Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
The 2003 annual gathering of the Rainbow Family was on forest service land near Lyman Lake in the Wasatch National Forest in the Uinta Mountains in Utah. Rainbow sisters and brothers hold an impromptu jam session for fun. Photo taken by Leah Hogsten, 07/01/2003
Federal judge holds court at Utah’s Rainbow Gathering
Courts » At a gathering expected to draw 10,000 near Heber, a camp trailer becomes a courtroom.
First Published Jun 27 2014 12:15 pm • Last Updated Jun 27 2014 10:18 pm

As befits an event that’s been held annually for more than four decades, the Rainbow Family Gathering is steeped in tradition: the chanting of "Om" before a meal, the prayer for world peace on the morning of the Fourth of July and, of course, the mandatory court appearance.

So it was that on Thursday morning, 17 members of the Rainbow Family of Living Light appeared in a camp trailer-turned-courtroom that was as makeshift and temporary as the gathering itself.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Hearings for misdemeanor citations issued by federal agencies usually are heard in federal courts in Utah’s larger cities such as Salt Lake City, St. George and Moab, said Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah.

But rather than forcing both U.S. Forest Service rangers and Rainbow Family members to leave the gathering to go appear in federal court two hours away in Salt Lake City, the court came to them.

"It’s more efficient to have court up there," Rydalch said. The marshals, prosecutors and public defenders all rode out to the gathering site 15 miles east of Heber. U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead even wore his black robes.

Forest Service law enforcement officers have issued 21 citations for minor offenses — eight for marijuana possession, three for motor vehicle violations, two for off-leash dogs and one for possession of fireworks, among others — since the gathering kicked off in the Uintah National Forest two weeks ago.

Forest Service spokeswoman Kim Osborn said that law enforcement and Rainbow Family members have mostly avoided confrontation at this year’s gathering. Still, Osborn said, the gathering has not been free of tension.

"Law enforcement is out there working, and some people like law enforcement and some don’t, whether they’re doing anything wrong or not," Osborn said. "So you’re going to have positive and negative attitudes towards that."

Karin Zirk has been going to the gathering for 25 years and said the mobile courts are an annual occurrence. She said many in the Rainbow Gathering resent the perceived harassment for relatively minor offenses from law enforcement officers.

"Sometimes I feel like the Forest Service law enforcement are trying to provide a show of strength in the hopes that they’re going to intimidate people," Zirk said. "But that doesn’t really fly well in a group of counterculture people. I don’t know how well it flies anywhere, but I can totally tell you it doesn’t fly well in this community."


story continues below
story continues below

In more than two decades of attending the Rainbow Gathering, Zirk has found that Forest Service law enforcement officers are more effective when they tread lightly. In 2011, for example, officers policing the gathering in Washington State were successful by adopting a more reserved strategy.

"They didn’t come in on this big power trip," Zirk said. "They just came in to see how they could be of service to U.S. citizens using their national forest. It was really nice and really mellow, and we had no problems whatsoever."

Zirk, who lives in San Diego, plans to get to the gathering over the weekend. She will join more than 2,000 people who were already camped at the site as of Friday morning, according to the Forest Service. At least another 8,000 are expected to arrive by next Thursday.

While most of the family has remained peaceful, one woman was arrested last week and charged on suspicion of attempted murder after she allegedly stabbed a man in the head and shoulder. The woman, nicknamed "Hitler," may face additional charges for allegedly assaulting someone with a tire iron.

And on Thursday, police arrested a 24-year-old man from New Jersey who was attending the gathering on suspicion of trying to steal a woman’s purse outside a Heber City Walgreens.

Judge Pead dismissed four cases Thursday, some because the state has outstanding felony warrants on the individuals, Rydalch noted.

Those not sentenced to jail or paying fines were sentenced to community service, the Forest Service said in a press release. They will spend a combined 60 hours picking up trash, cleaning dispersed campgrounds and cleaning fire pits in the national forest.

Trials, to be held at the gathering, were set in three cases. One will be July 1 before U.S. Magistrate Paul Warner. The other trials will be on July 7.

Three people did not appear for Thursday’s hearings, and arrest warrants were being issued.

hstevens@sltrib.com Twitter: @Harry_Stevens



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.