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Rainbow Defense

2006 Rainbow Gathering Report

by Don E Wirtshafter, Attorney at Law

I wrote my family and some friends on June 23rd about the trouble the Forest Service was causing at my annual retreat, the gathering of the Rainbow Family Tribe. The family had agreed to gather in the Routt National Forest in Colorado this year. The Forest Service sent in a team of Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) to disrupt our gathering. Reports were coming out about the roadblocks maintained by these officers, the hundreds of criminal complaints they were handing out and the unfair conditions of the temporary court house that was set up to deal with these federal cases.

I asked people to write the executives of the Forest Service to demand that this harassment of campers stop. My plea got distributed around on the Internet. I am pleased to report that it looks like hundreds, if not thousands of phone calls and emails went to these executives. Thank you everyone who responded to my plea for help and contact these officials. I think our pressure had an effect.

At the same time, I received some criticism that I was exaggerating the situation causing some people to be scared off from attending the gathering this year. Two weeks later, I can testify that things on the ground were far worse than I wrote about or imagined. The police forces were running amuck. The LEOs were using the new non-profit group use regulation as an excuse to stop all cars, ticket whomever they didn't like and search through whichever vehicle they pleased. Those with tickets were made to sit in the sun for hours waiting their turn before the tribunal we came to call the Kangaroo Court.

Yes, some people were able to come in at night an miss the roadblocks. If they stayed in the woods they could ignore the out-of-control police scene on the road in. Somehow I have a tendency to inject myself in the middle of trouble like this. My bar credentials placed me in a position to help and so I did.

Following is my account of my Rainbow Gathering experience. It did not turn out to be the quiet week of camping in the woods I had expected. But I am certainly glad I was there.

I have asked the thousands of others who witnessed abusive police tactics to write down their experiences. Following is my example of how to do it. I apologize in advance for the length of this document, but it was a long week and the following only captures a fraction of the actual action.

Day One, Saturday July 1st

I arrived at the Kangaroo Court after three difficult days of plane and bus rides and an all night drive. I was burnt out and exhausted: far more than my usual. I busted ass to get to court in time for the trial of my four friends. Timbear, Little Bear, Rumi and Mr. Natural all faced charges this morning. These volunteers had assembled the huge kitchen known as the Musical Veggie Café. Because they were carrying in so much stuff, they had been ticketed by the Forest Service on their way to The Gathering. They were charged with illegally gathering, "use or occupancy of a National Forest without a permit when one is required."

I found my friends and at least 100 other defendants waiting in the driveway of the volunteer fire station turned temporary federal courthouse. The sun beating down, armed guards were everywhere and the atmosphere was full of anger and fear. People had no idea what was happening, what their rights were, what they should do. All they knew was it was going to be a long, hot day if they could not figure out a way out of this situation.

The news my friends relayed was that the Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) had offered each defendant with a gathering ticket a $40 collateral forfeiture, what is essentially a legal bribe. The defendant walks away without a record, there is no verdict. Just pay the money on be on your way. Even my four friends, who I drove all night to represent, felt the deal was just too good to pass up. All they wanted to do was get back to camp and cook dinner for the gathering masses. Of course I was disappointed, I had gone through hell to get to their hearing on time and all my friends wanted to do was pay the man and leave. I gave them some grief for being sheep being led to slaughter, but of course I understood why they wanted more than anything else to get out of there.

My four friends were gone, but they'd let everyone else waiting for court know that their Rainbow brother attorney was coming. So I was swamped by people asking me questions. I am not really a practicing attorney. I quit courtroom practice fifteen years ago feeling it unfair and the system corrupt. I have never done a federal trial. I keep my license to practice up to date, but don't ever use it. But here were a hundred people I knew (or knew I should know) in trouble and without any help whatsoever.

Three years ago, when the Forest Service first started holding their Kangaroo Courts, it provided a Federal Public Defender to counsel defendants. But even this protection was gone this year. I determined that my rusty, unprepared legal counsel was better than no counsel at all for these defendants. So I dug in and tried my best to help those present.

The residual defense attorney in me wanted somebody to fight their charges. The massive federal effort to wipe out the Rainbow Gathering had to be challenged. So I tried to run a triage, questioning each defendant to make sure they really wanted to make the quick payoff and end their cases. I was hoping at least one defendant would plead not guilty and help me get a trial on the issues. Finally, I found one, a newlywed named Nikki. She and her husband had gotten tickets on their way into the gathering. Drug dogs had "indicated" the presence of drugs in their car and, without their permission, the police tore it apart. Finding absolutely nothing, they issued this couple gathering tickets and sent them on their way. The husband had already taken the $40 offer. Nikki objected to her unfair treatment and agreed to plead not guilty.

The Forest Service understood that if they bring a federal magistrate to the gathering their officers do not have to travel 4 hours to the Federal Court House in Denver to give testimony. These hearing are certainly not being held for our convenience, but rather for the convenience of the Forest Service. Court was held in the local Volunteer Fire Department that the Forest Service commandeered to be their incident command post for the massive federal effort underway. A team of 30 Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers and a host of supervisors and support crew were brought in from around the country. They were aided by scores of local resource rangers, local police officers, undercover agents, highway patrol officers and such. Their cars filled the fire station parking lot. We had to park out on the highway.

It was a brutal scene; everyone was sitting in the hot sun in a narrow space between the highway and the fence surrounding the fire house. Armed guards were everywhere. There had already been a federal suit about conditions at this courthouse filed by attorneys in Denver who were grossed out by the expedited procedures of the makeshift courthouse. The suit succeeded in getting the feds to promise more chairs in the courtroom. But we could never get people past the guards to sit in those chairs. The waiting defendants still had no shelter from the sun or rain, no water or food available, no level ground to hold a circle, no phone, no Internet access, no way to call in reinforcements. They were told that if they left to get essentials that a warrant would be issued for their arrest.

A gruff guard called defendants into the court ten at a time where they would hear their rights read by the magistrate before the prosecutor offered the $40 deal. Then everyone would stand in line to make their payments or get the 60-days to pay deal or wait to make a plea. Faced with the prospect of having to hire an attorney, face trial in Denver and end up with a conviction on their record, few felt they had a choice but to pay the "deal." Many were scared off by the stories of some of our Rainbow heroes who have spent up to six months in jail defending our right to gather.

I felt my job was to pick a few of the right cases off of this assembly line and provide the defendants enough legal help that they could properly challenge their charges. On my first opportunity, I accompanied a friend into the courtroom as his attorney.

Getting into the makeshift court was not a walk through the door. First, all metal had to be removed from the defendants' pockets and all hats be taken off. When one brother said he did not want to remove his hat, he was surrounded by ten officers and almost arrested. Everyone then passed through the metal detectors, staffed by U.S. Marshals. Officers with guns were everywhere. Once inside the courtroom, at least ten Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) lined the room at all times. Well, at least were keeping all these officers tied up in court rather than out on the trails hassling campers and writing even more tickets.

Although my Ohio bar card got me past the gruff security guard, when I introduced myself to the two AUSAs present and explained I was going to ask the court to temporarily admit me to the bar, they firmly said that would be impossible. Not to be deterred, I waited for my friend's name to be called and when I introduced myself to the court, the magistrate said I would not be able to represent defendants without a Colorado bar license. I stuck around anyway and spoke to the prosecutor on behalf of the defendants, doing my best to work out deals like, "drop this ticket and she will pay the collateral forfeiture fee on the other."

The Magistrate, David West took the bench and checked to see who was present. He immediately issued bench warrants for those who did not show, which on most days amounted to half of those scheduled for hearing. After rights were read to the group, the AUSA was prompted to speak. In just about every case he waived jail time for all offenses. The effect was that the defendants lost their right to a jury trial and lost the right to appointed counsel if they could not afford an attorney. Then court then temporarily adjourned for Let's Make a Deal time. Hearings on contested cases were heard after all of these arraignments were completed.

