Like 2007, Feds attempt to incite riot -
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CHILDREN, DOGS AND CAMPERS ATTACKED ON EVE OF DAY OF PRAYER
Feds attempt to incite another riot
Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyo (July 10, 2008) – Federal Law
Enforcement Officers ("LEOs") of the United States Forest Service
(USFS) committed multiple acts of violence against campers, their
children and their dogs at the Annual Rainbow Gathering being held in
the woods near Big Sandy, which unofficially ends today. The
gatherers' entire purpose in assembling is to silently pray for world
peace on the Fourth of July. The harassment included multiple tasering
incidents, writing hundreds of tickets, searching many gatherer's
vehicles, kicking sunbathers awake to search them for guns and poking
into people's tents. The harassment culminated in an attack of 50-60
rounds of pepper ball bullets being shot both indiscriminately and
specifically at campers in the Gathering's Kiddie Village (KV), a camp
where children play gently and joyfully all day. This incident took
place at dinner time while campers were praying before their meal.
At 12:00 pm on July 3, phalanxes of LEOs equipped with sidearms,
tasers, pepper spray bullet rifles, mace, nightsticks and wearing
bulletproof vests entered camp in flanking military formation.
Throughout the day they swept through the site rousing people from
their tents, handcuffing and searching them, writing many tickets for
minor infractions and answering most people's concerned questions with
silence. Gatherers with cameras kept watch of their movements from a
good distance. A trombonist provided musical accompaniment for part of
Around 6:00 PM, dinnertime in the main meadow was starting. As
gatherers prayed before their meal, they witnessed officers moving
towards KV. Moments later, main meadow gatherers heard the call "fire
at KV" and saw smoke coming from the camp.They sprung into action
grabbing buckets of water, responding to the call. They soon found out
the smoke was really a cloud of pepper spray.
Meanwhile at KV officers invaded KV's kitchen, charged through it's
food preparation area, tackled an approximately 50-year old man and
apprehended him. When parents moved to shield their children from the
officers with tasers and pepper ball rifles now drawn, shots were
fired towards the ground. The LEOs continued to aim at gatherers who
sat, prayed and calmly and repeatedly asked them to leave. One
gatherer explained to the officers, "Kids are here, this is Kiddie
Village, everything is fine." Others pleaded, "Please get your guns
out of Kiddie Village," and reminded the officers, "We mean you no
harm." The LEOs would not leave.
One woman begged the officers to say why they were arresting the man.
A LEO pulled her to the ground by her hair while she was holding her
dog, and she was also apprehended. The officers moved the woman in a
direction away from the Gathering exit, to an area out of view of
witnesses. Gatherers needed to keep witness to her and her dog's
mistreatment, so they moved closer. Officers opened fire once again,
this time striking people.
Gatherers with buckets of water arrived on the scene, and upon
witnessing this violence realized that the call, "fire in Kiddie
Village" was a different call, "Shots fired in Kiddie Village." They
didn't know if they had come upon real ammunition being fired in a
camp that had always been a safe haven for children, or what was going
on. Upon hearing shouts such as, "Terrorists!" and "You're shooting at
children," they became upset and tried to escort the LEOs quickly away
from the children and onto the trail leading out of the Gathering,
determined to protect the children. The LEOs would not cooperate and
Officer Lampy (of the USFS) pointed out her non-violent targets to a
LEO armed with a pepper ball rifle, who obeyed and fired. Multiple
rounds of pepper ball bullets were fired indiscriminately as well.
Pepper spray hit babies; the air in KV was thick with the irritant.
Most people in KV were affected by the spay and suffered symptoms
including respiratory distress, temporary blindness and breaks in skin
integrity such as burns, bruises and welts. Nurse Practitioner Jane
Albert said, "Many children were visibly upset, crying hysterically
and had to be calmed down."
