Shumlin asks law enforcement to stop ‘hassling’ Rainbow Family

The annual Rainbow Family Gathering doesn’t officially begin until today, but enforcement by federal officials has already clamped down on the hippie gathering.

Gov. Peter Shumlin said Thursday that he asked federal law enforcement not to harass or hassle anyone at the gathering site in the national forest in Mount Tabor after receiving some reports of intense policing.

“There is no reason to hassle these folks,” Shumlin said.

Officers have issued 131 warnings and 106 violation notices so far to people involved with the gathering, the U.S. Forest Service said in an update Wednesday.

Over the previous two days, 14 pounds of baked goods laced with THC, about 50 grams of a suspicious powdery substance, and various other illegal drugs were confiscated at the gathering, according to the update.

An assault also occurred Tuesday night at one of the campsites being used by members of the group called the Rainbow Family of Living Light, authorities said. The victim had wounds on her face and was treated at Rutland Regional Medical Center.

In all, 75 unsolved crimes and crime locations have been identified, according to the update. One member was also stopped for DUI of a controlled substance.

Sixty Rainbow Family defendants appeared in Rutland court to clear their violations Monday, according to the update.

The Forest Service said 2,300 people are already at the campsite for the gathering, which officially starts Friday.

Along the side of Forest Road 10, otherwise known as Brooklyn Road, dozens of cars, buses and vans were parked facing down the mountain Tuesday. Rainbow Family members, many of whom walk through the national forest barefoot, have set up tents and kitchens along a trail in the woods, and in a meadow they have set up teepees and more tents.

The group meets each year in a different national forest. Authorities have said as many as 20,000 people might attend, but Rainbow Family members said the number usually ends up being around 10,000 at most.

Some Rainbow Family members said the law enforcement is heavy-handed.

Adam Buxbaum, of California, told VTDigger that there has been a “dismayingly overzealous show of force by law enforcement.”

Since June 20, Forest Road 10 has been patrolled hourly by Forest Service officers, Buxbaum said. The officers have been pulling people over for “petty violations” such as broken tail lights, expired inspection stickers and wide turns, he said.

Buxbaum also said the officers have intimidated people into consenting to vehicle searches. If they don’t consent, officers bring police dogs to sniff the cars, which often turns up no contraband, he said.

“One individual was detained for about an hour while officers retrieved a K-9 unit to search his car with,” Buxbaum said. He called that a possible violation of a court ruling that found police officers could not legally extend a traffic stop in order to retrieve a police dog for a search.

William Mickle, incident commander for the U.S. Forest Service, said the service has brought in federal law enforcement officers who work cooperatively with state and local law enforcement.

“As with any large group event, it is imperative to provide law enforcement services to ensure safe and orderly traffic flow, parking, public safety, protection of natural resources and event security,” he said.

Mickle said this is done through vehicle and foot patrols by uniformed officers in marked vehicles. The enforcement actions are compatible with both state and federal law, Mickle said. “In addition, the law enforcement agencies strictly adhere to preserving the civil right of all citizens and providing fair, equitable and reasonable treatment,” he said.

Shumlin suggested that after his intercession, people may see law enforcement being more sensitive to concerns.

“Sometimes we overreact before we have to react,” he said.

Shumlin said he is all for peace and love and believes Vermont should be a welcoming place to all people.

“Let’s live and let live,” he said.

Another Rainbow Family member from California said law enforcement response to the gatherings has stepped up in recent years. She would give only her first name, Paula, because she said she owns a business.

Paula said she has gone to all but five Rainbow Gatherings since 1979 and has taken her children.

She said a strong law enforcement presence isn’t necessary at the gathering. “We’re just a bunch of old hippies, not dangerous terrorists,” Paula said.

Gary Stubbs, a Rainbow Family member from Marysville, California, said the biggest concern the Forest Service has about the gatherings doesn’t ever come to fruition. “For 44 years the Forest Service has been at war with the Rainbow Family,” he said. “But they can never say we damaged the forest.”

He said he has been attending the annual gatherings since 1984. The Rainbow Family members have even stricter standards of cleaning up the campsite than the Forest Service does, Stubbs said.

By next spring, residents won’t even be able to tell the gathering ever happened, he said.

David James Parker, a rapper from the Bronx who goes by his stage name Busy Bee, said he is attending the Rainbow Gathering for the first time this year. “I’ve watched things like this on TV, but to be here live is just awesome and heart-thrilling,” Parker said.

