Where will the gathering be?

We will gather peacefully for silent meditation the morning of July 4th, 2017 from dawn until noon; and a peaceful assembly of free speech and expression from July 1st through the end of Vision Counsel; in the state of Oregon. For directions, click here.

To find out how to get into the gathering without getting a mandatory court appearance ticket, click here and check out the right side-bar. To reach a human being, email Karin.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Brief Summary of Gathering/Forest Service Relationships

I find it helpful to have a basic understanding of situations in order to make informed decisions going into the future.  While my understanding of the relationship between the gathering and the United States Forest Service (USFS) is just one perspective, I hope that putting together a brief summary of how things have gone may help myself and other to see the big picture.

As I wasn't around until the late 1980s, I will try to keep my summary focused on things I do know and let others fill in the rest.

At the first gathering of the tribes, the USFS told family that a gathering could not happen without a permit and that no permit would be issued. People gathered anyway, often times hiking in through the woods to get to the site.  The next several years, the issue disappeared from the radar. From 1976 to 1980 permits were signed, often under protest. If you're interested in the details, read Plunker's summary of the permit issue from 1972 to 1983: Permit Herstory.

In 1984, the Forest Service enacted a regulation requiring a permit for any expressive assembly of ten or more people on Forest Service lands. This was unenforced for a year and a half before the Service attempted to apply it to the gathering in Arizona in 1986.

In 1987 at the North Carolina gathering, the state tried to tell us we need a permit for all public gatherings. After a lot of legal wrangling and an elephant, Judge Dave issued a consent decree that theoretically was not a permit, but .....Judge Dave was so taken with his experience in 1987 that he has written a book about it called Judge Dave and the Rainbow People. All didn't end so well as some of the cleanup crew where arrested. Click here for the consent order.

In 1988 at the Texas gathering, the USFS demanded a permit and when family just said no, they blockaded the gathering and refused to allow ingress to the gathering site. Family walked around the blockade to bring in supplies. The situation wound up in court. The judge presiding over the hearing was Mr. Justice or as he is more commonly known in Rainbow Circles Justice Justice.   This regulation was deemed unconstitutional because not all groups of ten or more people were required to obtain a permit. In other words, if people attending the gathering were sharing information, fliers, beliefs, etc, then a permit was required. However, if they weren't, then no permit required.  For Plunker's rap on what happened, click here.


The USFS Group Use Regulations governing "special events" were struck down at the 1988 gathering in Texas --visit these sites for more info:
The USFS regrouped and tried to write regulations governing special events that would stand up in court.  It took them quite some time and if you're interested in a perspective on how that all happened, read the PC&U's article, From the Trenches.  (This article was written just after the Wyoming 1994 gathering).

In late 1995, a new set of group use regulations was published by the government that required any group of 75 or more people to apply for a "Group Use Permit" under the Non-Commercial Group Use Regulations.

In 1996, one individual signed a permit and then later tried to rescind it. For a summary, see the Ozark Gazette article.  Folks gathered and so it goes.

In 1997 at the annual gathering in Oregon, the USFS tried a new tactic: they came with arrest warrants for people they deemed "secret leaders"  and then these "secret leaders" counter sued. We had an amazing council for days on end with the USFS and worked out an unsigned operating plan on the land.  (You can find copies of a few of these plans here). Finally, the USFS bullied a woman in Portland who had a child at the gathering to sign a permit, which she did. This woman was not at the gathering nor did she have any influence over the gathering. The incident commander at this gathering was from the resource branch of the forest service and in his report stated that the permit was an obstacle to an effective working relationship. For a repository of great information on what happened in 1997, click here.

Wrangling over the permit continued at the Arizona gathering in 1998.  While a small victory was won by a gatherer, it was a technicality and had no great impact on the future course of events.
For a summary of events, see the Arizona Republic Article or the New York Times article.

During the 1999 Rainbow Gathering in Pennsylvania, 3 individuals were chosen by the Forest Service's Incident Command Team as "secret leaders," and cited for not applying for a group use permit. As Rainbow is a leaderless, self-created temporary community, these charges were totally bogus. Unfortunately, due some legal maneuverings by the USFS, the "Rainbow 3"  lost their case (they weren't allowed any witnesses, among other things). An attempt was made to bring the case to the US Supreme Court, but the justices declined to take the case and the "Rainbow 3" spent time in the federal prison system for refusing to illegally sign a permit. For more legal information, click herehere or here or read the article that appeared in Legal Affairs.