"The police then fired shots and hit a child, before turning to fire
upon another man carrying a child on his back. The man went down and
the child fell," explained witness Jeff Bender. "Both myself and my
dog were shot repeatedly," said another witness named Michael. -Pissed
Off Former Democrat Blog, July 9, 2008.
Peacekeepers tried to keep a safe distance between the LEOs and
confused and agitated volunteers who'd just run all the way up from
main circle with buckets of water. The peacekeepers held their arms
out wide, walked backwards with their backs to the officers, close to
the main meadow volunteers, and called out orders such as "Stay
peaceful, people!" The "safe distance" was not safe enough for the
satisfaction of the officers who continued firing aimlessly. While the
peacekeepers reminded people that we are all peacekeepers, they were
then specifically and deliberately struck by the LEOs with pepper ball
bullets. One peacekeeper was shot in the back eight times. He turned
around and asked, "Why did you shoot me? I'm trying to help you!" He
was then shot three more times.
Long time gatherer David Alexander English guided the officers towards
a short cut out of the Gathering which they eventually used. "We're
making a left," he said calmly. A LEO pointed a taser with an aiming
laser at English's face from three feet away and warned, "Come any
closer and I'll shoot you!" English responded, "Dude, I'm trying to
lead you out." The officer said, "Oh, okay." English later reflected,
"It was a really heated moment." Another woman was held while she was
maced in her face.
More rifles were pointed deliberately and directly at children and a
baby. One gatherer reported that on the LEOs' way out, they shot up a
camp on the road, sending "vets scattering into the woods for safety!"
-Wyoming Gathering 2008 Blog, July 4, 2008. Reinforcement officers
also did not hesitate to point their assault rifles at the campers.
The LEOs left with their arrestees. The gatherers collected
information, wrote depositions, and then shook it off and had a great
and spirited Fourth of July.
It has been printed widely that 400 gatherers threw "rocks and sticks"
after LEOs arrested someone at main meadow, that a government vehicle
was damaged and that an officer was injured. There were about 100-200
gatherers present at the height of the incident, no LEO incidents took
place at main meadow this year, no government vehicle was damaged and
no officer was hurt. Video shot from the beginning of the incident on
through has already left the Gathering, and will clearly show whether
any rocks or sticks were thrown; not one gatherer said they witnessed
anything being thrown.
Smears in the press regarding the "rocks and sticks" accusation were
rampant and went as far as one headline stating "...Forest Service
officials stoned by hippie group..." -World Net Daily, July 7, 2008.
USFS Law Enforcement and Investigations director John C. Twiss
contradicted the release sent by his own agency by saying, "About 70
people were yelling profanities," and said "no officer was hit." -
Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 7, 2008.
Twiss added, "They've (Rainbow gatherers) been attracting a different
kind of crowd in recent years." -Casper Star Tribune, July 8, 2008. It
should be noted that this statement is commonly given by law
enforcement agencies right before instigating a non-stop campaign of
continuous police presence and harassment towards any number of events
they wish to squelch.
Twiss ended by stating, "When you're throwing a rock at somebody's
head, you're potentially looking at hurting somebody seriously or
killing them. Our officers certainly could have been looking at using
deadly force, but they didn't." -Casper Star Tribune, July 8, 2008.
In fact, officers already used deadly force when they struck at least
three peaceful gatherers in the face, "at somebody's head," with
pepper ball bullets shooting from rifles at a much higher velocity
than any arm could ever throw. One witness reported that a peacekeeper
"was shot six times in the back (no wounds in the front!) one shot
went through his arm entering his bare tricep and exiting his bicep
leaving two holes with blood pouring out the entrance wound in the
back and the exit wound in the front requiring on site medical and
bandaging." -Wyoming Gathering 2008 Blog, July 4, 2008. Many other
gatherers were also hit in the back and front repeatedly; photos were
taken of one individual who had 11 pepper ball welts.