Parker began his career in the late 1970s in old-school hip-hop and has worked with many artists, including Kid Rock, with whom he produced a song that sold 11 million copies, he said.

“People of my culture — the hip-hop culture — need to come visit this event in the future,” he said, adding that he will attend again.

Another musician, Jai Love, from Eugene, Oregon, said he goes almost every year to the gathering. “Some people go home for Christmas. I go to the woods for the Fourth of July,” he said.

For Love, the Rainbow Gathering is the only part of the American culture that is still alive. “I am proud to be an American when I come here and live on this beautiful land,” Love said.

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  • Jason Wells

    Thanks Shumlin, Somebody needed to call out this power trip.

    • Ann Meade

      When 10k people go nuts and people get hurt, who’s fault will that be? 50 grams of a “powder”, 14 lbs of THC baked goods, 75 unsolved crimes? Is anyone organizing this?

  • Jessie McIndoe

    I have to wonder how heavy-handed the forest service and the feds will be when Spanish-owned Iberdrola comes to the Green Mountain National Forest to blast the forest apart for industrial wind turbines. Will the workers there be arrested for littering and spreading blasting debris? Oh wait, the forest service has already received their payoff for that so I guess there will be no arrests of the truly destructive.

    And why is local law enforcement wasting local taxpayer money helping the feds? They don’t have to, the feds have all of their own resources and have no jurisdiction outside of the park. Actually they don’t Constitutionally have any right in it either.

  • Jefff Briggs

    Thank you governor Shumlin! I had a friend who was pulled over down there for having a dusty license plate. She lives on a dirt road like many of us. She is not a threat to public safety or the Green Mountain National Forest. The federal law enforcement response is nothing but harassment and has no place in Vermont.
    It is also a monumental waste of our tax payer money.

    • David Van Deusen

      Well said Jeff. I agree. Hope everyone has a fun, safe, and harrasment free July 4th. Afterall, that (and much more) is why we kicked the Britts out in teh first place.

  • Ed Letourneau

    Looks like SHUMLIN is looking for future votes.

    • With the slight exception that Shumlin has already stated that he’s not running for another term. Has he suddenly changed his mind?

  • Leila LaRosa

    I brought my six year old daughter up there two weeks ago to hike the Appalachian Trail to Little Rock Pond. We had a quiet drive in on FS10 and passed a wonderful day hiking and swimming without incident.

    We came back exactly six days later to visit the Gathering for the afternoon. We passed no less than a dozen state and federal police cars on the 5-mile drive up. There was a K-9 unit driving up and down the roadway, windows open, as we hiked in. If the dog barked the officers would ask anyone standing nearby whether they had drugs.

    We were pulled over on the way in for a dusty license plate (I’m the friend Jeff is referring to), and again on the way out a few hours later for a headlight which was at least legitimate. I’ve lived in Vermont for 16 years and have never experienced the same level of scrutiny. My daughter wants to go back up today, but I’m not so sure I want to go through that again.

    Although the Rutland police officers who pulled us over seemed very much like nice, decent people just doing their jobs, the presence of so many police, the fact that we (a 42-yr-old mom and 6-yr-old girl in a registered, insured typical Vermont Subaru) were pulled over twice in the matter of a few hours, and the juxtaposition of that trip compared to our quiet hiking outing on the same road just one week earlier left me feeling that this is not fair, not the Vermont way, and maybe not altogether legal.

    People who are ticketed are being made to appear at court, within 48 hours, for traffic violations. If you don’t show, they can issue a federal arrest warrant. Can you imagine getting a ticket for a blown tail light, dusty license plate or wide right turn and then being required to drive to a courthouse for a hearing in order to pay your fine? Have you ever had to do that before in any previous situation?

    I want Vermont to be better than this. The next time you hear about how much the Gathering will be costing the tax payers, ask yourself whether this level of enforcement is actually justified or necessary.

    I appreciate Gov. Shumlin weighing in. I would like to bring my family up on the 4th for the peace prayer, but I feel intimidated at the thought of running that gauntlet again. As someone who is a long-time advocate for public lands, it makes me sad. I don’t want anyone to be intimidated away from our national forests out of fear – this resource belongs to all of us, not just the “right kind” of people. What is happening up in that forest is profiling and harassment, and a wasteful use of taxpayer dollars.

