Cops on Welfare

The attention recently given our festive Rainbow Gatherings has observed tremendous expenses on the part of various public agencies. This raises some important questions about the huge budgets the government is running up on the Rainbow's accounts. Is the Forest Service spending its way through the roof while it tries to blame the Rainbows for causing the expense?

For example, the cleanup: in all 26 year's of the Forest Service's ownreports, the Rainbows have done a remarkable job of restoring the public landson which the Gatherings have been held. In 1995, when the scouts choose an area whose deep rooted meadow grasses were especially suited to high impact recovery, District Ranger Dan Rael pointed out where overgrazing in previousyears had caused a permanent erosion problem on streambanks of the valley's creek system. He voiced his hope that the family's cleanup crew might include restoring those areas as well.

Yet - and this is just one of dozens of similar examples over the years - when family members requested use of  "bladder bags" (a standard fire fighting tool) to help wet down trails and high impact areas for soilrecovery, the Forest Service told them there was no budget for such tools.

Where then are the huge piles of taxpayer dollars going? Forest Conservation Officer Silver Rael, the main liaison with the Rainbow's 1995 cleanup just shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't know, except for a few hours of overtime for me and a couple of my assistants, my office hasn't gotten anything."

The answer to where the money goes lies in the pockets of the so-called "Special Agents " of the US Forest Service. These agents are run from a Washington, D.C. bureaucracy which views itself as another national level police force and which sees the Rainbow Gatherings as a money bucket from which to guzzle public funds.

In 1987 the rainbows caught these guys occupying 33 rooms of a lakeside resort hotel and drinking the entirety of the resort's wine cellar, anddining on weeks' worth of roast beef dinners at the taxpayers' expense. The rainbows lobbied the Chief of the Forest Service, and these abuses stopped.

In 1988 after arguing in Federal Court that these same US Forest Service "Special Agents" had blocked the entrance of a drinking water truck into the gathering site, and delayed one of the family ambulances from taking a sick little girl to the hospital, the judge in the case ruled that "Indeed, there is substantial support for the defendants argument that the government has acted with hostility to the Rainbow Family."

In 1989 in Nevada this same group of enforcement agents was again flown in. They began stopping every vehicle on the way into the gathering,illegally searching hundreds and hundreds of cars without a single warrant. They ran dogs over all the fruit and produce the family was trucl;ing in, and c ut opensacks of flour, letting it pour out onto the ground. They even forced agrandmother to stand out in the broiling desert sun while they searched hervehicle. This practice only ceased when the rainbows produced papers threatening a multimillion dollar lawsuit against them.

In 1995, joyriders from Kirkland Air Force Base flew a C-130 transport plane and a helicopter over the gathering site for no apparent reason at all. Was this expense figured in the government's accounting?

Over the last seven years, the enforcement budget has grown even fatter. New weapons, new vehicles, new high-tech communications hardware, overtime and holiday pay scales -not for the local enforcement teams that live and work here and who will continue to do so in the future. No, all this goes to this national level cop-force whose existence is still unknown to most Americans.

Wisely, the regional Forest Service the past two years has insisted that its own local law enforcement team be in charge.

Pancho Smith, a Southwest regional Forest Service law officer who worked most closely with the family, said that knowing what he knew at the end of the Gathering, he would have done just as well with less than half the officers.

At a regional gathering in Florida a man stepped out of his tent to pee in the middle of the night and was surprised by a "Special Agent" in a ninja-like outfit sporting night-vision goggles. The agent ticketed the rainbow for public nudity!

Last year, in Missouri, the Special Agents set up a roadblock to harrass people entering the Gathering, ticketing people for not having proof of insurance, when that isn't even required by that state's lawa. The "Special Agents" were told to shut their operation down by the Administrative leader of the Forest Service in that region, but no, they appealled their case to the Washington D.C. law enforcement overmeisters, who gave them the go-ahead to keep it up. I recall one US S "Special Agent" driving about in a brand new - publicly owned - (and unmarked) luxury sedan as his police car.

But law enforcement isn't the only team scarfing at the rainbow pie. Literally dozens of governmental offices facing budget cuts see this public event as a source of funding: Immigration and Naturalization, the F.B.I. the A.T.F., the D.E.A., Fish and Game, Army Intelligence, the National Guard, the C.D.C.the B.L.M., and the B.I.A., have sent both undercover and regular employeesto surveil, and study this group. In some years government agents have recorded every license plate number from every car that traveled into theGathering. Does this not have a chilling effect on the first amendment rights of association and assembly?

Further, there is evidence that all this government spending is largely unnecessary. In 1983 at the Michigan Gathering and in 1986 in Pennsylvania responsible Forest Service Supervisors minimized governmental expense and succeeded with no higher incidence ofproblems, and much much lower public costs.

Even more dramatic is the example of California (1984) where twice as many people attended as most years, yet the feds spent only a quarter of recent years' budgets.

When a public information officer from the National Forest is quoted as saying that he hasn't seen any Rainbows covering local hospital costs, he neglects to tell us that he hasn't bothered to check with the head of the regional hospital's task force on the gathering, with whom rainbows have been in touch concerning outstanding bills from Gathering attendees.

When a spokesperson for the Dept. of Human Services talks up theincreased number of food stamp applications, he neglects to tell us that Washington sent food stamp agency bureaucrats to override local county policy, letting it he known to young Rainbows that the stamps could he theirs with no ID check, no address, no waiting. Why? Did the government want to feed these people, or to make it tempting to rainbows to take the handout, and to beunfair in the eyes of the locals as well ? This practice was only stopped when Rainbows themselves made a formal complaint on the subject.

Besides, where do these homeless and hungry people come from?These are people from America trying to eat, live, to find some rest.And it is true that for a few short I many of these lonely people find more caring at the Gathering than they can anywhere else.

But far more of the Rainbows are job-carrying citezens who believe in the sharing and caring principles that the gathering represents.Otherwise the "Magic Hat" that's around the encampment could never fill up with the money Rainbows use to purchase the tons of food, the miles of water pipe, the shuttle gas. and the medical supplies that the gathering pays for and consumes.

Hundreds of Rainbows come to each year's come through the nearby airports and rent automobiles to attend. Thousands more drive long distances, stay in motels and campgrounds en route, buy camping supplies, trail foods, flashlights -- millions of dollars of camping gear is set up in "rainbow valley," and much of it is brand new. And probably a thousand or more visitors to each gathering tour the beautiful areas of thestate surrounding the Gathering site, spending welcome tourist dollars on summer fun.

The spokes people for the National Forest system, All on the public payroll, do these taxpaying citizens a dis-service when they criticize them for using their own forest lands.

Lastly these same spokes people do all the citizens of their country a dis-service when they announce publicly that these Rainbows have this right to assemble only because of one judge's ruling a few years ago. No, this right of peaceable assembly is the birthright of all people everywhere, and all the law in this country from the Constitution on down through two hundred years of case law has continuously upheld this precious right.

The attempt by Forest Service bureaucrats to regulate away the rights of the Rainbows to gather, also takes that right away from everyone. The attempts by the Forest Service to discredit the Rainbows by blaming them for running up the bill is just one more case of bureaucracy pointing the finger at everyone but itself.

Garrick Beck,
Agua Fria, New Mexico