Rainbow Family peace group to gather in Pa. forest
Jun 22, 2010
Thousands are expected to flock to a national forest in northwestern
Pennsylvania next month for the annual gathering of Rainbow Family.
Rainbow Family is an informal group of self-styled hippies and peace
activists that meets each year on public lands.
State police in Erie say they expect between 10,000 and 12,000 people
at the festivities in Allegheny National Forest from July 1 through
July 7. The gathering will be near Warren, about 50 miles southeast of Erie.
Sgt. Mark Zaleski says police plan to have 24-7 patrols on during the
event. Zaleski says the group met in the forest in 1999 and 2007,
with mostly only minor problems.
Forest Service spokeswoman Nadine Pollock says the agency is working
with Rainbow Family to help set things up.
Rainbow Family update
Jun 21st, 2010
By Derek Farr
The Rainbow Family of Living Light has selected the Alleghany
National Forest (ANF) in western Pennsylvania as the site for this
year's national gathering.
It's been two years since the Rainbows brought their national
gathering to the Big Sandy area of Sublette County where nearly 7,000
people meandered into the Bridger-Teton National Forest for a
weeklong counter-culture celebration.
While a few locals welcomed the group, an intense dichotomy between
the Rainbows and Sublette County's conservative political
inclinations generated some discontent.
Adding to the tension, the Rainbows clashed with Forest Service law
enforcement officers in a July 5 "riot" after the arrest of a man
suspected of marijuana possession.
One year later, with the Wyoming gathering site nearly reclaimed
(minus one abandoned car), the Rainbows gathered in the Santa Fe
National Forest near Cuba, N.M.
Even though there were numerous arrests for possession of controlled
substances, nothing resembling the 2008 riot occurred.
For this year's national gathering, the group is leaving the
semi-arid west for the lush and insect-loving deciduous forests
of western Pennsylvania.
It's a tradition that dates back to 1972 when the first national
gathering occurred in Colorado. Since then, the group has hosted a
gathering on national forest land every year, including twice in the
Bridger-Teton (2008 near Big Sandy and 1994 near Big Piney) and twice
on the ANF this year represents the third ANF gathering and the
second time at the exact same site.
The Forest Service responds to the annual event, which traditionally
takes place during the first week of July, with a specially trained
incident management team.
The gathering cumulates with a prayer for world peace on the morning
of July 4. More than 20,000 people attended the last ANF gathering in
1999. A similar attendance is expected for this year's gathering.
The Rainbows have no organized structure, formal leadership or
recognized spokesperson. Rather, most information about this year's
gathering is being disseminated at www.welcomhere.com.
In Erie, a Rainbow in the forest drives debate
By LISA THOMPSON
Jun 25, 2010
If a member of the Rainbow family drives her car three miles per hour
over the speed limit in the depths of Allegheny National Forest, does
the federal government know it?
Unfortunately for Susan Monser, the answer is yes.
Monser was one of 24 Rainbow Gathering attendees who had to leave the
camping event in the Allegheny National Forest on Thursday to travel
to Erie's federal courthouse to answer a citation issued by U.S.
Forest Service law enforcement agents.
The second floor of the courthouse was crowded with at least a dozen
U.S. Forest Service officers in tan and green uniforms, as well as
members of the U.S. Marshals Service, who mingled with the
defendants, some of whom sported dreadlocks, multiple body piercings,
tattoos and distinctive odors.
Outside, a long line of green and white U.S. Forest Service sport
utility vehicles were parked in front of the courthouse, in an area
where parking is normally prohibited because of security concerns.
Monser was found guilty of speeding after a hearing before U.S.
District Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter. Monser was one of
two Rainbow Gathering visitors who chose to contest her charges in a
hearing. She said her car won't go the 48 mph the officer said it was
clocked at. The officer said she offered him a doughnut when he
pulled her over.
Other defendants resolved charges _ such as simple drug possession,
traffic violations or charges of interfering with officers' duties _
by pleading guilty and paying a fine.
Warrants were issued for five people who failed to appear for their hearings.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Piccinini, the chief federal
prosecutor in Erie, said it is difficult to manage any large
gathering of people _ the Rainbow Gathering is expected to draw as
many as 20,000 people to the forest during the event, which runs from
Thursday to July 7. The group is camping in a remote area between
Sheffield and Tidioute, near the Hearts Content Recreational Area.
The Rainbows, a loosely organized group that gathers by the thousands
in a national forest every year, have been in the Allegheny Forest
twice before _ in 1986 and 1999.
Each Gathering culminates with a prayer for world peace on the Fourth of July.
The court proceedings held Thursday in Erie will be followed by three
more days of hearings to process new violations on Tuesday, Thursday
and July 8, Piccinini said.
That means authorities' time won't be tied up in issuing warrants and
tracking people down after they have dispersed from the event, he said.
"We can resolve it while they are here," he said. "It is actually
more convenient for them."
Mary Rasmussen, a spokeswoman for the Forest Service, said the
service is not handling cases against the Rainbows more aggressively
than the last time the group was in the Allegheny National Forest.
"The primary objective of our presence is to provide for the safety
of the Rainbow attendees, the public and our employees."
She said about a dozen Forest Service workers are "managing the
incident," though she did not know how many employees the Forest
Service had brought in from elsewhere. Indications were that many
others have come in from other Forest Service locations throughout the country.
Of the officers who testified in hearings Thursday, one, Robert
Bannon, works in the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana. Another
said he typically works in a forest in Northern California.
Piccinini said a gathering that large "poses large logistical and
administrative concerns that have nothing to do with who the people
are who are represented."
He said in any group that large, safety is a concern. He said there
were two violent crimes during the gathering a year ago in New Mexico.
"The right to peacefully assemble in the forest does not include the
right to violate federal law," he said.
Lawyers John McCall, of Albuquerque, N.M., and Don E. Wirtschafter,
of Athens, Ohio, traveled to Erie to provide free legal
representation to the defendants who wanted it.
"I care about the Rainbow family. I do not like the federal
government's assault on their right to gather," Wirtschafter said.
They said the government is targeting the gathering and citing people
for petty offenses in an effort to scare off those who are arriving
to attend the event. They said the Forest Service uses the event as a
training opportunity for its officers and has budgeted up to $1
million in some years to cover the costs.
Charles Pomenville, a 54-year-old carpenter from Vermont, was the
second defendant to challenge the charge against him _ interference
with the duties of an officer.
Testimony indicated that his camper was parked along a forest road,
partially on the road. When an officer asked him to move it, he said,
"OK," and returned to the vehicle.
The officer said he thought that meant Pomenville did not intend to
follow the order, so he then opened the camper's door and ordered
Pomenville to step out and to produce identification. As he ran a
search on Pomenville's identification, three other officers
surrounded Pomenville, who the officer said wanted to "debate everything."
Eventually, Pomenville was tackled to the ground by three other
officers who were on the scene. Pomenville was accused of not taking
his hands out of his pockets when ordered, which the officer said was
a threat to officer safety.
Pomenville, who also goes by the name Peacetrain, said he contested
the charges to "take one for the team."
Pomenville said he found it ironic to find himself in a courtroom.
Attending Rainbow Gatherings, he said, "is the most peaceful thing I
do in my life, and it is so opposed."