Volume 105, Number 28 - July 10, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Rainbows, Forest Service trade accusations
What was meant to be a peaceful gathering of individuals partaking in the annual Rainbow Gathering turned violent last week, as law enforcement officers and members of the Rainbow Family of Living Light butted heads.
Incident Command Team Public Affairs Specialist Rita Vollmer said Forest Service officials were patrolling the area where the Gathering was taking place on the evening of July 3 when they encountered an individual who refused to cooperate and fled.
“They made contact with someone who wasn’t cooperative,” Vollmer said. “And the subject started to run off.”
While attempting to leave the Gathering site with the subject, officers were encircled by several other participants who began to interfere.
“When they apprehended him … and were trying to move him out of the Gathering area, a woman started to interfere with our officers,” Vollmer said, adding that the female subject was kicking the officers and trying to pull the apprehended subject away from them.
She was also taken into custody for physical interference before more Rainbows encircled the officers.
“There were approximately 10 officers in the main meadow area who had to request backup,” Vollmer said. “When they started moving out to the main road, which is about a mile and a half hike, 300 to 400 people surrounded our officers and started throwing rocks and sticks. It was a potentially lifethreatening incident, so our officers used crowd control tactics.”
Those tactics included the shooting of pepper bullets into the mob that had encircled the officers.
According to a July 4 press release, this particular incident resulted in the arrest of five people. In addition, one officer sustained minor injuries and damage to a government vehicle was reported.
A Rainbow Press Crew news release had a different account of the events that took place during what was deemed the “pepper bullet incident.”
“For reasons unknown, they zeroed in on a male member of the crowd, who went into the woods towards Kiddie Village, an area of the Gathering filled with children,” it states, explaining that Forest Service agents followed and apprehended him inside Kiddie Village. “As the man was being arrested, one concerned woman tried asking the feds what the man had done. The feds refused to answer, and instead viciously threw the woman to the ground and pulled her head back by her hair while she was being handcuffed.” This resulted in an uproar among the rest of the Rainbows camped at the site. “As the feds retreated with the two campers in custody, they were followed up the hill by about 100-200 concerned Rainbows,” according to the press release. “ … The feds then opened fire with 20-30 bursts of pepper spray bullets at random into the crowd, injuring both adults and children, and hitting one man in the face. There are also reports that the feds used rubber bullets and that one federal agent pointed his gun at several children and a baby.”
Other than that incident, Vollmer said everything was relatively quiet during the Gathering.
“I think we were [well-prepared],” she said. “ … We expected quite a few more people to show up than what did.”
With the Gathering over, Vollmer said she has noticed a significant decrease in the amount of vehicles at the site.
“At the peak, there were about 1,300 cars,” she said. “[Monday] night, there were around 300.”
And with the dispersal of the Rainbows, Vollmer said the Incident Command Team is also disbanding. “We’re demobilizing … People from the team are starting to go back to their home units,” she said, adding that there will still be a presence as the Rainbows begin to clean up the site. “But a contingent will be there until Sunday.”
Also near the Gathering site, a fire was reported on Monday afternoon, causing Forest Service officials to call for the evacuation of two remaining Rainbow camps.
Reaching four acres in size, the blaze, which was suspected to be human-caused, was reported to be 100 percent contained by Tuesday morning.
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