National Forest Service officials, surrounded and attacked yesterday in Wyoming with sticks and stones by 400 members of the Rainbow Family, were given reason to regret their decision to cancel a long-planned national service project by the Boy Scouts of America in favor of the unorganized annual gathering of hippies, anarchists and “free spirits” who commune with nature and each other.
According to a statement released by the Forest Service’s Incident Command Team in Rock Springs, Wyo., officers patrolling the main meadow of the seven-day event held near Sandy Springs made contact with a man who fled and was later apprehended. A second Rainbow attendee was detained for interfering in the arrest.
As 10 officers began to leave the area with their suspects, they were surrounded by an estimated 400 members of the Rainbow Family. A request for additional officers was made.
“The mob began to advance, throwing sticks and rocks at the officers. Crowd-control tactics were used to keep moving through the group of Rainbows,” the news release said.
When back-up support arrived, officers made five arrests. A government vehicle was damaged and one officer was treated for injuries at a local hospital and released.
“This lawless behavior is unacceptable and we will not tolerate it,” said John Twiss, Forest Service director of law enforcement. “The safety of our employees, public and Rainbow participants is our number one priority, and we will continue to protect everyone on the national forest.”
As WND reported, the Forest Service canceled a week-long national service project by approximately 1,000 members of the Order of the Arrow, the honor society for the Boy Scouts of America, scheduled since 2004, after the Rainbow Family announced it would hold its annual gathering in the same general location.
Participants in the ArrowCorps5 project will be awarded a badge for their work
The plans include about 5,000 top Boy Scouts from across the country donating an estimated 250,000 hours of time to restore, repair, rebuild, reclaim and refurbish miles of trails, acres and glens at five different sites in the nation’s forests. In most cases, the scouts pay their own travel and room and board expenses to participate in the biggest service project since World War II.
“ArrowCorps5 is the largest, most complex, most challenging conservation project ever conceived by the Order of the Arrow and Boy Scouts of America,” said Brad Haddock, chairman of the National Order of the Arrow Committee. “This project provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for each participant to set an example of leadership in service to those who treasure our national forests.”
The decision by the Forest Service to evict the Scouts left local Wyoming leaders infuriated.
“It’s a matter of intimidation,” Sublette, Wyo., County commissioner Joel Bousman told WND. “It appears the Rainbow group has managed to intimidate an entire federal agency.”
Mark Rey, the federal undersecretary supervising the U.S. Forest Service, met with Rainbow Family members earlier in Pinedale, and urged them to move their gathering, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. They refused.
Rey told WND he thought the decision to move the Scouts to somewhere else and leave the Rainbow Family alone was the best under the circumstances. He said the government allows the Rainbow Family to bypass its regular permit requirements in favor of an “operating plan” but the bottom line was that the government didn’t want to be arresting hundreds or thousands of people.
“They couldn’t be expelled without a fairly significant amount of law enforcement activity,” he told WND a week before the gathering began.
“The Boy Scouts have been planning this since 2004,” Bousman told WND. “They’ve been through the planning process and have been working very cooperatively with our Forest Service. They’ve spent lots of money planning the biggest venture ever for the Boy Scouts.
“They did everything legally, they had their permits. But because of the fact Undersecretary Rey, for whatever reason, took it on himself to do what he has referred to as an experimental process by which he does not require the Rainbow Group to have any permit, the conflict developed,” Bousman said.
Now, the “significant amount of law enforcement activity” Rey was hoping to avoid by not holding the Rainbow family to the standard permitting process has become unavoidable.
Following yesterday’s melee, members of the gathering told the Star-Tribune a far different story than that told by the Forest Service.
“They were so violent, like dogs,” camper Robert Parker said after the incident. “People yelled at them, ‘You’re shooting children.'”
Rainbow members claimed they were Tasered, hit with rubber bullets and pepper spray balls, and had guns pointed at them.
“These people deliberately, for hours, were aggressively working the camp over and working the people over,” a Rainbow who gave his name only as Ryan said. “They chose the kiddie village – the one place, the kids, to take their stand and create a riot, and I bought into it. … They were looking for an excuse to do some damage to us.”
Ryan’s partner, Feather, said she was pepper-sprayed, and saw another Rainbow member with welts all over his body.
Today, the American Civil Liberties Union announced plans to investigate how federal law enforcement treated those attending the gathering. Linda Burt, executive director of the ACLU in Wyoming, said her organization would accept collect calls from Rainbow Family members for the next two weeks to gather information.
Meanwhile, the ArrowCorps5 projects already completed in other states are being credited with making “immediate” changes, Scott Scheffler, a volunteer spokesman for the Scouts, told WND. In Missouri, for example, 100 acres of invasive salt cedar was removed, restoring the area’s water table, allowing grasslands to re-grow and restoring the area’s beautiful vistas.
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