Every July some 15,000 people converge on Forest Service land in a wave of buses, outdoor kitchens and non-stop music for a month-long gathering. Now, members of the Rainbow Family say a new permit requirement by the Forest Service threatens their annual get-together.
"We are faced with
overzealous bureaucrats who don't know how to let freedom be," says
Garrick Beck, a gem dealer who helped organize the first Rainbow
gathering in 1972.
But agency officials say the
permit, which applies to all non-commercial gatherings of over 75
people, is free, easy to get and will help limit environmental
impacts from big groups. Forest Service officials say the Rainbow
Family has a good record of cleaning up, and that they will likely
have little trouble meeting sanitation and other
In the 1980s, Rainbow members won
court challenges of similar rules, arguing they violated the right
of assembly. Because the Rainbows have no designated leader, Beck
cannot predict how the group will respond. If no one signs the
permit, "we might have civil disobedience on a massive scale."
* Warren Cornwall