Gatherers reported being tasered on their way in to help set up the
Gathering prior to June 24. On the July 3 "The Rule of Law" radio
program, a gatherer named Rob reported live via a satellite phone
belonging to the show's co-producer, that they (the USFS) "tasered and
assaulted a guy last night (July 2)...Multiple officers tasered him.
We spent the entire morning trying to figure out what jail they took
him to because they don't really want to tell us anything. They
supposedly tasered somebody else again this morning. We're still
trying to verify that one." The USFS also refused to answer questions
from the press regarding the whereabouts and status of arrestees.
Agency spokeswoman Rita Vollmer stated, "we're not releasing that
information. It's sensitive information for investigations. They're
still in custody."-Billings Gazette, July 6, 2008.
Another taser incident happened on July 2 around 2:00 PM when the 50
year old passenger of a vehicle moving between parking spaces was
dragged out of the car, tasered repeatedly, handcuffed and then
tasered some more. There is footage of this incident.
Also on July 2, yet another taser incident was reported by the clerk
of the federal court in Casper. "'One defendant on Wednesday
apparently got out of hand and was subdued with a Taser,' she said." -
Casper Star Tribune, July 5, 2008.
Even more witness accounts of harassment were reported. If drivers
forgot to use their wipers before being stopped by officers, they
received tickets for having dusty windshields. A couple returning from
town counted 20 LEOs along a 4 mile stretch of road. Almost every
officer they saw had at least one vehicle pulled over each with all of
its occupants outside. There were also reports of tainted dog food
being deliberately left on trails for babies and pets to get into.
This atrocious act resulted in the death of one dog.
Many gatherers were upset to see such provocative violence occur in,
of all places, the sanctuary of Kiddie Village, and at such a time as
dinner prayer on the eve of the gatherers' annual day of prayer.
Immediately following the KV incident, witnesses called in to the live
radio program from the Gathering and gave their reports. Rainbow
gathering supporter Dan from Illinois reacted upon hearing the reports
from the Gathering streaming in: "If you can disrupt prayer, you can
disrupt mankind. These demons (LEOs in parking lot) high-fiving each
other, it just brings tears to my eyes. What is going on in this
But most gatherers weren't surprised; they'd been through this before.
A year earlier, also on July 3 at dinnertime at the Annual Rainbow
Gathering in Arkansas, USFS LEOs drove multiple sports utility
vehicles into main meadow which is the heart of the gathering and also
a strictly spiritual area like KV where violence is absolutely not
tolerated. They parked in the middle of the river that ran through the
meadow and again made a scene by making arrests and tasering a man in
the back. They remained parked in the main meadow; when they became
impatient that a sizable crowd still had not formed, they proceeded to
repeatedly blare their sirens which instantly drew a crowd and a loud
reaction. They attempted to instigate a violent reaction from one of
the Rainbow gatherers by holding their position, waving their rifles
around and waiting for something to happen. When nothing did, the LEOs
left. The entire riverbed was lined with rocks. Video of this incident
is enclosed with this release.
Although Wyoming gatherers were upset with the LEOs' behavior, many
expected this show of force, recognized its pattern, and kept cool.
They know the USFS is trying to get a rise out of the gatherers, so in
return, the gatherers give them the exact opposite response; non-
violence. Some gatherers who were at the scene know the purpose of
these intimidation tactics; the USFS indeed carries out regular
training exercises on the Rainbow gatherers.
In U.S. v. Wirtshafter (July 5, 2007), FS officer Gene Smithson gave
sworn testimony that crowd control training is done at Rainbow
Gatherings. Smithson identified himself as "Special Agent with the
U.S. Forest Service currently assigned as an Incident Commander (of
the Incident Command Team)," and during cross examination, when asked
if there is any ongoing training that officers receive in crowd
control, Smithson answered, "Every year we are -- we are going to be
recertified in it." When asked if "they are receiving training credits
for being out here (at the Rainbow Gathering) this week?" Smithson
answered, "Every officer on the team."
