Monday, June 26, 2006

This Is How Freedom Dies

I am pasting in an email I received today that shows exactly what kind of stormtroopers are in charge of our precious freedoms. I never thought I'd live to see the day when there were "rainbow tribunals" set up to interrogate and punish those who did nothing wrong but try and attend this year's Rainbow Gathering. You are welcome to cut and paste it, link to it, tell people about it in any way possible. Some of my fondest youthful memories are of attending Rainbow Gatherings because I learned that we can live in peace and harmony if the desire is strong enough. We can make a better world. We can step lightly upon the earth. If this is what threatens Bushco, then I fear for us all.

Dear Friends and Family,

I need your help to protect my family, the collective efforts of tens of thousands of citizens known as the "Rainbow Family." This week, near Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the U.S. Forest Service has taken illegal action to stop this annual assembly for _expression and prayer, in gross violation of the participants essential Constitutional rights.

The 'Rainbow' Gatherings have borne a legacy of spiritual & cultural pilgrimage to the National Forests since 1972, the purest exercise of open consensual assembly in our time. The annual 'Gathering of the Tribes' draws thousands over the first week of July, focusing on the 4th as a holy day of prayer for peace and freedom. In recent years small regional events in this mode have emerged, and such gatherings have taken place in many nations around the world.


Some say the "Rainbow" Gathering is the continuation of the idealism of Woodstock. I think of it more as my annual spiritual retreat and family reunion. Since 1980, I have gathered with my family to compare ideas and pray for peace. I arrive loaded with the burdens of my work, depressed about the world situation. Each year I depart with my faith in humankind renewed and with the energy to fight the beast another year. The rainbow family is not organized in any way; it is an exercise in self-determination and cooperation in the public interest, without need of government controls. We understand that no matter what comes down, it is the respect and care for each other that win in the end. We have no leaders or leadership, we have no offices or officers, we have no treasurer or treasury. We sit in counsel, often for days at a time in order to make mutual decisions, but there is no power to enforce these decisions on any individual. In the end, just like in society, it works because enough responsible people make sure that what needs to be done gets done. We have been doing rainbow gatherings for over 30 years, each time in a different national forest across the country. We come in and set up a village in the woods. Cooperative kitchens pour out a wide variety of foods. Seminars on just about any topic are run by the hour. The Rainbow is known as a healing gathering; people with various ailments come for help. Here in one place they can receive healing, from herbalists, acupuncturists, chiropractors and masseuses working with place they can receive healing, from herbalists, acupuncturists, chiropractors and masseuses working with osteopaths and physicians. These healers work as a team and share their knowledge in a holistic approach that teaches all involved a lot about the roots of medicine. Religious groups, ranging from Christians to Hare Krishnas set up camps. It's truly a free society. We go pretty far back in the woods to get away from the ills of civilization like alcohol and hard drugs. We have our gathering and then restore any damage we cause to the woods. And we have a perfect record of restoration of the forest. It's great to walk through a gathering and see so many people but not a scrap of paper on the ground, not a cigarette butt in sight. Each year we train thousands of newcomers how to get along in the woods without destroying the place. Knowledgeable Forest Servide 'Resource' personnel love us; it's the Federal bureaucrats and police from Washington who are on our case.


The Bush Administration has spent millions of dollars trying to stop the Rainbow Gatherings. They are enforcing a 'Noncommercial Group Use' permit regulation that is impossible for unaffiliated individuals to comply with 36 CFR 251.54 They require that that someone sign as an agent for a fictional group entity named as permit Holder -- which then must assume full liability from the Government and bind participants vicariously to its terms. By the creed of the gatherings, no one can appoint themselves to such a position. More importantly, such an ad hoc gathering has no legal capacity to designate agents or act as a group party in any way. As a result, individuals are denied personal standing in First Amendment exercise and subjected to harsh criminal prosecution for being anywhere near the area. The Forest Service requires that a permit be applied for in advance of the gathering. And they use any excuse possible to deny a permit application when we manage to submit one. This year their denial was based on the fact that a logging company had a permit to log in a nearby parcel of the national forest, even though there is no logging activity present whatsoever. The site is far remote from any inhabitants -- but still the Forest Service is all over our case. Millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent to block this harmless gathering from taking place. The scariest aspect of all this is how Homeland Security is using these gatherings to perfect their techniques of martial law. Regulations written for the Federal Emergency Management Authority to deal with natural disasters are now being used to crush dissent in this country. Each year the Rainbow Gathering is declared a "National Incident" and federal military law ensues. A Special Agent is appointed "Incident Commander", with a Delegation of Authority, a large law enforcement "Team", and huge budget to control the gathering. Qualified Forest Service administrators lose their power, while the county sheriff and other officials are brought into targeted law enforcement actions by inclusion in the Incident Team and other inter-agency agreements. Each year Homeland Security gains more power over the individuals involved.