At the first hearing I attended, the AUSA offered the $40 deal to all gathering tickets, except for my friend Badger. Badger asked, "Why me?" The AUSA answered that it was because the Forest Service considered him to be a "Rainbow Leader". It's not that Badger would have taken the deal. Badger got one of the earliest of gathering tickets. For this ticket he had already waited for 13 hours in the sun for his arrangment. Court dragged on until 10:00 pm. The court was so embarrassed about making people wait so long under such tough conditions that it dismissed all the charges still waiting to be heard that day. That took care of Badger's first gathering ticket. At this point he had two more to defend. Badger saw I was doing my best without any resources and volunteered to help me as my legal assistant. He stuck with me throughout the six days of hearings.

I think my most important accomplishments on this first day were with the few possession of marijuana charges. Previously the AUSA had demanded that these defendants plead guilty or no-contest to the possession charges. I argued that these were all minor cases that at best would be a $100 fine in state court in Colorado. The prosecution's method left the defendants with a 2nd degree misdemeanor federal drug conviction. This could have interfered with school loans, federal benefits or travel to Canada. The AUSA understood and agreed to take collateral forfeitures for the drug convictions to all first offenders. Later this was expanded to all drug convictions. Quite a deal for some.

At the end of day one, the magistrate offered to accept me into the federal bar of Colorado for a $160 application fee. My bags had already left for the gathering, but luckily, just at the right time, Rumi passed by and loaned it to me. The judge ordered that I wear a suit if I was going to be a lawyer. Great, now I had to find my suit which was in Ralph's car somewhere in the gathering.

Because I had to return my rental car to the Steamboat Airport that was located 24 miles from nowhere, I took off back into town. I ended up renting a bicycle and riding the entire distance in the altitude and hot sun. When I got tired I tried hitchhiking, but nobody in their fancy SUVs and 3-ton pick-up trucks would give a ride to me and my bicycle. I ended up biking the entire 24 back to Steamboat. On there, getting a ride up to the gathering was easier. A brother named Will picked me up and threw my bike in the back of his van. He was a chiropractor not heading into the gathering. He took me as far as the Clark store, pulled my bike out of the back of his van. Then he pulled out his chiropractor's table and gave me a complete treatment right there in the parking lot. . Relief both for my stressed back and my shattered faith in the nature of the human race. .

Another ride got me into The Gathering. We were stopped at the first roadblock and given a warning that the gathering ahead was illegal. The second roadblock was too busy searching two other vehicles to bother with us. The bike was great in that I did not have to wait for the shuttle, I just peddled into camp. It was dusk. I found my home kitchen, the Musical Veggie Café and my girlfriend, Zoe. After 72 hours of non-stop travel and a brutal day in court, it felt so good to be home.

I have been hanging out at Musical Veggie Kitchen since its inception at the Texas Gathering in 1988. Musical Veggie was a response to the gathering in North Carolina the year before. There, poor quality water systems and improper kitchen sanitation had spread shigellosis, a gastroenteritis that causes acute diarrhea. Musical Veggie was created by a group of engineers and others who never wanted that problem repeated. Their initial kitchen in Texas was the first to erect a wooden rail perimeter around the entire food preparation area. Anyone who came into the kitchen had to wash their hands in the hand wash station at each entrance. An innovative dish washing station got a lot of attention. Through the years, Musical Veggie has continued innovations such as rocket stoves to save on wood and water filtration systems. Our café is known the place to go for exceptional entertainment and food that you can trust will not make you sick. Morning Silence, _____ and my great friends Chris and Julia were accompanied this year by the infamous Henry the Fiddler, whom I first met at May Day in 1970. I have to say that I missed most all of this year's great music, I was generally asleep soon after dark to be able to get up at dawn and make it to court in time. But our tent was set up right next to the performance space so sweet harmonies bathed me while I rested.

Zoe had already been in camp for 10 days. She left from Ohio when I took off for my medical seminar in Hungary. Zoe quickly settled in to her usual position as the ogre of the Musical Veggie Café's fire pit and performance area. In her unique way, Zoe had decorated the area with colors and lights, giving the area a special magic.

That evening, Tim Lynn, the Incident Commander, and a group of LEOs marauded through the camp in the dark that night, which was quite unusual for them. Their goal was to arrest Rob, our best radio operator who spearheads the evacuation team that so competently helps the medical crew get their worst cases to the hospital. He is also the webmaster of the most popular Rainbow related website, www.welcomehome.org. Tim Lynn was reported to be gleefully in his pursuit of Rob; it seemed that just could not wait to get Rob behind bars. So much so that Lynn was willing to risk the safety of his men going through the gathering at night. I knew that Rob was scheduled for trial on July 7th, so I assumed this warrant was a mistake. I reached Rob on the radio and offered to accompany him to court the next day to work this out. He just wanted to stay in camp so I agreed to take care of the problem for him in court tomorrow..

Day Two, Sunday, July 2nd.

Court on Sunday. You have to be kidding. I don't think there is a precedent for this anywhere. I wonder if the magistrate gets double overtime like the dozens of LEOs and guards standing around are being paid. The second day of court, July 2nd, was quite different. My admission application was accepted, so now I had leverage with the AUSA and the power to speak out for clients. I had help. Badger, who had already accumulated three tickets, was my legal assistant with Summerbreeze, who has much experience fighting these tickets. She had come along as an official observer for the PCU-Civil Liberties Project. But Summerbreeze did not bring her ID with her. Even though many of the LEOs knew her and were quite friendly with her, the rough guy at the gate would not let her observe the courtroom action. So she stayed outside trying her best to organize the flow of arriving defendants.

The judge was not happy I was not in a suit. I explained I had been unable to catch up with my clothing, that this was the same clothing I was wearing when I left Hungary four days before. He ordered me to get my suit as quickly as possible.

On the second day I got much better at organizing my clients. I simply called for a circle and everyone quickly came forward to hold hands. Once we had a circle everyone was quite cooperative and communication was much easier. I introduced myself and my mission and asked everyone around the circle to describe their charges. It was a great way to do my triage. I did not have to repeat myself so often. It built a team spirit. The circle really freaked out the guards charged with watching us. There was still no way to get out of their earshot, something I found quite unfair.

Having the license to practice in the court changed the dynamic. Now I could address the magistrate for a solution when I thought the AUSA was being unreasonable. I could quickly filter out the cases that should go for a collateral fee--those who had warrants out for them, who needed to be back at work, or were transient, the latter group being too hard to find when it's time to fight their cases later (as we learned last year in West Virginia). I could promise people a defense if they wanted to fight their cases in the Kangaroo Court.

My first task was to speak up for Rob. I described to the Magistrate the glee with which Tim Lynn had tried to arrest Rob the previous evening. I had the magistrate confirm that Rob was scheduled for a hearing on July 7th. Apparently this was a court error, the Magistrate saw the date set for the 7th but read the date as the 1st. He quickly rescinded his warrant for Rob. I requested the Forest Service broadcast this to their officers in the field so they could cease their dragnet and Rob could come out of hiding. Score one small victory for the new defense attorney. Still, the Magistrate made one thing clear to me. If I spoke at all for a client, even on a procedural issue like to point out the court's wrongly issued warrant, the court would consider that individual to be my client. The individual would no longer be entitled to the public defender and I was liable for helping that individual through the entire case. So now I was Rob's lawyer, like it or not.

