Community meeting addresses concerns of Rainbow Gathering in Malheur National Forest in Oregon

Posted at 10:21 PM, Jun 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-28 00:21:21-04

For the second time in as many years a group has taken over federal land near Burns Oregon.


This time rather than the Bundy brothers and the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, it's the Rainbow Family of Living Light.


It's a group self-described as the largest non-organization of like-minded individuals on the planet. The event has been going on since 1972 in different U.S. National Forests.

The event was held in Stanley Idaho in 2001 and attracts thousands from all over the country.


However the “Rainbow Gathering”  has no central leadership and that is already causing problems amongst local residents near Malheur National Forest gathering site and the United States Forest Service.


The 2017 Oregon Rainbow Gathering is expected to draw crowds of up to 20,000 people and when you pack that many people into a confined area, that can cause some major headaches.


Tonight at public meeting in Burns, Oregon the USFS, as well as the Rainbow Family participants say they're working to make sure that public safety is the top priority.


"People are nervous about things they don't know, it's natural right or wrong good or bad something new coming through your town that looks ask and seems very different is a scary thing,” said one Rainbow Gathering participant.


Community members gathered at a Senior Center in Burns to discuss the impending Rainbow Family Gathering, which the USFS say they never encouraged or gave the go ahead to occur.


"This is an unauthorized event,” said a USFS Ranger.


Forest service regulations require that all non-commercial groups of 75 people or more obtain a group use permit in advance of their gathering. The USFS says the Rainbow Family has not applied nor obtained the permit and therefore participants and spectators involved in the gathering are in violation of federal regulations.  The Rainbow Family contends they don't need a permit, because they are not an organization.


"We are not an organization, we're not a group, where a bunch of people who happen to come to the same place at the same time,” said one man gathering. .


Regardless of permit or not Forest Service rangers says they must work to ensure the safety of all patrons and that means working with the those attending the Rainbow Gathering.


"No matter how good the intent, it's going to attract some folks who don't really buy into the group they are just there to cause problems and those are the bad apples in the Rainbow Family Gathering. I those folks can easily attend because they're very accepting of everybody. "


But members of the Rainbow Family in attendance of tonight's meeting believe they are being painted in a negative light.


"We are not the evil scoundrels coming through to do nasty things to your daughters their town and their dogs we're just regular people."


Some of the main concerns of the Forest Service are fires, public safety, and the impact to the environment.  Concerns gathering participants are shared with them.  


“They have families, children, people who are just smarter living people some of them are a bit more mobile in their lifestyle but they care as much for their children as you do you were anyone else they're not going to bring their families to a place that's not safe," said one man attending the gathering.  


So far, eight arrests have been made, 192 warning notices have been issued and 6 On Your Side as learned that police did shoot a dog earlier today. Also authorities have established a mobile court today near the gathering and officials say roughly 2/3 of those were issued citations went to the court this afternoon.