Moving out west for 2000 in Montana, a cat and mouse game played out between the "secret leaders" with some of them sneaking in and out of the gathering to avoid continued legal harassment and the USFS. Three people were picked out by the Forest Service as “Rainbow leaders” to receive tickets for camping without a noncommercial group use permit. One of the defendants challenged his ticket. The Forest Service replied, as they had in the previous cases, that the group use regulation was a constitutional time, place, and manner restriction that is narrowly tailored to fit the specific government needs of protecting Forest Service resources, insuring public safety, and deciding between competing uses in a way that leaves open ample alternative channels for expression. Furthermore the signature requirement was a valuable means of ensuring that the group would adhere to the terms of the special use authorization and of protecting against fraudulent statements. All three defendants were sentenced to jail time although the sentences varied.

The cat and mouse game continued in Idaho in 2001 with tickets for all despite the fact that a permit application was made and denied.   While I don't have the exact number of citations issued for being at a an "illegal gathering" (One with more than 74 people and no permit), there's a great article from the Boise Weekly on the issue and my guess is over 500 if not closer to 1,000 people received the magic ticket.   The governor issued a declaration of emergency. The USFS even went so far as to inform the local chapter of Trout Unlimited that they would be unable to perform restoration work in conjunction with gatherers.  By the 4th of July, USFS mounted officers were seen joining in the celebration for world peace and the positive evolution of the planet. The Idaho Stateman published an article on the cleanup.

In 2002 the gathering was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and drinking water was in short supply. The USFS tried to smoke us out by dumping drinking water en route to the gathering. but the local townsfolks  help out.  Then the USFS refused to issue a permit to an applicant.  Finally, the USFS decided that the illegal gathering could happen on one side of the river but not the other.  The infamous "west bank" of the river became off limits to everyone although every evening after they USFS LEOs went home for the day, we gathered there for dinner circle and for the silence on the 4th.

In 2003, a long time gatherer approached the USFS and promised to sign a permit for the gathering in Utah. He followed through on his plan meeting with officials before hand but the situation with the USFS was as bad as ever.  The USFS expected the permit signer to be responsible for every detail of the gathering and we all know that was doomed to failure.

Prior to the California 2004 gathering, meetings and telephone calls with the USFS took place in an attempt to find a workable solution for both sides - including a meeting with the head of the USFS in the Haight-Ashbury library in San Francisco.  Despite attempts to trying to work together, things didn't work out and the gathering was once again declared "illegal." Again someone not affiliated with the gathering signed a permit, but the USFS kept up it's campaign of intimidation, people were cited for being at an illegal event before the permit was signed, and the USFS declared the site off limits to nudity despite the fact that nudity was legal at this location before the gathering started.  People who were cited for being at an illegal gathering or being naked by their tent were treated to a visit to kangaroo court: a makeshift court just for us in some random building located in a small town near the gathering.

West Virginia in 2005 marks the first time the annual gathering relocated under pressure from the USFS.  A permit was signed for a location that the USFS wanted us to be on, many people received tickets for being at an "illegal gathering" and kangaroo Court was set up at the local visitor's center.

In 2006, the USFS put up road blocks at the Colorado gathering in a failed attempt to prevent people from entering yet another "illegal gathering," many citations were written to people at the gathering, folks walked in through the woods (just like in 1972), kangaroo court took place in the local Fire Station and someone applied for a group use permit, which the Forest Service denied.  For Karin's recount of these issues, click here.

Arkansas 2007 was an attempt to work with the upper levels of the USFS  on a cooperative solution and the USFS took an unsigned operating plan worked out with gathering participants on the land in lieu of a falsified signature on a permit.  Life didn't change that much and the LEOs pulled pepper spray guns at family when they arrested a young woman (without bothering to inform her that she was being arrested).