Late in the morning, when the sun was at it hottest, a Colorado Highway Patrolman came running up to the assembled defendants face red and loud. I went over to see what he was so upset about. "Is that your car," he asks me pointing to the vehicle I had borrowed to get to court. "Yes." "Give me your driver's license and ID. The rest of you need to move your vehicles right now." I was too much in shock to record exactly what he said. I know I have never been treated so roughly and rudely by a law enforcement officer. I tried explaining that I was a lawyer working in the courtroom that my keys were in the courtroom and my ID in the car. "I don't care, if you don't give me your ID right now I am placing you under arrest." I walked away toward the courtroom and he dared not follow me past the gang of Rainbows and the Forest Service guard at the gate. When I saw the Magistrate and AUSA hanging outside the courtroom I spontaneously asked if we could go on the record. They agreed so we went into the courtroom and the recorder started recording what I had to say.

I told the court that what I was seeing was the worst abuse of defendants I had ever seen, far worse than I ever imagined the justice system could provide in America. I said the heavy law enforcement was a total abuse of the religious and constitutional rights of the individual pilgrims wishing to gather in the woods. The millions of dollars spent to stop this religious ceremony was unconstitutional and illegal. I said that if the government put that many police vehicles in the driveway of a Catholic Church, no one would attend mass. This was the first time I ever saw anything I said cause a reaction in this magistrate. He obviously was quite a religious guy.

I used this impromptu hearing as my opportunity to lambaste the court for having the defendants still sitting in the sun, for the lack of shelter, phones and other accoutrements of a courthouse. And now the Highway Patrol was taking away our parking places. I asked that the US Marshall accompany me outside to fend off the rude Highway Patrolman and talk to him about why we needed to park on the side of he highway. The fire station parking lot was full of at least 30 LEO and other agency vehicles. Armed guards blocked us from parking in the lot. The magistrate ordered the LEO in charge to go with me to speak with the rude State Highway Patrolman. It worked. Despite the fact that I disappeared on him for 10 minutes while I addressed the court, the highway patrol officer had to be much kinder in front of the high ranking LEO. We were allowed to park on the highway so long as we parked facing the right direction.

One pattern of LEO action was emerging. The cops were writing a lot of tickets for people who photographed an arrest or takedown. Whether or not you are accredited news media, you have a right to photograph these scenes so long as you keep a proper distance and not actually interfere with the officers. But the LEOs know that this is how they get in trouble. They can get away with being abusive or cruel to people so long as it is not photographed or recorded. Their solution is to attack anyone they see recording them. In some instances they actually grabbed cameras and destroyed the film or video tapes. Another disturbing pattern is their arresting anyone who yells "six-up" to announce the presence of guns in the church. Two people were even arrested for calling "Shantsena", our parlance for the rainbow peacekeepers. One was arrested and taken into custody for OMing too loud trying to calm the vibe near an ugly police scene. Seriously, it really happened. All of these individuals are being charged with Interfering with the duties of a police officer, a much more serious charge than any of the others we are talking about here.

During a break in the action Badger, Summer Breeze and I went to the Clark store to get lunch. They were quite nice at the store. I asked the manager if the Rainbow participants were giving her any trouble. Absolutely not was her answer. Hearing the dire warning from the Forest Service, she had employed a couple of local contractors to keep an eye on her merchandise. For three weeks her store had been busy with people heading into the gathering. Not one instance of shoplifting had been seen. Her only complaint was that the Forest Service roadblock on the road into the gathering kept people from leaving for groceries, greatly cutting into her potential business.

Nicky's Case

In the afternoon of the 2nd, I got to try Nikki's case. She was the one not-guilty plea I had harvested from my work yesterday. To Nikki's credit, she could have paid a collateral forfeiture of $40 and the case would have gone away. By taking her case to trial, Nikki faced a much larger fine and court costs, a federal misdemeanor conviction and the potential to be ordered out of the National Forest for a year (or a year and a month if the magistrate did not like you). Nikki was so upset by her and her husband's treatment by the LEOs that she agreed to fight for her innocence.

Nikki was charged with "Use and Occupancy of the National Forest without a permit when one is required", what we called a "gathering ticket." The LEOs had handed out over 200 of these complaints in recent days. The crime was for being there. The government's position is that this is a crime of strict liability, you need no criminal intent to be guilty; the government just has to prove your presence at an "illegal gathering". The government had tried for years to pass these regulations. Each time they tried to force them upon the rainbow gathering, the courts had thrown them out as being improperly passed or unconstitutional. Before the current regulations were passed individuals had challenged their applicability to the rainbow gatherings.

The regulations require a responsible party to sign a permit application and take responsibility for the group. This works well for the Boy Scouts or the Elks Lodge, associations with a governing structure in place. The gatherings do not have this structure. Instead, decisions at the gatherings are made by the individuals doing the action. We do have council meetings structured on the way Native Americans governed themselves. Council meets July 1 through July 7th on the land. Anyone can be heard. Decisions are by consensus, but that is as far as it goes. The Council has no power to do anything to anyone who chooses to ignore the consented to decision. It is only the need to actually sign a permit that is in dispute. For 30 years, the gatherings got along with the managers of the forests. We would agree to a management plan and a clean-up plan. We prided ourselves on how well we did complying with these agreements and our positive working relationship with the resource rangers. The gathering was patrolled by friendly rangers who would volunteer every year to work the gathering.

In recent years, a relatively new branch of the Forest Service took over management of our event. In the late 1980s, the Reagan administration created a Law Enforcement branch of the Forest Service. The Bush administrations had replaced the professional foresters who managed the Forest Service with political appointees. They strengthened the power of the LEOs at the expense of the professional managers who steward the forest. The resource rangers are continually impressed with how well the gatherings treat their forests and do their best to accommodate us. Most are thrilled the gathering is coming to their forest. Every year, in the days before the gatherings start, the LEOs move in with their management team and take over. Under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regulations that are now part of the Homeland Security Department, the Forest Service only needs to declare a national "incident" to invoke the extraordinary power of FEMA. This is all it takes, "Oh, we are having an incident, for the equivilant of martial law to take effect. The county sheriff and the regional forester, who previously held power over the forest, lose primacy to an Incident Commander who moves in with a team of officers and office staff to "manage" the incident. Whatever agreements we made with the resource rangers are out the window.

In the aftermath of World War II, the U.S. Courts harassed members of the Jehovah's Witnesses because they refused to take the oaths needed to be jurors. Lots of Witnesses spent time in jail because of their deeply held belief that it is moral to swear, therefore it was immoral to "swear" on the bible. It took 20 years of battles for the courts to come to a reasonable accommodation for people with this belief. These days, if you do not want to "swear" on the bible, you can "affirm" on the bible. That small tweak of the law fixed the problem.

The Forest Service regulations require that they make a reasonable accommodation if for any reason a permit cannot be issued. We have been asking for years to be able to submit a permit application for the gatherings unsigned. Alternately we wish to go back to the old method where an operating plan was developed jointly between the resource rangers and the early gatherers. This operating plan would then be brought to council on the 1st of July for consensus. Instead, the politically directed Forest Service has not waived and demands the signature that no one can give. The person signing the permit swears that he is authorized by the group to do so. The problem is that no one can be so authorized in such a group. So this dispute over us not signing a permit has been blown up by the Forest Service into a massive enforcement scene costing the taxpayers millions of dollars per year.

Individuals have come forward in the past three years to sign a permit. To prove the ridiculiousness of the signature requirement, a permit application last year was signed by a Washington secretary who had never been to a gathering and had no intention to attend. The Forest Service snapped at the opportunity and issued us a permit. But as in recent years, once a permit to gather was issued, the law enforcement barrage only got more intense. So this year everyone was pretty resolved not to sign a permit application.

