PRESS RELEASE: Town Meeting Scheduled, Gatherers Spirited Yet Concerned for Personal Safety

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Website: www.rpcnews.us
Email: rpcrew1 at gmail.com

TOWN MEETING SCHEDULED, GATHERERS SPIRITED YET CONCERNED FOR PERSONAL SAFETY

Cuba, NM (June 12, 2009) – A town meeting is scheduled for 6:00 PM on Wednesday, June 17th, at the community hall in Cuba, NM. Local residents and Rainbow gathering enthusiasts will come together to discuss this year’s annual Rainbow Gathering with the intent of ensuring a positive, peaceful and healthy experience for all. Interested parties are encouraged and invited to attend.

This meeting is particularly significant because gatherers want to assure the local residents that the gathering will not have nearly as many visitors as was recently reported in the local media, and that the gatherers who do attend strictly adhere to the principles of peace and non-violence, because the entire goal of the weeklong event is to camp out peacefully and pray for world peace.

A report broadcasted from KOAT ABC news stated that the gathering could be as large as 75,000 people. Recent gathering attendance has actually been closer to 7,000, according to United States Forest Service (USFS) estimates. Forest Service spokeswoman Mary Cernicek noted that “some of the larger gatherings have been upwards of 30,000.” (Pinedale WY Roundup, June 11, 2008.) While this has been true in the past, gatherers believe the Forest Service often overestimates attendance to receive more funding. Another Forest Service spokeswoman more accurately reported in reference to the 2007 Arkansas gathering, “The event reached its peak with an estimated 6,000 people.” (Arkansas Online, July 6, 2007). Regardless of their numbers, many of the attendees will be vacationing professionals who will bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the area.

Many believe attendance at the annual event is falling because of the government’s intensified harassment campaign against Rainbow events. This has ranged from numerous citations for offenses like having a dusty windshield after driving on an unpaved road, to six-month prison sentences for gathering without a permit, to the Forest Service’s recent purchase of 700 tasers and subsequent tasering of peaceful gatherers hours away from any hospital. One gatherer was even tasered at the 2008 annual Gathering in Wyoming while he was in handcuffs and already on the ground. Video is available of this incident.

Last year the tension between gatherers and law-enforcement officers reached a peak on July 3rd when a law-enforcement team opened fire on Kid Village which is the children’s area of the gathering. Just as the children were about to have dinner, the team tackled and arrested a gatherer in the food preparation area of the kitchen, directly in front of the children. Gatherers moved towards the children to shield them from the officers’ demonstration of violence. The officers over-reacted to this sudden movement and opened fire with bullets packed with pepper spray, many of which would explode on impact.

Many more gatherers arrived quickly in response to the call, “Shots fired in Kid Village!” to protect the children. Peacekeepers kept the angry gatherers at a safe distance from the officers who continued firing, now appearing frightened. Then for reasons unknown, the officers began targeting the peacekeepers, shooting them in the back. Other gatherers tried to show the officers the way out of the gathering, but the attack on the gatherers continued until the officers finally cooperated and left.

The Forest Service immediately launched a vast media campaign and by July 5th, newspapers far and wide printed the officers’ claims that they were surrounded by 400 gatherers who threw rocks and sticks at them. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sharply contradicted those claims in an investigative report based on interviews with about 60 witnesses. The ACLU report concluded that the USFS presence at Rainbow gatherings showed an unnecessary pattern of “continual harassment and heavy-handed enforcement methods.” The Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General is currently looking into the incident after numerous citizen complaints about the officers’ behavior.

Seed camp has begun with volunteers helping to set up for the gathering; a temporary village is being built amid the trees, Swiss Family Robinson-style. Enjoyable occurrences like theatrical performances, religious services of all kinds, workshops, campfire musical jams, poetry slams, sign-language classes, pie bake-offs, parades and more unfold. Among the many interesting things to see and experience there is autonomy in action. Gatherers successfully maintain their own security, public health, water and sanitation systems, and volunteer crews cover parking, fire patrol and communications – all without any leaders or hierarchy – and have done so for over 37 years. Rainbow volunteers operate on both a moral and practical work ethic they hope the world will adapt: “If everybody does a little bit, everything gets done.”

Gatherers hope that their peaceful intentions will be met with a readiness to cooperate on the part of the employees responsible for the National Forests. However it is feared that intimidation tactics such as blatant shows of force have already begun for this year, one of the first indications that the gatherers will be harassed or worse. On June 10th, the first day the gatherers convened to decide on the gathering location, a witness spotted “14 USFS jeep type vehicles pull out of their headquarters (in Albuquerque) in formation and head north.”

The gathering is set to take place in the Santa Fe National Forest, north of Albuquerque, from July 1 through 7; clean-up runs from July 8 to completion. Although gatherers are wary of law enforcement presence, they anticipate a wonderful reunion with old friends and a great time had by all. Interested members of the public can learn more at gathering.webhop.biz, a website run by gathering enthusiasts who, naturally, represent no one but themselves.

This press release is provided as a service of the Rainbow press crew, a completely unofficial affiliation of volunteers who – like all the other volunteers who work to make the gathering happen in a peaceful manner- have not been authorized by anyone to speak for any Rainbow related entities or events. Additional press releases are on the Rainbow press crew’s website, www.rpcnews.us.

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June 13, 2009. Uncategorized.

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