At this writing Forest Service law enforcement has issued over 500 tickets to the early arrivals at the gathering in Colorado. They have blocked the road and have prevented food and water from reaching those who managed to get into the gathering before the police roadblock was set up. The 500 people with tickets are being herded into trials like none anyone has seen before in America. These pseudo trials are prototypes for what Homeland Security will use in the cases of insurrection or even a plague. Defendants lose the right to a public hearing (this year these hearings are being held behind closed doors in a firehouse garage near the site. Attorneys and legal observers have been denied the right to even view these trials. The defendants are not explained their rights nor afforded the right to an attorney, the right to summon witnesses, the right to a jury trial, etc. Defendants ordered to appear each day at 9:00 a.m. and sit in the hot sun without water or sanitary facilities until their trials. Some have now been waiting for several days. These abbreviated trials only take a few minutes. Last year I tried to help a string of defendants defend themselves in these trials but felt helpless to do much as the system was clearly stacked against them. This year is especially frustrating to me as I have to watch this come down from 6000 miles away. Right now I am in Hungary at a medical conference for my employment. I am flying home on Thursday and plan on being in court Saturday, July 1st, to defend some of my best friends who got a ticket for illegally gathering as they drove down a public highway.


The confrontation this year is getting more intense by the minute, which is why I am asking for your help. The only way to stop a massive conflagration in Colorado in the next few days is to get thousands of people to contact their political representatives as well as the responsible administrators at the Forest Service to demand that this repression stop immediately. Please, even if you can never conceive of yourself at a Rainbow Gathering, you must understand that if these citizens lose their constitutional right to gather, we all lose such rights. This year the Rainbow Gathering is being used to set precedents that will be turned against drug policy, civil liberty, anti-war or other activists in the near future. Following are some instructions on who to write and/or call. We hope to start flooding the Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service with complaints starting Monday morning and not stopping until harassment stops. It is especially important that we get a few Congressional representative and Senators concerned enough to write the Forest Service for an explanation of why so much money is being spent to keep people from camping in the National Forest set aside for exactly that purpose. Please keep the pressure on these bureaucrats until we are able to spread the word that the government has backed off and that the gathering can proceed unhindered. If you do not know the contact information for your Congressman or Senator, you can find this here. You can call your representative at 212-224-3121. Besides your representatives in Washington, please call and write the following people to voice your protest to this harsh treatment of people who just want to go on a camping trip in the woods. Keep the calls coming until word is passed around that the government has called off their dogs. Please forward this letter to your friends and feel free to re-post it on any listserv or website you wish. Email me if you have any questions.

Don E Wirtshafter
Attorney at Law
Box 18 Guysville, OH 45735
740 662 5297

USDA, Natural Resources & Environment
Mark Rey, USDA Undersecretary
1400 Independence Ave. SW, .. 217-E
Washington, DC 20250
202-720-7173 Fax: 202-720-0632

Kathleen Gause, Director 202-205-8534
USDA Forest Service
Civil Rights Staff
Stop Code 1142
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington., DC 20250-1142
Tel (202) 205-1585

Office of the Chief
NetZero Message Center 06/26/2006 01:52 AM
Page 5 of 6
Dale Bosworth, Chief
USDA Forest Service
Yates Federal Building (4NW Yates)
201 14th Street, SW - Washington, DCÊ20250
202-205-1661; Fx: 202-205-1765

Executive Assistant...Karla Hawley, 202 -205-1195
Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests,
Mary H. Peterson, Supervisor
2468 Jackson Street -- Laramie, WY 82070-6535
307-745-2300 Fax: 307-745-2398

U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region (R-2)
Rick Cables, Regional Forester
Mail: P.O. Box 25127 -- Lakewood, CO 80225-0127

Richard Stem, Deputy Regional Forester, Resources: 303-275-5451

Steve Silverman, Office of General Counsel, Regional Attorney: 303-275-5536

Bill Fox, Law Enforcement & Investigations, Special Agent in Charge: 303-275-5253

Jerome Romero, Deputy Director of Civil Rights: 303-275-5340

Some resources to research these issues further:

The best Rainbow website: Welcome Home

A good article written before the feds came down hard: article

More recent coverage: Rocky Mountain News

Denver Post

thanks to

Design from Ursine Logic


No comments: