Peace, love and fire danger
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS ” While some Rainbow Family members were planning to gather in a “Circle of Peace” or make music in the Granola Funk Theater next week, others were being called into a makeshift courtroom Friday to answer charges of camping without a permit.
Between 10,000 and 20,000 people were expected at the group’s weeklong annual gathering that officially starts today in this remote corner of Colorado. An estimated 5,000 people were already at the site in the Routt National Forest by Friday.
The Rainbow Family, a loosely organized band of free spirits, usually holds one such gathering a year “to pray for peace on this planet,” according to a Web site run by a member, http://www.welcomehome.org.
But this year’s event has been marred by confrontation, with the U.S. Forest Service reporting a handful of run-ins including a scuffle involving about 200 campers and 15 officers.
Forest Service spokeswoman Kimberly Vogel said the officers were hit, elbowed and pelted by a rock when they tried to arrest some unruly campers.
No serious injuries were reported but the officers drew their batons and used pepper spray as they backed away, she said.
The Forest Service refused to issue the group a required permit, primarily citing the fire danger in the tinder-dry forest, some of it left dead by a beetle infestation.
By Thursday, officers had cited about 250 campers for failure to have a permit, but Vogel said the agency was not trying to break up the gathering or turn campers away.
Campers who were cited were summoned to a small temporary courtroom in a fire station near the camp. A judge rejected the group’s request to move the proceedings to a larger space, but a hearing on a renewed request was scheduled Friday in federal court in Denver.
Welcomehome.org said the Colorado gathering would probably include the Circle for Peace on July Fourth, “a silent circling of people to pray for world peace,” and a talent show at a site called the Granola Funk Theater.
The site said everything will happens on “Rainbow Time …. any semi-scheduled event will start when it starts, and not necessarily by the clock.”