Smithson was then asked, "Can you describe a little bit about the
training that officers are receiving while they are here at the
Rainbow gathering?" Smithson answered while still under oath,
"Basically they have received training in formations and how to
protect themselves, how to dissipate crowds, how to deal with crowds."
The Associated Press reported that "in 1998, the Forest Service
established a national response team (the Incident Command Team) to
deal with the group." -Houston Chronicle, July 5, 2008. The Rainbow
gatherers have had and continue to have enormous success in self
governing, far surpassing the invention and/or need for any
governmental "national response team," especially one staffed by LEOs.
The "Incident Command Team" (ICT) succeeds in "commanding" its
officers to create an "incident" far from the public eye, which then
forms a crowd. Then the "team" attempts to incite the crowd to riot,
with the hopes that it will so that the team can "respond" by getting
a chance to practice "how to dissipate crowds," all with the intent to
train on easy, non-violent targets relaxing in the woods.
Another long-time Rainbow gatherer named Jasmine expressed, "The USFS
has been trying to intimidate us since day one. Now with the creation
of the ICT, supposedly under the USFS, the harassment has gotten
worse. Still their tactics haven't worked, as we continue to exercise
our First Amendment right to peaceably assemble on public lands. It
seems that finally their behavior and the validity of the ICT as an
organization of 'responders' is being brought into question in the
Regarding the ICT's training exercises being carried out on Rainbow
gatherers, she exclaimed, "We are not lab rats! We are a peaceful
people with over 36 years experience holding gatherings completely on
our own, and we wish to keep it that way. We want this harassment to
end now. Not one more cent of taxpayers' dollars should be spent on
funding policing of a self policing event." Jasmine ended by stating,
"Instead, the LEOs involved in this harassment should receive felony
convictions in federal court on counts of inciting a riot, assault and
battery, child abuse, reckless endangerment, child endangerment, false
arrest, infringing on civil liberties, and animal cruelty, to name a
Tomorrow cleanup will start, yet harassment towards gatherers often
continues when they're in small numbers; less witnesses. Reports have
come in that subsequent arrests are being made days after the KV
incident, in which people are being ordered by USFS LEOs to "lift up
your shirt" and anyone with a pepper ball welt on their skin or traces
of pepper spray on them is being apprehended.
Travel advisory for getting to and around camp: most of the Gathering
is a hike from the parking lot. To get there you will need to park
and then walk about 1-3 miles, so be prepared with good shoes, water
bottle, etc. The shortest trail into the site is from the "Middle Back
Gate Bus Village Parking Lot." You will find there are many gatherers
who love interacting with the media and will gladly be filmed. But in
respect for people's freedom of religious expression, it is requested
that anyone taking photographs or film images first ask permission
from each individual to be included in the shot.
Directions to the Wyoming Gathering
Footage of USFS' Attempt to Incite Riot, July 3, 2007 at Annual
Rainbow Gathering in Arkansas
First link contains arrest, quiet part, sirens at main meadow,
reaction. Plays audio only; video peculiarly missing as of this press
Part One http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&Vi...
Part Two http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvvcwcHkYQA&feature=related
Part Three http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AD6bX-36Fbc&feature=related
Part Four http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uklob4ooh1w&feature=related
U.S. v. Wirtshafter transcript of Motion to Suppress Hearing, July 5,
"Rainbow Family & Christians Unite to Give Hope After Katrina" film
"Effects of Rainbow Gatherings on Local Residents" film
"The Rule of Law" radio program, July 3, 2008
Hour One http://mp3.wtprn.com/Kelton/0807/20080703_Thu_Kelton1.mp3
Hour Two http://mp3.wtprn.com/Kelton/0807/20080703_Thu_Kelton2.mp3
FS Taser purchase document
Additional video evidence of the USFS's harassment campaign against
Rainbow Gatherings can be made available to the press.