When the law enforcement moved against this gathering, they blocked the only road in. this left hundreds of gatherers sitting in the hot sun on the road waiting to get in. It left hundreds of gatherers stuck on the site without access to food and water supplies. One brother feeling he could relieve this pressure came forward and applied for a permit. The forest service reject this permit but offered no reasonable accommodation or alternate site. When an alternate site was finally offered it turned out to have no water resources at all, an impossible situation.

Nicky's Trial

Tim Lynn, the Incident Commander, was the government's first witness. He talked of his three-year history as Incident Commander for the Rainbow Gatherings. He said his function was to minimize the environmental and community impacts of the Gatherings. He then went on to describe the Rainbow Gathering as a group activity. His proof was two reproductions off of the www.welcomehome.org website. Exhibit One was the Rainbow Mini Manual, a booklet that was written in the 1980s. Exhibit Two was the directions to this year's Gathering. I objected to these exhibits. Tim Lynn was not able to identify the author of the documents nor verify their authenticity as it pertains to the Rainbow Family Tribe. Still the Magistrate let them in as evidence.

Tim Lynn agreed that one of the reasons that the permit application was denied was that it was made soon after 75 people were on the site. He says that it is impossible to issue a permit for a gathering already underway. I tried hard to get him to tell me how 75 people who do not know each other could apply for a permit without meeting first. Who was responsible for getting the permit, the first person there, the 75th person to arrive or the 76th? Are we each responsible for counting the number of people around us? What are the first 75 people supposed to say to the next person that comes? Do they have any legal recourse if the 76th person refuses to leave?

I got to question Tim Lynn at some length as to how he could consider the pilgrims to the Gathering to be a group. His answer was that there were distinct trails between our campsites. He agreed the Rainbow Family Tribe had no offices, officers, treasuries, treasurers, bylaws, membership cards, membership fees, articles or incorporation, etc. Eventually, he agreed that if 75 hunters occupied the same area of national forest and made trails between their camps that this would be an illegal group. The Magistrate cut me off on all questions about the scope and size of Lynn's enforcement effort. I was hoping to compare the costs to the harm he perceived he was preventing. I let him off the stand figuring I would treat him gently the first day. I knew I would get other bites of this apple. Apparently though, I really pissed him off.

Another officer took the stand to identify Nikki as the one who received the ticket. He described how the Forest Service went through the Gathering handing out flyers that stated that since was no permit for the gathering, it was illegal and anyone caught in the premises would be given a ticket. The FS then put up two roadblocks on the only entrance to the gathering. The first roadblock gave out a warning that the gathering was illegal and that there was an extreme fire danger and campfires were banned. A second roadblock, just out of sight of the first stop, handed out tickets and searched cars when appropriate.

My questions for this officer were aimed at getting him to admit that there were only a few Rainbow Gathering participants in sight on the road where my client was ticketed. This was easy as the roadblock was a mile before the gathering. The AUSA rested and I moved for dismissal on a variety of grounds, all of which were overruled.

My client took the stand. I wanted the magistrate to see she was an educated, employed, real person seeking to have fun on her honeymoon. Nikki explained she was just camping out with her new husband. She went on to describe her spiritual reasons for attending The Gathering. The AUSA had no cross-examination. Magistrate West found her guilty and fined her $100 and $25 costs. The victory was that he did not order Nikki to stay out of the National Forests for a year, something he had done routinely before. This case got Tim Lynn to set forth his position in detail. This case is already under appeal and will be joined in with the other gathering tickets.

At one point during the trial the Magistrate called us to chambers. He explained that yes, the fire station turned courtroom had abandoned much of the formality of a federal courtroom, but even so I was ordered to wear a tie with my suit tomorrow or not come to court. He also ordered me to ask Badger to button up his shirt. He was concerned that the court recorder might be offended by chest hair. What a prude.

As we were leaving the fire station, one of the friendlier resource officers whispered to Summerbreeze that all the officers were going to follow us back to camp because they wanted to see us get ticketed and searched. Luckily we had agreed to head to town to use the phone to find additional legal help. It was Saturday, July 2nd, and I futilely tried to conjure up some reinforcements. No such luck. I could not reach anyone.

Trying to find a copy store to print notes off my computer proved equally frustrating. I ended up deciding to buy a cheap printer so I could have a complete office out of my car. But this proved frustrating as well.

Just before dark I headed back to camp with Nikki, my client, and Badger and Summer Breeze, my legal assistants. On the way in we passed almost a dozen speed traps set up by the Colorado Highway Patrol and saw over 30 officers of various agencies driving out of the gathering. People leaving the gathering told us the roadblock was still active. We could have waited until dark when the LEOs were too scared to conduct the roadblock, but we wanted to document their civil liberties abuses. So we took out our cameras and audio recorder and proceeded to go through the roadblock. "Whee, we are going to get tickets" we joked. I did not think it serious. I could not believe they would be audacious enough to give an officer of the court a ticket. Wrong. Summerbreeze and I each got tickets. They ignored Nikki and Badger sitting in my car. I leveled with the officer showing him my new bar admission receipt. I told him I would gladly take the ticket but was he sure he wanted to give to me. He indicated he was under orders to do so, so I accepted the ticket and got back in my car. Badger was frustrated because there were some great photos of all the car searches and busts happening around us but he had used up all of the room in my camera.

The four of us watched a team of 8 officers tear apart the vehicle in front of us. Handcuffed people were sitting in custody all over the place. We were not sure if we were next. They held us almost a half-hour. The officer who took my drivers license came to the vehicle and apologized. He said he got so aggravated at the people in the car in front of us that his tension caused him to break my driver's license in half in his hand. Eventually we were allowed to proceed without being searched. We chanted our brag all the way back to camp, "We got tickets, we got tickets." The challenge was on.

But of course, then it hits. The implications of being admitted to the bar, being allowed to cross-examine my opponent and then having him order my arrest all in the same day was astounding. I am accustomed to being around law enforcement either as a silent witness or as the tough attorney fighting for a client. Now I was their target. It did not feel good but at the same time I was harnessing my anger for a long fight. There certainly was no shame in this ticket, rather, the gatherers considered the citations to be a reward from the government for good work performed.

When we got back to camp I set up my computer and printer on the hood of my car. I had pages of notes and ideas I wanted to print. It was then I discovered that the new printer did not come with a cable to hook it into the computer. ARGHH!

One cool thing happened on the way back to my kitchen. As I walked through the hugs tent that was set up on main trail, only one guy was hanging out. I felt sorry for him; he looked so lonely standing there. So I hooked around the center pole of the tent to give him a hug. Just as I let go and turned around to head home, the tent was overrun by a team of LEOs leaving the gathering. The LEO who gave me the most hassle that day was 3 inches from me and about to run me over. Perfect timing; to catch my balance and express my love, I gave him a hug, bulletproof vest and all. He froze up; I don't think there is anything in his police training to deal with an assault like that. We smiled and I let go. Tim Lynn was right behind him but was able to avoid my attempts to give a hug.

It's difficult to describe the mood in camp. This was the year of paranoia. The police presence was not just at the gate, it was clear they had undercover agents inside. They obviously had a pretty good view of who was doing what at the Gathering. It got so bad people feared that the feds had bugs in the trees and every stranger was the FBI. Obviously the feds had done a really good job using their intelligence methods to figure out who was doing what at the gathering. And they pressed their enforcement efforts on the doers. I told the court over and over again that I did not mind the heavy law enforcement effort at the Gatherings so much when these efforts were directed at the drainbows--the few individuals who were at the gathering to make trouble for us--but the massive federal assault now aimed at our best people, the people getting things done This really smacked of religious intolerance and repression.

