forest Service harassment of 'Rainbow'
gatherings, this incident is the latest escalation of hostilities.
It poses new abuses of official powers, and serious implications for
rights of citizen access and First Amendment association on public
SUMMARY OF EVENTS:
In early March about 30 people converged in the Huachuca
Mountains and made camp in the 'Rainbow' style near Bear Creek. They
were there only a few days when reportedly a fire broke out across
the ridge, and USFS personnel evacuated the area. It was seen as a
legitimate concern with no suggestion of foul play, and the folks
cooperated and left.
They moved east to the Chiricahua Mountains
north of Bisbee, where a Ranger directed them to the Turkey Creek
area off Forest Road 42, saying that it was a suitable site and they
were welcome. Joined by a few new arrivals, they moved in and set up
camps around March 12.
The next day three USFS Law Enforcement Officers
(LEO's) came in and began making 'contacts' with people in the
area. One man was first asked to sign a 'Group Use' Permit; when he
stated that he had no personal authority for this, the LEO's got
aggressive: Two of them started issuing citations on unrelated petty
violations, while the third ran the radio and videocamera.
The LEO's came back the next two days (March 14-15), again entering camps, demanding ID's, and writing tickets -- dogs off leash (only required in developed campgrounds), 'exposing food to wildlife' (cooking dinner), 'littering' (putting up signs), unauthorized 'construction' (a water filter), and a dubious new chargeŠ "taking possession of NFS lands for residential purposes" (camping 3 days?).
A young couple got 4 tickets with $650 in fines; the first man got 7
tickets worth $825; another trying to observe officers was hit with a
$500 charge for "interfering".
In three days at least 24 citations were issued.
Then near dusk on Friday (3/15) officers arrived with a "Special Closure" Order
just signed by the Forest Supervisor in Tucson (#05-192), prohibiting
all public access on 5 square miles of Coronado N.F. "for the protection ofŠ Special biological communities. 36 CFR 261.53(b)".
Campers were given 24 hours to vacate under threat of arrestŠ so they
had to pack up and leave the next day under police surveillance.
By Monday or so, the Forest Service had posted new notices
closing the area as a 'Bird Sanctuary', and barricades were erected
at points of access.
POINTS OF CONCERN:
** It is significant that police demanded a 'Group Use' permit
at the outset, even though there were only about 40 campers on a few
acres, nowhere near the threshold of 75. (36 CFR 251.54) Since
enacted in 1995, this rule has been enforced mainly against 'Rainbow'
gatherings in the National Forests, and hotly contested in court
cases around the country . Twice in the 1980's prior versions were
found unconstitutional, and the present rule was briefly overturned
again in Arizona in 1998 (U.S. v. Linick, #CR-98-502-1-PCT-RGS,
Dist.Ariz.). As written, individuals who gather with no 'group'
affiliation have no way to comply and in any case, it did not apply
at Turkey Creek.
Nonetheless this was a small expressive assembly, and those present were directly impeded on this pretext. Whether participants and spectators might exceed 75 at a later time is speculative, and not relevant since nobody was cited under this regulation. Here it served its real purpose in triggering police presence and discretionary enforcement under color of USFS
** It is also telling that LEO's took immediate
recourse to the 'mass citation' tactics seen at 'Rainbow' sites
in Florida, Idaho, New York, and Illinois last year. They were
instituted by Special Agent Malcolm Jowers, the USFS Incident
Commander, as a new device to burden and intimidate participants -- part of his
'National Strategy' against the gatherings.
The citations are calculated to slip the
radar of civil rights concerns, but federal misdemeanor charges are not
trivial: Poor travelers have little chance of defending these
cases on their own, regardless of merit, nor means to stay and fight
through months of dragged-out proceedings.
So the real bind is 'fleecing-or-flight'Š
pay heavy fines, or leave and face federal warrants & heavier
sanctions later on. Much revenue has been exacted from gatherers, and many
warrants issued in this way. Total dollars and numbers are as yet
unknown, and where the 'fugitives' might get pulled off the street
by police anywhere they go, the risks are incalculable.
These tactics also misuse new federal court
practices to cover their tracks: Such citations are steered through
"Central Violations" processing for payments and pleas,
and the U.S. Attorney is given quasi-judicial powers to decide them.
At arraignment he pushes plea bargains, inducing defendants to
stipulate to violations and taking their money -- with no judge present,
nor any due process protections. Cases do not appear in court
clerks' records unless they go to trial, which accounts for very few.
In effect, these federal prosecutions largely proceed out of
public view, and information as to their scope and substance is
unavailable as a matter of public interest.
** The 'Special Closure' at Turkey Creek
escalated Forest Service tactics against the gatherings. It was
unprecedented, but foretold by prior actions and increasing pressure
on Forest Rangers & Supervisors from the "Incident Command" power
structure and hard-line policy hawks in DC.
In events leading up to the Closure, actions
& rationales by USFS personnel were contradictory. Prior to the Order
on March 15, people were led to believe that the site was open and
suitable for normal camping: The area was not posted as a designated
Wilderness, nor was there any notice of special environmental limits.
Invoking such grounds suddenly to evict people from public
lands, the Forest Service's motives and means are suspectŠ
transparently so, it would seem.
But these questions run headlong into the
Forest Service's very broad closure powers, with wide latitude to
allege current impacts or speculate on potential threats. Thus the Closure
action created a conflict of otherwise compatible public interests
-- where a Federal Agency uses environmental pretexts to trump
constitutional rights -- and a serious legal conundrum, as planned.
As for policy intent and incentives within
the agency, the hidden hand of the "National Incident Management Team"
(as it's now called) -- is evident. USFS Law Enforcement (LEI)
personnel take orders from police superiors (including the Incident
Commander), not the Forest Service per se.
By conducting certain enforcement actions under
USFS authorities, they control agency policy by default --
preempting any cooperation with the public in solving resource problems, and
even the ability of qualified Forest Service staff to make these
CONTACTS/ PUBLIC OFFICIALS:
Coronado National Forest Š.. (520-670-4552)
300 W. Congress St. ~ Tucson, AZ 85701
John McGee, Forest Supervisor
Greg Lelo, Supervisory LEO
Douglas Ranger District Š.. (520-364-3468)
3081 N. Leslie Canyon ~ Douglas, AZ 85607
Douglas D. Hardy, District Ranger
Central Violations Bureau Š.. (1-800-827-2982)
Voice Case Info System ~ San Antonio, TX
(Defendants call here for early status
of contested Federal misdemeanors.)
U.S. Attorney, Tucson Š.. (520-620-7300)
Federal District Court Clerk Š.. (520-205-4200)
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION & IDEAS:
PCU_//\_Free Assembly Project
Scott Addison, Coordinator
St. Louis, Missouri
Founded___// People for Compassion &
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