The tension escalated the following year in Wyoming 2008. Again, the USFS accepted an unsigned operating plan worked out with gatherers on the land in lieu of a permit.  Unfortunately, the tension between the heads of the USFS who agreed to the unsigned operating plan model and the LEOs on the ground played out in the LEOs shooting up Kid Village with the same pepper spray paint ball guns they pulled the previous year. For perspectives on this situation from gatherers, click here.   For the report from the federal government on this incident, click here.

And by my accounts, Wyoming 2008 marks the absolute low in the relationship between the United States Forest Service and the Rainbow Gathering.

The New Mexico gathering in 2009 was a strange one.  Again someone not affiliated with the gathering signed a permit.  Everyone was jumpy after 2008. The US Marshals were there to baby sit the USFS LEOs and despite some scary moments, the US Marshals kept the USFS LEOs peaceful (that's not the official party line but I spent a lot of time on that movie and myself as well as others I know believe this to be true).

Then starting with Pennsylvania, 2010, gatherers on the land, working cooperatively with USFS resource and law enforcement personnel continued with the unsigned operating plan model.  The day we counciled on the actual operating plan, the head of the forest and the law enforcement incident commander sat in council with us, passed the feather, and worked together to address concerns, issues and problems.  :)

That relationship continued in Washington 2011 with really awesome USFS LEO leadership working with folks on the land.  An unsigned operating plan was worked out between gatherers and USFS resource personnel.

Tennessee 2012, Montana 2013, Utah 2014, South Dakota 2015, and Vermont 2016 continued the unsigned operating plan model with varying degrees of cooperation between the Forest Service on-the-ground. This mean the gathering and gathering participants are not being targeted or ticketed for being at an illegal event.  

All this brings us to this year. With the regime change in Washington. who knows what to  expect. I will be writing up some thoughts on that as a separate blog post in the next week or so.

If you've managed to read this entire post, you now have a clue.  If you managed to read all the links, you actually understand the journey we've been on with the US Government.  As far as I'm concerned, gatherers sharing love and acting peacefully took on the US Government and we're still standing - quite an accomplishment family.  I know many of us have had differences of opinions over the years on how to deal with this situation and I think this saga proves that we're on a good path, one with many perspectives, a bit of bickering, and more love than my heart can hold. 

Additional References

USFS Non-commercial group use regulations

Welcome Home's FS Regs page

Butterfly Bill's nice summary of court cases.

Butterfly Bill's stories of gatherings' past.

Karin's archive of FOIA Requests

6 comments:

  1. Anybody who demands or signs for a permit is violating the Rights of the People as is clearly defined in the 1st Amendment. Any law, rule or regulation which infringes upon the Constitutional Rights of the People is/are null and void upon the face of them. Anything short of standing by the Rights of the People and done without the consent of the people violates the Rights of the Whole.

    Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
    First Amendment | Constitution | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute
    https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment

    ReplyDelete
  2. Only individuals as citizens of this country can stand up for our constitional rights or we will lose them. Keep up the good will.

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  3. Just an aside, there was a concern on the part of the local authorities on bears getting into the compost pits back in Montana 2013 after the gathering. While the bear population of Oregon isn’t anything near that of Montana it is still bear country and it might be just as well that the kitchens dig their compost pits a little deeper and cover them a little sooner so as to alleviate that particular concern. I recalled Karin writing about it on her blog of that year.
    http://montanagathering2013.blogspot.com/ scroll down to Bears and Gatherings.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Drainbow is dangerous

    ReplyDelete
  5. Brothers and sisters!
    Have you heard about Oregon state's plan to douse Azure Farm with deadly poisons? Check out http://www.naturalblaze.com/2017/05/were-all-tenant-farmers-oregon-plans-to-douse-azure-standard-organic-farm-in-pesticide.html?utm_source=Natural+Blaze+Subscribers&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=71d055518b-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_term=0_b73c66b129-71d055518b-388139689
    Or google it.

    Live lightly on the land!!! Please spread the news.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While I sympathize with Azure, they had ample time to hoe out those weeds if they wanted to remain organic. They are being nuisance neighbors by refusing to contain their noxious weeds. Farm ownership means being a good steward of the land, which they are not doing.

      Delete

I look forward to comments that avoid racist, sexist, homophobic, and/or other 'ism' language that does not advocate violence.