Apr 3, 2022

Thousands from Rainbow Family sect plan to descend on Colorado this summer, making law enforcement nervous

Like the Burning Man festival but weirder, reports indicate

The Denver Post
March 31, 2022

The 50th anniversary of the Rainbow Family of Living Light’s first gathering in Colorado comes this summer and the group – a sect of hippies that say they stand for peace and love – appears likely to return to its roots.

Sheriff’s departments in Grand and Jackson counties, alongside U.S. Forest Service officials, confirmed that the Rainbow Family appears poised for a month-long gathering in Colorado this summer.

Rainbow Family gatherings can bring thousands of people together for what Vice reported amounts to a “weird version of Burning Man,” mixing “bikers, Jesus freaks, computer programmers, naked yogis and gutter punks,” looking to escape the thralls of everyday life. In Colorado, past gatherings led to an uptick in trespassing and illegal camping charges after seven members told police they took psychedelic drugs before climbing atop Boulder Public Library’s roof, the Daily Camera reported.

The group gathers each year for about a week but this year, marking their 50th anniversary, they’re expected to stick around for longer. Fliers posted around Jackson County said they’d gather from June 28 to July 28, said Sheriff Jarrod Poley. Likely near the Granby area.

Precisely where they’ll gather and how many people might come, remains unclear, Poley said.

“It really concerns me that it’s for a full month, there’s not a real good way to prepare for it,” Poley said. “In the past we’ve seen issues come out of it like thefts, vandalism, abandonment of trash, animals on (U.S.) Forest Service property.”

Forest Service spokeswoman Reid Armstrong said the agency is aware of the possible gathering, but that it’s neither permitted nor sanctioned. Groups larger than 75 people require a special use permit and the Rainbow Family has “consistently refused” to abide by those requirements, she said.

“We want to assure the community that we are working with our partners and cooperators to prepare for the possibility of a large, extended gathering in Colorado,” Armstrong said.

Serena Rocksund, a district wildlife manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said the state agency is also aware of the possible gathering but without more details can do little to prepare. The group tends to gather on federal lands, she said, so the state agency would likely have little involvement.

While reports of Rainbow Family gatherings are often paired with drug use and sometimes sexual assault, Rolling Stone reported in 1993, they’ve also been described as a band of misfits taking solace within the larger group. For their 2019 gathering in New Mexico, Forest Service representatives noted that they’re fairly cooperative with rules meant to protect water and culturally significant sites, the New Mexican reported. For that meeting they brought propane tanks to abide by fire bans and promised to clean up whatever trash they left behind.

People line up to board a shuttle bus to leave a gathering area near the Rainbow Family Strawberry Lake festival near Granby, Colo. on July 2, 1972.

Criminal charges can often stem from these meetings, but prosecutors have also dropped many of those charges.

The Rainbow Family has no designated leadership and members and take pride in their holistic and communal system, online blogs and profiles show. The group’s first meeting was in the Strawberry Lake area east of Granby in 1972.


No comments: