Waiting to hear from the Rainbows

Looking back at it now, it kind of amazes me — I’ve been writing about this Rainbow Family Gathering nonsense for nearly a month now. Yep, Lassen News’ first reporting went online Monday, June 10. Since then I’ve worked a whopping 26 stories about the gathering on lassennews.com. This is number 27.

I freely admit I was a big dummy almost a month ago because I didn’t know anything about the Rainbows as they sought a site for their annual bash. The first statement I received from them mentioned the Tribal Outreach Project, and I thought they were an indigenous group. Silly me. According to that statement, “The Tribal Outreach Project is a self-selected bunch of individuals working with the intent to share collective wisdom for the good of the earth and all humanity, within the narrower space and time context of the 2024 Annual Gathering which may happen in California.”

According to the statement, the group formed in the fall of 2023, “to start putting energy towards a gathering in California over the July 4th 2024 holiday week. Out of this initial circle, the Tribal Outreach Project was formed. Meeting weekly since December 2023, our goals have included reaching out to any tribes whose ancestral homelands could potentially be the site of the 2024 Annual Rainbow Gathering.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but to my little pea brain that sounds pretty much exactly like Rainbow leaders planning an event. What else can you call it?

They did not contact the Mountain Maidu, the ancestral tribe of Susanville, this part of Lassen County and the site at the headwaters of Indian Creek the committee apparently had selected. They also did not secure a special use permit for their gathering as required by law.

Congratulations to the U.S. Forest Service for shutting down the gathering on the backside of Diamond Mountain. This is the first time the Forest Service has ever shut down a Rainbow Gathering — so it could be an important precedent in the future.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not opposed to these folks because they seem to be reliving the hippie, commune counterculture of the 1960s. I am old enough to remember those heady times. What I oppose is the alleged leaderlessness which leaves no one responsible for the damage done and no one who can make decisions. Whatever happens, everyone can say, “Nope, it wasn’t me!”

And the idea that the First Amendment gives them the right to gather in violation of the laws that govern all the rest of us (you need a special use permit for a noncommercial gathering of more than 75 people on any National Forest) is balderdash.

Scottie Addison, a coordinator of the Free Assembly Project in St. Louis, Missouri, wrote a letter to Lassen County District Attorney Melyssah Rios, calling for the prosecution of Lassen County District 5 Supervisor Jason Ingram for cutting the waterlines at the Rainbow Family Gathering. Rios declined the opportunity because the alleged crime, if any, occurred in Plumas County, far beyond her jurisdiction.

I had a couple of email conversations with Addison in the following days, sharing my experiences with him and asking a few questions.

Addison shared these two court cases with me
In the Arizona District Court case United States v. Israel (May 15, 1986), the court wrote, “The Forest Service requires groups of 10 or more people who gather on Forest Service land ‘for the purpose of expression or exchange of views or judgments’ to apply for a special use permit. Such a regulation impermissibly singles out those who wish to gather in order to exercise their First Amendment rights. The court finds that this regulation is therefore unconstitutional.

“The Forest Service has every right to regulate large-group use of government land. If the Forest Service wishes to regulate large groups its regulation must not only be content-neutral, but must apply to all large groups.

And in the Texas District Court case United States v. Rainbow Family (June 1, 1998) the court wrote, “The United States sought preliminary injunction against association and its members, prohibiting them in any way from preparing for, or attending, or participating in any gathering of 25 or more persons in any National Forest in the state of Texas unless they applied for and obtained special use permit from Forest Service. After receiving report and recommendations from magistrate, the District Court, Justice, Chief Judge, held that: (1) interim special use permit regulations had not been validly adopted, and (2) special use permit regulations violated First Amendment to extent they distinguished between expressive conduct, such as that at issue here, and other forms of group activity in National Forest, and to extent they did not provide objective and narrowly drawn standards for issuance or denial of permits for expressive activity.”

Of course, neither of these cases have any impact what-so-ever on a gathering in Plumas County, California. And just for the record, the two times I visited the Indian Creek site, I saw absolutely nothing I would call, “for the purpose of expression or exchange of views or judgments” or “expressive activity.”

Here’s Addison’s response to some of my questions in which he also apparently shares some of the group’s views
Sam, it just ain’t so.

  • You are buying the ‘group’ fiction … truly there is no such thing, no conspiratorial members or leaders … really it’s just a public assembly where people show up voluntarily to heal, pray, speak, contribute and cooperate.  Imagine that.
  • “committee”?… no, a few folks agreed to talk to (the) Maidu, one of the jobs to be done responsibly — apparently missed a few, and had no clue about clan politics or how they were getting riled up by the Feds. Same ‘movida’ in Modoc 20 years ago.
  • Most people left under the Closure Order, fewer than 75 remain, by rule no longer an unauthorized ‘Group Use’, so roadblocks came down. Some spots may not be cleaned up yet because they were forced out. Consider causality and time.
  • All National Forests are on native lands … now they are public lands, shared by all, camping allowed with due respect and restriction. Natives have ancestral protections, not exclusionary powers over other citizens exercising rights. It’s the law of the land.
  • Water was not ‘seized’ … part the flow was piped a half-mile downhill where it was going, filtered, used sparingly and discharged safely on-site. Few people there, but it got hot, the creek went underground, tough for everybody. People dipping cups in a stream is a formula for intestinal disease and littoral damage – Not done. It’s science, not rhetoric.
  • The region was awash in USFS agitprop way before the gathering got there, seeding hostilities, stirring up culture war antics to justify a Closure Order on Speech – a crisis manufactured by the ‘Incident Creation Team’. Made in Amerika.

Notoriously, lawyers and fundamentalists say words about things that are not there. Sometimes journalists do this too, maybe just saying what they hear, or behooves them to hear. It is honorable craft to listen elsewhere.


Ah, where’s TikTok when you need it?

I have asked Mr. Addison to put me in touch with someone in the group who can speak to me about the Rainbow Family Gatherings’ experience in our neck of the woods. Hopefully that person can also explain some of this gibberish for our lassennews.com readers and me.

I’m awaiting a reply.