The counter-culture group “Rainbow Family” has gathered illegally in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest, site of a federal standoff with a constitutionalist group more than a year ago that resulted in the death of one of it members and seven more being arrested.
The Associated Press reported 600 members of the Rainbow group are already camped near Flagtail Meadow in the park, but Malheur National Forest officials are expecting between 10,000-30,000 to arrive by July 4.
“The group refused to sign a special use permit, required for groups of more than 75. The group has noted that it claims no leader, and consequently there is no one to sign such permits. The Malhuer Forest Service said it will require operating conditions that users must abide by,” according to the AP.
The official gathering will last from July 1-7.
Ryan Nehl, deputy Forest Service supervisor on the Malheur, said the Forest Service will not attempt to stop the gathering.
“It’s a risk-based decision,” he said. “To try and kick them off the land would present a danger to employees and the public.”
The event is put on by the Rainbow Family of Living Light, “a loosely-organized group that annually picks a spot for its gathering and invites like-minded people to attend for multiple days of music, camping, dancing and communal hanging out,” the Capital Press reported. The gatherings have been held since the 1970s.
The federal government took a much more aggressive approach in January 2016 when the group Citizens for Constitutional Freedom set up camp at the refuge to protest the federal government’s control over lands the organization said rightly belong to the states or to the people.
One of the group’s chief concerns was the ability of ranchers to graze cattle on federally controlled lands, which the feds allow, but restrict for the stated purpose of preventing overgrazing.
Most of the dozens who participated in the protest were armed. Ammon Bundy, one of the group’s leaders, explained why to CBS News.
“There is an imminent threat towards us and it is our right to do that,” Bundy said referring to law enforcement officials. “But also we are serious. We are serious about being here, we’re serious about defending our rights and we’re serious about getting some things straightened out, but we have no intention on using any type of force, intimidation. Those are not our methods.”
Bundy is the son of Cliven Bundy, who led a similar highly publicized protest in 2014 in Nevada, which resulted in a dramatic showdown with ranchers and federal law enforcement, but no violence ensued.
The Oregon protest lasted for about six weeks and led to the death of Citizens for Constitutional Freedom spokesman Lavoy Finicum, 54, when law enforcement officials shot him multiple times after he did not comply when they sought to arrest him and members of his group on a remote stretch of road.
The Finicum family is suing the federal government and the state of Oregon for excessive use of force and employing improper police procedures.
Seven of the protesters were charged with conspiring to impede federal employees in doing their jobs. A jury found all seven men not guilty last October.
KrisAnne Hall, a constitutional law expert who visited with the protesters a week before Finicum was shot, said the difference between how the Rainbow Family gathering and the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom are being treated is glaring.
“The Rainbow Family Gathering in Oregon should make federal government hypocrisy undeniably evident,” Hall told Western Journalism. “Many who are angry at this double standard are saying that there is no difference between this event and the rancher protest that occurred last year.”
“It appears as if the federal government is picking sides in the liberal/conservative battle, when in reality they are rewarding the position that does not challenge them,” she added. “That is why the federal forestry agents never tried to ‘bring the Ranchers a permit’ for their protest as Mr. Nehl is doing for the Rainbow Family. It is why local and federal governments are not demanding that armed federal agents move in and extract the Rainbow Family.”
“The First Amendment was codified to prevent the federal government from punishing protests,” Hall said.
Joe Miller, executive director of the United States Justice Foundation and publisher of the political site Restoring Liberty, agreed with Hall that a double standard is in play.
“I’m not surprised,” Miller said. “If you’re a committed activist for imposing constitutional restraints on DC, we’ve entered an era where you can count on losing your property, freedom, and maybe even your life. But if you’re a committed activist for unrestrained personal license, this is your era where you can count on being rewarded in proportion to the insanity of your actions.”
Western Journalism sought comment from Malheur regarding the different treatment the two groups received from federal officials.
Public information officer Ethan Ready did not address this issue, but replied by email. “The Rainbow Family refused to apply for and sign the required federal permit for their gathering. Therefore, we consider this to be an unauthorized gathering,” Ready said. “We have required that the group comply with very specific terms and conditions issued to them through an Event Design Criteria document that was issued to them on Thursday.” (For more from the author of “Feds Killed LaVoy Finicum for Occupying Federal Refuge but Allow Hippie-Leftists to Run Around Naked and Unmolested” please click HERE)