  • Neil Johnson

    Yet if business wants to have a block party with maybe 200 people, we have to get permits, police to direct traffic, Porto lets fro everyone. If we (business) had an event this large it would probably need an act 250 permit. So how is it that Vermont is being unreasonable? They are only unreasonable to business owners.

    • Mike Gardner

      even worse, If I want to camp no Mt Tabor for two weeks during deer season I can’t. 10 day maximum, but they’re ok letting 20k hippies crap in a ditch and have several hundred camp out for 3 weeks between setup and tear down.

      Utter BS

      • Dan Wordstone

        If you want to join them, Mike, you’ll be welcomed with open arms! Welcome to the Family!

      • Mike,
        FS regulations allow you to camp in the GMNF for 21 days straight. there is no 10 day limit.

    • Diana April

      Rainbow is on the poke opposite of business. In fact, there is no money or payment at a gathering, only gifts and trades. We are not gathering with the end goal of profit, like businesses who hold a block party are. We are there for community, to share time in the woods with our family and friends, to spread good energy and love with each other, and foremost to pray for peace towards all of the world together on the fourth of July. Besides that, we have a constitutional right to be there.

      • Neil Johnson

        People coming together, even if not business would need a permit anywhere else. Trading/barter is just avoiding any taxes, people don’t usually trade down. Business is not evil and a block party shouldn’t be discriminated against, because they actually use money rather than barter. It’s our constitutional right also to pursue life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The federal government wouldn’t allow everyone to barter, they wouldn’t be able to collect taxes.

        • David White

          where in the constitution does it say permit required ?

          • Neil Johnson

            Not sure it does, but in Vermont you need a permit for everything, more so in some towns than others. As Citizens we are stuck with them, I’m pointing out that they are actually getting better treatment than any other entity.

      • Todd Morris

        public property is public property regardless of profit margin. Remember most businesses are small privately owned by good people like yourself. All should be allowed equal access under equal restrictions. Who gives a crap about the purpose. Business are demonized so I must ask how do you pay for living in this world?

  • “Buxbaum also said the officers have intimidated people into consenting to vehicle searches. If they don’t consent, officers bring police dogs to sniff the cars, which often turns up no contraband, he said.” Probable cause? Profiling due to a tie-dye shirt ?

    I’m sure we’ll all feel so much safer with such a large law enforcement presence protecting the woods. Glad to see the Forest Service has their priorities in order with our tax dollars.

  • In Vermont, Law Enforcement is only for the Honest Taxpayers.
    What if the Police all pulled back…..then there’s a problem, they don’t respond, someone gets hurt or dies….you can hear it now, Oh the Police don’t care Blah Blah Blah.
    Glad the Gov has this high on his Priority List, who knows he could be working on the States poor economy instead.

    • Paul Richards

      “…he could be working on the States poor economy instead.”
      What poor economy? Why, we have plenty of money! We have so much money we stepped right out and became the first state to give out thousands of dollars to individuals for day care. Apparently we are quite with flush with cash. Don’t worry about a thing.

    • In Vermont or any other state for that matter, police are mandated to “serve and protect” whether someone is a tax paying resident or not. They also are mandated to obey the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights. Profiling by a person’s appearance in order to search for drugs etc. etc. without “probable cause” is violation of Fourth Amendment protection. This would also include “pretext stops” such as a broken tail light in order to search a car.
      In the U.S. there is civilian control by of the police and military, not vice a versa as it is in some countries.

      • Jerry, you may have seen “serve and protect” on the side of a police car but that certainly is not a mandate.

  • Elise Eaton

    Thank you Neil Johnson, for capturing well in your comment, what makes for Vermont’s ongoing and typical one-sided, glaring and far-left leaning politics. Not pretty at all.

  • Donna Boutin

    I am wondering who’s going to clean up after they all leave, you know they won’t..where are they going to the bathroom, where are they putting the toilet paper, in the bushes?? What about damages to the forest? Taxpayers footing the bill? I remember when Phish’s was in Coventry, Vermont in 2004..what a mess they left..Shumlin thank goodness you aren’t going to be governor anymore..Seems like you like having drugs in Vt..

    • Heidi Clements

      Actually, Donna- as it states in the article: ‘The Rainbow Family members have even stricter standards of cleaning up the campsite than the Forest Service does’ As for the bathroom issues, if you’re really curious, you should attend a gathering and find out. It is obvious by your comments that you are completely speculating on something that you have zero first-hand knowledge about.

