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Mass Gatherings and Public Events

The Rainbow People v. The National Forerts - U.S. v. Kalb 86 F.Supp.2d 509 (W.D.Pa. 2000)

U.S. v. Kalb is the latest in a long line of cases (see U.S. v. Rainbow Family 695 F.Supp. 314 (E.D.Tex. 1988)) arising from the efforts of the Forest Service to regulate the gatherings of the Rainbow Family in national forests.  As described by one court, the Rainbow Family is:

". . . an unincorporated, loosely-structured group that regularly gathers in undeveloped sites in National Forests to pray for peace, discuss environmental and other contemporary political and social issues, and [to] exchange, develop, express, and demonstrate their ideas and views. Annual gatherings have occurred in different National Forests on and around July 4 since 1972. These gatherings draw more than 20,000 participants and last for a month or more. Smaller regional gatherings take place throughout the year in National Forests across the country." Black v. Arthur, 18 F. Supp. 2d 1127, 1130 (D. Or. 1998), aff'd, 201 F.3d 1120 (9th Cir. 2000).

Defendants were convicted with violating the regulations governing gatherings of more than 75 persons in national parks and argue here that the regulations are either unconstitutional or do not apply to them as individuals: "The thrust of their defense is that no one was designated by the Rainbow Family to sign the application because the Rainbow Family is not an entity of any sort, and therefore no one can act on its behalf. Without some sort of designation or authority emanating from the Rainbow Family, so the argument goes, none of these three defendants can be responsible for the failure to obtain a permit."

The government put on substantial evidence that the defendants were identified by the Rainbow Family as "focalizers" or group leaders, which the court found sufficient to charge them with failing to file an application for the required special use permit.  The court rejected their challenge to the constitutionality of the regulations, finding them properly limited to health and safety concerns.  In an unusual note at the end of the case, the judge expressed his frustration with the ongoing refusal of the Rainbow Family to comply with Forest Service regulations:

"The defendants are guilty as charged. It would be impossible to estimate the judicial resources that have been expended through the years in the many legal contests between the Rainbow Family and the Forest Service. In this case alone, Forest Service personnel from Georgia and Montana had to be separated from their regular duties to come to Pennsylvania to testify, as did personnel assigned to duties in the Allegheny National Forest. Obviously, scarce resources of the Court, the Justice Department and the Forest Service have been expended to handle this case and the many others involving the Rainbow Family through the years, and always over the same issue-- refusal to apply for a permit. . . . It's not as if the issues considered here were "landmark" in nature; time and again the Rainbow Family has made the same arguments and had them rejected by courts all over the United States. . . . While the 'mouse-that-roared' syndrome sometimes has the appeal of tweaking the authorities on the nose, we hope that the time to stop has finally arrived."

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