Their most effective move was on our medical crew. The Rainbow Gathering has always been known as a healing gathering. People come to get healed from a wide variety of ailments. Every year the gathering draws talented medical practitioners from a variety of fields. Fully accredited osteopaths, MDs, nurses and nurse practitioners work with herbalists, acupuncturists, homeopaths, massage therapists and a variety of other healing disciplines. They work together in a holistic approach that gives famously good health care and teaches all involved a lot about healing.

This year, these medics were targeted for attack. One of our ambulance drivers was stopped on the road miles from the gathering and given a ticket. One of our best EMTs was arrested for interfering with the duties of a police officer for trying to help individuals involved in a traffic accident. One nurse had her tent raided and her medical bag became the subject of a controlled substance charge. It took a week of aggravation for this nurse to convince the prosecution that she truly was licensed to have the medicines that she possessed.

The effect of this was that qualified medical people ran scared for their careers. CALM, our emergency medical center, was staffed by good volunteers, but not by the usual cadre of well-qualified professionals. The result was that we had way more medical evacuations than at any time in the past. And the healing spirit of the gathering was squashed.

But the profiling wasn't exclusive to the medical crew. Anybody the Forest Service identified as a "Rainbow Leader" was targeted. Our radio crew, our water crew, the banking council and our front gate crew were all given tickets. At times, the Forest Service would send teams right into the middle of the gathering in the middle of the night. These teams would head right to one of their target's tent, wake them up and issue a ticket. How did the FS know where our key people were sleeping without having an insider feeding them this information? These tickets were truly used as a weapon of terrorism. This had a huge effect on the gathering spirit. The publicity about these police hassles and the presence of the roadblock really cut down our potential numbers.

I was pretty wiped out that evening and went straight to bed.

Day 3, Monday July 3rd.

Having received a gathering ticket the previous evening, my mood was completely different. I lost whatever shred of professional detachment I had, no longer was it protecting my family and my clients, now it was me that needed protection. I also had to examine the ethical implications. Could I represent people accused of the same crime that I was accused of? Would the court allow me to continue as an attorney with these charges over my head? That day I also found out that Brian, the only other attorney helping the family with these tickets was also selected to receive a ticket. Not only were they targeting our leaders, they were after our lawyers.

I walked through the metal detectors at the same time as the Magistrate. He checked me out to see if I was wearing the tie he ordered me to wear the day before. I had picked up a dress shirt and bolo in town the day before. The magistrate saw the bolo and realized I had one on him as the bolo is accepted as a tie in the West. He raised his fist to meet mine in a silent affirmation that I had won a round.

I had to stay quiet in court that day, my anger level was too extreme. In the morning pretty much everyone wanted to take the deal offered by the prosecutor. And the volume of tickets had slowed down giving us all some breathing room.

Goodwater was the only case scheduled for hearing that afternoon. Tony had already fought the FS once on a gathering ticket using the religious freedom defense. He lost despite a valiant effort. To build a religious freedom case takes a lot of work. You have to prove the spiritual nature of the gathering and prove a purposeful effort to abridge religious freedom. I was begging for a constitutional lawyer to help me craft the right questions, but finding such a lawyer on the 3rd of July was impossible. And going into depth in the issue was impossible with the Kangaroo Court cutting off lines of inquiry.

Goodwater tried. He got his chance to question Tim Lynn and got some good answers out of him. He put on his own testimony about the religious nature of the gatherings and his own motivations for being there without a permit. He had us all in tears; I think this deeply felt testimony even affected the magistrate. Goodwater then put Philippe on the stand as a witness about the religious nature of the gatherings. When he rested Magistrate West began reading a pre-written memo that summarized previous rulings on the religious issue. I wonder who in the Forest Service wrote that for him. The Magistrate even used Goodwater's previous case as a precedent. But the magistrate then did something significant. After ruling against Tony on the religious freedom defense, he dismissed Tony's charges. The magistrate noticed that the LEO who wrote the ticket had failed to include the words, "In the Routt National Forest" in the location blank of the ticket. It was clear that unless the complaint against Tony gave the court jurisdiction that the complaint failed. So Tony was declared innocent despite his loss of the religious freedom argument.

Goodwater's valiant but futile effort convinced me that we have to stick together and that we need the right professional help to win on these complex issues. We keep losing appeals based on poorly developed cases. My hope is that this year they will give us enough cases where we can accumulate contradicting testimony on the part of the government and get the evidence needed for either a religious freedom defense or a right to assemble defense. There are enough gathering tickets issued that we will get many bites at the apple of government testimony. I hope my efforts will result in the postponement of few choice cases until a hearing in Denver. There, we can secure real help and a proper defense can be incorporated into all of our appeals. I know that even with three years of legal training and 20+ years of experience, that I don't have the requisite knowledge to conduct these complex defenses. So I can't blame Goodwater or anyone else for not knowing the proper questions to ask.

The question remains, will they actually give us trials in Denver? Four years ago, on the 4th of July in Michigan, I was handed a gathering ticket. I was determined to fight it and with Scottie's help, papered the government with all sorts of motions. I bought a ticket to fly to Marquette, Michigan for the hearing and prepared for a fight. On the night before the hearing, just as I was leaving for the airport, the AUSA called to tell me they were dismissing my case. I was out of a lot of work and a plane ticket. It would have been cheaper to just pay for the collateral forfeiture. The lawyer in me that wants a fair fight worries that the US Attorneys will drop all the cases scheduled for Denver leaving on the record only those cases tried in the Kangaoo Court. This leaves few others in a position to appeal their cases, but on a less than perfect record of evidence. Even with the testimony of each of these "trials" accumulated, I am not confident we have the critical testimony in the record to win these appeals.

As there were no contested cases, I headed back to camp early that afternoon. It was glorious to finally be home and have a chance to catch up with my friends and family. I was exhausted and burnt out from too much sun and pressure. I had found a cable for my printer so I hooked up my office again on the hood of the car. I did well installing the new printer until it had to test a test page. It then turned out my inverter would not power the computer and printer at the same time. Things got hopelessly jammed and I could not get out my needed printing. It was getting dark so I gave up.

A hot shower at Musical Veggie revived me, but I was beyond sore with back pain. Mark, Lynn, Linda and others gave me a great massage in the massage tent. But in the middle of the massage I began to feel sick. Oh no, not the flu everyone else was getting! I don't want to be sick on the 4th. The need to evacuate came so suddenly, I had no time to react except to pull my hat off my head and purge into my hat. A bucket was quickly found for the over laden hat. My massage team just kept working as I continued to puke into the bucket. Somehow it all worked, the deep massage must have gotten all the sickness out of me. Things were okay until I got back to the fire. Zoe immediately asked me what happened to the hat she had painted for me. When I told her I puked in it she freaked out on me.

I got through feeling sick in an hour but relaxing around the fire was difficult as I faced a constant barrage of questions from people with tickets or people trying to be of help. I had a dozen people I needed to find, people with tickets, people who were material witnesses, people who had knowledge of the legal history of the feds vs. Rainbows. How do you do that in a gathering spread out over four square miles?

The best news came. Because we had shown the right people that the FS case was based on evidence garnered from a web page, we attracted the attention of the Electronic Freedom Foundation, a great group with the First Amendment expertise we need to defend the gathering tickets. The EFF understood that if people could be prosecuted for something that was said on a web page, then the government could put just about anyone in jail for anything. But reaching the attorney we were referred to proved impossible, even with a borrowed satellite phone. When we finally did reach him a couple of days later, it turned out his mandate was illness all out of my system to defend just one of us--not the bulk of the gathering tickets. Still, it felt great to have a knowledgeable person to consult when necessary.

Day 4, Tuesday, the Fourth of July

I got up early and rode my bike down to the circle to meditate. I figured I would get some meditation time in before the sun got too hot. Even at 7:00 am, there were 500 people sitting in silent meditation. The camp was as quiet as could be; everyone was respecting the silence.

When I returned to camp, my daughter was still sleeping. I got inspired to write down 100 good questions for Tim Lynn so I was better prepared for my next opportunity to question him on the stand. To get away from the chaos of my camp, I got a cup of tea from BrewHaHa and sat down against a tree in some deep woods and started jamming writing into my notebook. Within 5 minutes a cadre of the worst of the LEOs surrounded me and the tree. Included was Jason Tackfas, whom we came to refer to as Tackless for the way he was always starting trouble in peaceful situations. They recognized me. I was glad I was not smoking a joint or anything. They asked if I wanted another gathering ticket and I replied no thank you that one was enough to motivate me to fight. They left me alone.

So much for a quiet cup of tea in the woods. I was not in a mood to go chasing ahead of these renegade FS employees warning my fellow campers of their presence. But I could not let them run amuck through the gathering without an escort or any witnesses of their abuses. So I tagged 20 feet behind. I watched these guys come across a campsite with a barely smoldering fire. Although it was with a large kitchen, there was no fire permit for this fire. The LEOs awoke the few kids sleeping near the fire and began to write them all tickets. The kids answered correctly that they had nothing to do with the fire that they were cold and fell asleep next to the fire to stay warm. Still, according to the LEOs, this was use of the fire and a violation. They began to write tickets, but changed their minds when someone with some sense poured water on the few remaining embers.

I then followed these same five LEOs as they ran through the gathering to meet up the five other teams of LEOs approaching the main circle. There were at least 10,000 people in the circle already. The LEOs wisely stayed just to the side not disturbing the silence or ceremony very much. Many of the LEOs were there with their families and were quite curious as to what was happening in the meadow. I got the feeling that 25 of the 30 LEOs in uniform were totally friendly and just wanted to join us in our pilgrimage. The other five took off to harass more campers.

One of the LEOs came up to talk to me. A beautiful blonde who always had a smile. She asked me how long I had been an attorney. I told her 21 years. She replied, "Wow, you survived somehow and haven't let your profession destroy you. This was the perfect setup for my favorite lawyer joke. I sided up to her, leaning over real close like I was trying to hit on her. I asked her if she knew the similarity between lawyers and sperm. Taken aback just a little she answered with some trepidation, no and asked for the comparison. I told her, "Well there's a million of them." To which she agreed. I continued, "But only one in a million turns into a real person." She guffawed so loudly that her supervisor noticed and called her back into the group. I then watched her repeat my joke to the LEOs around her. I could tell because they all started laughing out loud and she turned beet red.

In all this, I lost my five trouble-making LEOs. So I wandered away from the meadow listening for six-ups or other commotion. The camp was so silent that it was easy to tell which direction the LEOs had wandered. I sat down against another tree, continued my note taking and waited for the LEOs to find me again, which only took a few minutes.

The rest of the morning, I followed these guys as they marauded through camp after camp. It was clear that they were looking for a few particular individuals. Whether these were people with warrants or their suspects in the one rock throwing incident, I was not sure. I saw them stop three guys with dark blond curly hair to see if they were the ones they sought. They ordered one guy out of his tent only to realize that his hair was much lighter in the daylight and let him go. I watched these same five LEOs go into one camp were they saw four people puffing. They let one go and hassled the other three. I watched Tackless unzip and enter into their tent while the other officers went through their backpacks. I saw this scene repeated three times. I had to run to keep up with these guys; they ran from camp to camp to get ahead of any Six-up warnings. They tolerated me quite well as I kept notes on all I saw and heard. Of course all this was happening at the peak of the gathering experience, when most all of the camp was in the meadow trying to unite in silence and pray for universal peace. As the LEO group blasted through Granola Funk, I heard over the FS radios that at least one of the people they were trying to find had been arrested. These LEOs then marched out to meet their comrades at Nick at Night and left the gathering area. I was free to join the big circle.

I was really proud of my family on the 4th. We don't have written tenants or even a clue of how to gather in a group of 20,000+ people. We agree there should be silence, but how this silence is maintained and when it ends has always been in question. One of our biggest debates is whether we can use the OM to silence people. Some feel this is a bastardization of a deeply held religious belief. I think of it as more of a manifestation of the human beehive. In our rougher gatherings, like Texas, the OM was quite useful in stopping trouble. Any disturbance would be quickly surrounded by a hundred people OMing and chilling the vibration.

When I approached the circle there were a few who wanted to shout out signing, a few who wanted to shut them up with an OM and a few just yelling for silence. Whatever, it worked. For the first time in years, the 20,000 people assembled held their silence until the last of the children's parade made it all the way into the center of the circle. It was magnificent. Thank you everyone, we did great.

After the silence broke the dancing began but I was not in the mood for a huge celebration, I had too much on my mind. So I headed for the shade. I had a great 4th of July the rest of the day. Most of my afternoon was spent listening to friends singing and playing guitars. I went to bed early that night knowing I was due in court the next morning for my own arraignment.

Day 5, Wednesday, July 5th

The 5th of July was the hardest for me. True, there were a lot less defendants, the Forest Service hardly wrote a ticket on the 4th of July. It gave us more time to talk to each defendant. One of my worst problems how to cover the proceedings inside the hearing room and meet with and prepare the mass of defendants waiting outside the gate. The FS refused to allow more than 10 in the courtroom at once, despite the agreement worked out by the attorneys in Denver that 30 more seats would be opened in the courtroom. Letting the defendants in would have gotten them out of the sun and helped them to be better prepared for seeing the magistrate.

In front of all the defendants, I walked up to the guard whose job it was to call the defendants into the courtroom. I asked, "Could we try a kinder, gentler approach to calling the defendants today? How about you give me the docket and we will get defendants lined up in the proper order?" He refused. He had orders to do the lineup and perp walk exactly the way he was doing it. I then asked for a volunteer who did not have a ticket to stick with the guard who was calling out names while the rest of us went to have our circle in a nearby woods. Today's circle was excellent because it included Garrick who had been issued a gathering ticket and could tell the history of this struggle including his own 90-day jail sentence for defending our right to gather. Still, most defendants, including Garrick, felt the $40 fine was the quickest way out and took the deal.

That afternoon, my own name came up in the rotation for going into court. By now the Forest Service guards and the US Marshals were quite used to me going into and out of the courtroom on my own. I tried to avoid having to stand in the sun with the other defendants, but no, the LEO guards really wanted me to do the prep walk with the others. They put me in the end of the line so I was maximally exposed to the sun. Then, the magistrate stopped the court action to tell me to put on my suit jacket, sopping wet with sweat as it was. Thanks your honor for giving me one more opportunity to put on the record how impossible it was to properly represent clients under these harsh conditions.

I used my own appearance to offer a better solution for some defendants, especially those who did not want to plead guilty but wanted to state their religious beliefs and perhaps win on appeal. I said wanted to submit a plea of no contest while preserving my rights to appeal the case on constitutional issues. I wanted to be able to testify on my own as to my religious beliefs the same as Goodwater had done on July 3rd. The prosecutor had a knee jerk reaction against this, but the magistrate understood what I was offering. He said it would be okay to do as a plea of not guilty and then admit the prosecutor's facts in the case, a victory for once. But I didn't trust the magistrate, so instead of going forward, I pled not guilty and set my case for July 28th in Denver. I also tried to have my case dismissed because my ticket was as defective as the one he dismissed against Goodwater. The LEO who had written my ticket also failed to indicate the crime took place in the Routt National Forest. I should have known better as I lost such a motion 35 years ago in a traffic case. The magistrate educated me that you have to wait to make such a motion until after the prosecutor begins to offer evidence. Then "jeopardy" attaches and it becomes too late for the AUSA to amend the charge. Oh well, the AUSA was permitted to amend the charge against me, thereby keeping my case going.

