Volume 8, Number 24 - September 4, 2008
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ACLU Remembers Rainbows
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has not forgotten its promise to investigate the Forest Services’ (FS) conduct during the Rainbow Family of Living Light’s national gathering near Big Sandy.
The gathering that cumulated to an estimated 7,000 revelers on the Fourth of July was the scene of many conflicts between Rainbow family members and the FS law enforcement officers (LEOs).
The most noteworthy of the conflicts was a July 3 riot that involved 10 FS LEOs and an estimated 400 family members.
Five people were arrested and one LEO sustained minor injuries in the incident. Several Rainbows recorded the melée on their cell phones and some of those videos are posted on theWeb site youtube.com. After the gathering, the ACLU accepted collect calls from family members who witnessed FS misconduct.
The agency promised to investigate the July 3 incident as well as the LEOs’ overall conduct during the gathering.
In a letter to Rainbow Family members, Linda Burt, ACLU Wyoming Chapter executive director, thanked the Rainbows for their help with the investigation, saying her office had received over 50 letters and emails about the gathering.
In a phone interview, Burt said she has been waiting for information she requested from several federal agencies including one elected official.
“I also asked Sen. (John) Barrasso’s office for a listing of the complaints that he has had,” she said. “That was part of the information that I have requested that has not been responded to at this time.”
Depending on when she receives the information, she hopes to have the report done in 30 days.
While the investigation is still open, Burt said she is happy to take information from anybody, including residents of Sublette County.
As part of her investigation, Burt has watched the Rainbows’ youtube videos and she been looking into previous gatherings where she has concluded that the atmosphere was not copasetic.
“It looks tome like there has been some kind of systematic harassment of the Rainbow Family,” she said. “Certainly not saying that there isn’t fault on both sides... but the attitude that has been taken toward these gatherings seems to be not one of cooperation.”
Because the Wyoming ACLU has a limited budged and resources, Burt does not see her agency taking any action beyond a public report of their findings, although there are other options.
The ACLU has suggested it will post observers at next year’s gathering in New Mexico but that is out of Burt’s control.
“Each state ACLU makes its own decisions as to what issues they take up and what issues they are interested in,” she said.
Burt asks anyone with information call her office at (307) 637-4564.
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