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/