That afternoon Philippe had a hearing on his gathering ticket. Most of you know Philippe as a focalizer of Kiddy Village, the quiet refuge for families at the gathering. Philippe and a bunch of my other defendants had just returned from an almost year-long effort helping on the front lines of Katrina relief in New Orleans. He had already appeared as a witness for Goodwater and had stated his religious objections for attending the gathering. Philippe asked me to be his attorney at the last minute, something I agreed to do. I tried to get Philippe a continuance so he could get more prepared counsel, but he wanted to get this over with. Doing this trial gave me an hour to further question Tim Lynn. Then I noticed that Philippe's tickets were defective too. They teach us in law school that it is unethical to fake jurisdiction of the court. If the court lacks jurisdiction, you have a duty to point it out. So I moved to dismiss the charges because the tickets against Philippe were invalid. You would think I had fired a weapon in the courtroom.

The prosecutor went ballistic. Of course the tickets were valid. The court agreed. But I asked to approach the bench and compared Philippe's ticket with the version the court had. The arresting officer had clearly modified (forged) the ticket after he presented it to Philippe. Their copies had the requisite language, Philippe's original did not. I argued that it was the complaint served on the defendant that we were in court to answer to. That the defendant needed notice of the charges against him and the forgeries presented to the court were improper and should be discarded. In the end, the magistrate had to agree with me. Philippe's charges were thrown out. This would have been a great victory, but my client was upset. Even though he was found not guilty, Philippe wanted to win on the larger issues. It took a day for him to come around and understand that every victory is to be savored, that he could easily go and get another gathering ticket if he wanted and that others were better prepared and better suited to win the big case. Philippe called a few days later to thank me for my efforts, but I left for home that day feeling like you just could not win, even when you did win.

We were stopped in the roadblock this afternoon as we headed for home, but this time they let us go without tickets. They knew we had already received one and joked about it. Badger had received his fourth ticket by now. They were still searching some cars.

Finally on July 5, I found a circle of people interested in discussing the legal situation. They were much more interested in the long view. How were we going to sue to gain our rights? How we could liaise with the FS and get a resolution to these problems. It was discouraging that the discussion kept looking for a solution in the future while I was trying to figure out what to do with a raft of defendants coming to court during the next two days. I realized if we were going to build a record, we had only two more days to do it. I still doubt whether they will ever hear one of these gathering cases in Denver. Federal judges are not going to waste their time with $40 tickets. The prosecutors look bad pressing such little shit. So I was desperate for help crafting cross-examination of the FS personnel to get the answers we needed to win on appeal.

Still, some heard me. By the end of the circle I had a pledge of enough money that the situation changed for me. Instead of begging for people with great cases to plead not guilty, and promising to help them find an attorney, I could actually promise them an attorney. This changed everything for these defendants and myself. Also somebody loaned me their cell phone. I did not realize that some services worked at the fire station. I was able to call Pat McCarville in Boulder who agreed to represent all these cases for a reasonable fee. These cases will attack the constitutionality of the roadblock.

Day 6, Thursday, July 6th

On day six my friend Ed volunteered to help me with the rush of defendants held outside the gate. It was too hard for me to keep an eye on what was happening in the courtroom and meet those being herded into the next group. We were surprised to see only a small crowd waiting for us. The Forest Service essentially stopped writing gathering tickets on July 4th, so only about 20 defendants were waiting to get into the courtroom when we arrived. Just about every one of these defendants was there for a tiny marijuana bust, people who had their cars or vans invaded at the second checkpoint. Usually a dog would "alert" to the car and this and the gathering without a permit violation were used like crowbars to get the officers into the forest visitors' vehicles.

What was amazing was that I was looking at maybe 15 cases that I doubt had as much as a half-ounce of marijuana between them. Most of the charges had to do with residue on a pipe or "residue" on a car seat. There was one open container violation; they found an unsealed bottle of whiskey in the kitchen cabinet of a van. There was a fireworks violation for a small packet of fireworks found in one of these searches. Today, my defendants were stronger, more locally-based and quite pissed off. Perfect defendants. Some of them (especially two with outstanding warrants) were relieved to hear they could get the charges dismissed for a $125 legal bribe. But for the others, the determination to fight boosted with the promise of some help with attorney fees, helped ten decide to plead not guilty. I can't describe how this changed the mood of the courtroom. The government's whole plan to create shortcuts to our legal system for dealing with masses of people is impossible if a modicum of legal services are provided to the defendants and they are given the resources to fight back.

At our lunch break we went to a lodge only four miles down the road. They had Internet access!!! All of a sudden I could catch up with my mail and have free telephone communications through my Skype account. I was back in civilization. I used my time to download the appellate forms needed to perfect an appeal. The manager of the restaurant was nice enough to allow me to bring in my new printer in to print the Notice of Appeal forms we needed. We made the appellate forms available at Info and other places. At this point I know of three perfected appeals, but there will certainly be more.

That afternoon I tried to defend a brother named Michael who was ticketed while helping in Kiddy Village. He wanted to get the thing over with. He felt he could not attend the series of court hearings in Denver that would result from a not-guilty plea. So we took advantage of the plea I had worked out with the magistrate for my own case but then chose not use. Michael pled not guilty, but admitted the facts of the case­--that it was him in the woods who was given a ticket. This meant that the prosecution did not need to put on their case. Michael took the stand and I questioned him about who he was, what he was doing at the gathering and why. He gave a great personal statement. Unimpressed, the magistrate found him guilty, but Michael's rights to appeal the case are preserved.

Another brother, Piper, tried to fight his own constitutional case. He went so far as to approach the LEOs and ask them to give him a ticket because he wanted to set up the constitutional challenge over religious freedom as per Goodwater. The court had already ruled that I was not allowed to talk to or help these defendants in any way. Either I was to be the attorney and the client could not talk, or the defendants appeared on their own and could receive no coaching. So it was frustrating watching someone with even less courtroom experience than myself struggle to get the facts out. It was a good try, but of course the magistrate ruled against our poor defendant. At least his appeal rights are preserved, but again, I have deep concerns that these appeals will be pursued without a good record and without competent counsel who understands the details of First Amendment law. More bad precedents will be set against the family.

That evening I had a group shower with some of the most beautiful people I know. I felt renewed. One more day in the Kangaroo Court to go.

Day Seven, Friday, July 7th.

Ed is here to help with the rush of defendants, but things are even slower today. The Forest Service has stopped writing tickets. We get through the arraignments in an hour. Several trials are scheduled for later in the morning and all through the afternoon.

Stone, an accredited EMS, med student and post-Katrina relief worker in New Orleans, was on trial next. Adam Mayo of the Hammond Law Office came out from Steamboat Springs to conduct his defense. The Forest Service evidence against Stone was quite contrary. One officer related how Stone appeared at the accident and checked in with the local EMS team that responded to the accident. The injured parties had refused EMS help, so Stone got the go-ahead to proceed. Another officer, the one who wrote Stone his tickets, denied this happened. Stone was ticketed for interfering with the police officers and also cited with a gathering ticket. There was no evidence of anything he did to interfere with the officer other than helping the injured accident victims The AUSA's new exhibit backfired on him as Stone's attorney was able to show that the gathering ticket was delivered miles from the gathering site. So that charge was dismissed.