    • Diana April

      Wow. Good job making false assumptions about people who listen to phish and comparing them to ALL rainbow family. Congtatulatiins, you are judgmental. I hope you make a visit to Mt tabor when the gathering is over and make an informed opinion on how we “clean up”(we call it “disappearing”, because that is exactly what we do under the leave no trace policy, but im sure being as wise as you are you already knew that.

    • The rainbow family will clean the forest till every bit of trash is gone..we crap in a trench like the us military does and we cover our tp n poop…and why do we need your tax dollars we do not want them..

      • Neil Johnson

        See the citizens of Vermont wouldn’t be allowed to use your trench ala military style. It’s not permitted. No judgment, just saying you folks are doing things the rest of us get serious fines for doing. We’re just pointing out some blatant favoritism being shown for you folks that the rest of us aren’t privy to and we pay the taxes to run the state.

  • I have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Forest Service law enforcement agents for unconstitutionally prolonging my June 23rd traffic stop, without reasonable suspicion, for the unrelated purposed of investigating illegal drugs. The case number is 2:16-CV-184 in Federal District Court, Burlington. After being stopped for a minor violation, I was subject to a follow-on investigation for illegal drugs. I declined the original officer’s request to search my vehicle, then was subject to repetitive questioning from two additional Forest Service law enforcement officers, and one Rutland County Sheriff’s Deputy. The questioning lasted until K9 drug sniffing unit arrived, which ultimately found nothing.

    This type of law enforcement activity violates clearly established fourth amendment rights against unconstitutional search and seizure, which the US Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld in a line of cases, most recently in Rodriguez v. United States (May 2015). From my observation, this is a widespread occurrence at the 2016 Rainbow Gathering here in Vermont. People traveling to and from the Gathering are being pulled over under pretexts, such a having a dusty license plate or making a wide turn, then subject to the same treatment I received. Even reporters, such as Rutland Herald reporter Dan Colton, have been stopped and questioned for no apparent reason.

    I have spoken to Special Agent Bill Mickle, “Incident Commander” for the Gathering, about his law enforcement operation. He feels the extended stops are justified by the Will of Congress (read War on Drugs) and because the Rainbow Gathering is a “high drug area.” The act of fleeing police in a known high crime area can constitutionally create a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. However, Agent Mickles seems to believe that just driving on forest roads near the Gathering creates a reasonable suspicion, which it clearly does not.

    I filed my lawsuit because the situation at the Gathering is badly in need of court supervision. As of Friday evening, my motion for a temporary restraining order is under review by Chief Judge Christina Reiss. I am hopeful that the combination of Governor Shumlin’s rebuke, the ACLU’s criticism, and pending court review will encourage the Forest Service to rethink their law enforcement operations.

    • Jan van Eck

      Good show! Sue them all.

  • Bill Olenick

    The governor is correct on this call.

    The federal government has become a paramilitary organization that in many cases acts in a pure self serving manner.

    We need to DE-paramilitaryize the federal workforce except where it concerns national security and if the harassment continues I call on the governor to call out the state national guard to protect the citizenry and the guests of the state of VT against an overreaching self serving federal paramilitary workforce.

    Time to cut power and budgets in Washington and send this activity back to the states and local levels,where most of the functions belongs in the first place…

    Bill Olenick

  • Time for shumlin to move on. He is the one intolerant. he forest does not belong to him.

  • Steve Merrill

    Where is the “spokesman” for the GMNF? It used to be Ethan Ready that spoke for the trees? Will no one (that’s paid anyways) speak for the Forest? Did they eliminate that position? Are they hiring out for another? Do the Fed’s pay overtime for the local “authorities”? If the Rainbow’s were attired in Brooks Bro.’s and wingtips would they still be treated thusly? Do WE pay the Rainbow’s public defenders in court? Inquiring minds want to know! SM, N.Troy.

  • Todd Morris

    Wouldn’t it be reasonable to think that governors office at some level would have discussed this gathering with state and local law enforcement ahead of time? I must say I am on the side of the campers on this one. Law enforcement in general have devolved over the past 20 years to more and more seemingly being enemies of the people rather than protectors. A ticket for a dusty license plate is a clear example…is this being a protector or an enemy of the people? Should this engender my respect or my contempt?

  • Theo Talcott

    Props to Governor Shumlin for encouraging tolerance with this community. Their ecological stewardship during their visit is a role model for the state’s management of our precious ecological heritage.

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