Stone put his family lawyer from Chicago on the stand. Les Blau had gotten involved because of the LEO hassles Stone had received in the past. Les testified to his efforts to liaison between Stone and the Forest Service. He told the court of the agreement he had worked out with the Incident Commander to assure that Stone would not be harassed this year. I thought Stone was home free, this was sterling evidence. But the Kangaroo Court was not impressed and convicted Stone on the Interference charge. He and his family were quite upset. Stone later told me by phone he doubts he will be able to come to next year's gathering. The guy did everything right to the point of having his lawyer confirm his being welcome to do his medical work at the gathering. He was extremely skilled and

Badger was scheduled next. He tried hard on his own to continue his case. He said he had been unable, due to the primitive conditions, to find an attorney able to come for the hearing. He asked for a trial in Denver. The Magistrate would not hear it and forced Badger into trial. Badger then asked me to represent him. Even though Badger had been with me day in and day out in court for the last six days, we were always too busy to have chance to discuss his case. The magistrate insisted that we go forward. This gave me one final opportunity to lambaste the court scene. So the first thing I did was to renew Badger's motion for a continuance. I explained how difficult it was to get communications, how impossible it was to reach a lawyer during the four day July 4th weekend, how impossible it was to get an attorney to travel hours into the bush for a petty trial, how Badger had the right to counsel of his choice, how I felt unqualified and unprepared to help him, etc. Even so, the magistrate forced me to go forward to defend Badger. To me, this was astounding. I had never heard a request for a continuance to obtain counsel or a request by newly-hired counsel for more time to prepare being turned down before. The right to counsel is so fundamental to a normal conception of American justice. Throw away all your training and all of your perceptions if you are going to appear in our new Kangaroo Courts.

Great, I get one more crack at Tim Lynn. After he testified against Badger, I cross examined Lynn about who decided that any gathering of individuals was "illegal." He had testified that the first roadblock was to warn campers that there was an "illegal" gathering ahead. Lynn answered this was a line officer's decision. Who determined the boundaries of the "illegal" gathering? Who decided that a particular person would be ticketed? Again, this is supposedly determined in the field by whatever officer wanted to act. I think this is powerful testimony that will help tremendously on appeal. If any LEO can determine that a group of hunters has exceeded 75 people, he, acting on his own, can block the road and issue tickets to all that pass him. This sets up all sorts of challenges to the regulations as vague, ripe for unreasonable enforcement or as unconstitutionally applied to our particular group. It's the court's job to determine something is "illegal", not the LEOs.

Two officers then testified about giving Badger his tickets. Then the AUSA moved to dismiss the third charge as the officer had already left for home. No objection from us. Boom, it instantly came to me that I had to do it again. After giving Badger an apology for what I had to do, I moved for dismissal. The two remaining tickets against Badger both failed to include the words, "In the Routt National Forest". The prosecutor had failed to amend the charge in time because these tickets were also changed by the LEOs after they were handed to the defendants. The court had no jurisdiction. The AUSA argued harder this time as he was quite embarrassed to lose their case against their perceived "rainbow leader." Badger was not happy, he too wanted to fight the bigger fight. But he was not unhappy with me as he understood I did what I had to do.

Rob was my final case. It was after 4:30 pm and the Magistrate had made it clear that he would not start trials after 4 pm that day. Still he was pressing me to go forward. Luckily, Rob's new counsel had filed a notice of appearance for him in Denver. Once the court could confirm this, there was no problem. I was relieved of duty and a hearing was set in Denver for Rob in August. I was off the hook. I doubt they will ever give Rob a hearing. His charges are so ridiculous. Federal Judges are used to trying federal crimes like conspiracy and huge money cases. The Forest Service could get away with such minor cases when they had their own rent-a-magistrate. But nobody, even a magistrate in Denver is going to have patience to try this little stuff.

My girlfriend, Zoe, showed up just as our day in court ended. We rushed into Steamboat to attend the free Michael Franti concert being held in the ski area. I love Michael Franti and think he has the potential to change the world as did John Lennon. But what was most cool about the concert was the rainbow that formed perfectly over the concert venue just at dusk. This happened just a Michael was playing his Rainbow song. He had to remark that he had seen rainbows, moonbows, sunbows but he had never seen a rainbow at night. We did not know at the time that the same rainbow was awing the crowd still left at the gathering 50 miles away.

Heading back in that night the roadblock was down to one police vehicle that left us alone. Progress.

The Aftermath

Cleanup of our camp was easy with a huge team helping. We started early in the morning sending our kitchen's huge carts down the hill. In a dozen trips we moved all the kitchen equipment and all of our camping gear down to the trailhead. We had a sense of urgency as we could tell a real rain was finally coming. We made it almost in time, our last two loads got wet, but nothing was ruined. My family was already tired and wanted to make tracks, so I missed hugging and saying goodbye to many people. Sorry, we had to be on our way. Four days driving and a couple of days to recover have restored my energies. But I still need a Rainbow Gathering to restore my spirits. I kind of missed this one.

So after a couple days of recovery I am busy contacting everyone involved and trying to line up attorneys for the live cases remaining. Several appeals need to be filed, but we have time because as of today the cases have still not been filed in Denver. So our 10 days to file Notices of Appeals have not begun to run.

I am especially interested in helping those who pled not guilty to gathering tickets ("use and occupancy of a National Forest without a permit to do so"), little shit marijuana busts, and especially those who were arrested simply because they could not produce their ID in the woods. Some generous family supporters have donated enough funds that we are able to offer attorney help in the right cases. All the action is happening in Denver except for a few tickets issued with appearances in Grand Junction. We have several Denver-based attorneys willing to help, which means you may be able to fight your ticket without ever having to go to Denver. If you have an unresolved ticket, please contact me.

The third category of people who need help are those who ignored their tickets and did not show up in court. The clerk of courts says there are 125 of you. If any of you want help getting through these tickets, let me know. I hate the thought of 125 of my friends and family walking around with these time bomb warrants. A simple traffic stop can turn into months of hell if you have one of these hanging over you. My legal research shows that these warrants were improperly issued. In my best case scenario we will be able to get these tickets dropped, but this right now is only wishful thinking.

Mostly, I need your stories. Thousands of you witnessed abusive police tactics at the gathering. These tactics get more outrageous every year. They get away with testing their fascist technologies on us because we don't fight back. The way we fight back is to write it all down and make the proper complaints to the Dept. of Agriculture and to Congress. As one old Colonel once implored me: "take names and kick ass." If we had good personal accounts of the LEO abuses, we could take them down with much more efficiency than they are using to take us down. So several of us are starting a new website intended to document the intensity of the police pressure on the gathering and how it affected us as individuals. You will hear about this soon, but in the meantime, please write down your stories while they are fresh in your minds. Photographs are needed as well. If you have any good photographs of the roadblocks, police encounters or such, please email them to me. I will pay the actual cost of copying any videotapes or non-digital photographs that people may have.

To me, the Gathering was a vision of the fascist future of America, a future certain to fall on all of us if we don't stop it in the bud right now. This was certainly an exercise of the Homeland Security Department trying to figure out how they can do quick adjudications in the future; adjudications on such issues as whether or not someone is an insurrectionist or whether or not an individual "has been exposed to the virus", or whatever. I am not sure what I am asking my fellow pilgrims other than to write down what you saw and send it to the legal team, details below. Please be aware there is a significant part of the federal government with a huge budget and an agenda to wipe out the counter culture. I would not be surprised to see them attacking the "leaders" of other activists' organizations next. We know such tactics are being used by the feds against Earth First and cop scenes like this are now common at events such as the Bonneroo Music Festival. I know if we do not join together and fight this vile attack from our government now, they will be coming after all of us next.

Sorry for this grim view, but I paid dearly for the privilege of seeing the gathering from this sad perspective. Write me individually with any questions.

Don E Wirtshafter

740 662 5297 before 7:00 pm EDT, please

don@hempery.com

 

 

Pray for Peace

© Colorado Legal Eagles

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