Welcome to part 2 of The Rainbow Gathering: 5 Decades of Beta-Testing Anarchist Society, in which I will be covering the formation of the Gathering, why it was started, what the original purpose was, and a history of the Gathering and its interactions with the United States Corporation.
This is a work-in-progress paper on the Rainbow Gathering, and specifically the importance that I believe it holds to the freedom movement, both as proof-of-concept and as an already established global network. I am very much looking for input, please give any feedback, ask any questions, and generally just let loose, so that I can create the most fleshed-out writeup possible.
- Part 1: Introduction, Key Principles
- Part 2: History, Original purpose of the gathering, Interactions with the state (this post)
- Part 3: Layout, Camps & Kitchens, and Infrastructure
- Part 4: Conflict resolution, Consensus-based decision making
- Part 5: Rainbow outside the gathering, Conclusion
History of the Gathering
Rainbow is the result of the synthesis of the hippie movement, environmental activists, and the abundance of homeless & disillusioned veterans at the end of the 1960s. The first Gathering took place over 4th of July weekend in 1972, at Strawberry Lake in Colorado, near the Continental Divide. That was the first US National Gathering, and it has happened July 1-7 every year since.
Here are a couple videos about that first Gathering
Since that first Gathering, the "National" Gathering has occurred every year from July 1-7, hitting peak populations of over 40,000 humans. In the decades between then and now, the idea has grown & spread exponentially, and at this point is a worldwide occurrence. Every year, most US states have their own regional (some, like Florida & California have more), almost every country has their own, and there is also a Global Gathering. Just as an example, in the fall of 2015, Palestine had its first Rainbow Gathering. At this point, things have spread so much that there is always at least one Gathering occurring somewhere in the world. For example: Guatemala just ended today, and Costa Rica begins in 2 weeks.
Purpose of the Gathering
While the Gathering entails more than I can describe, and over the years has meant many things to many people, it also a central purpose that has been the same this whole time. The whole event is the build-up to, celebration of, and clean-up after the 4th of July (or full moon/new moon for other gatherings). Starting at sunrise on the 4th, the entire Gathering is silent until noon. During this time, everyone is praying for world peace, whatever that means to them. At right around noon, everyone gathers in the main meadow in a giant circle, holding hands. As everyone stands in the circle, focusing their attention on the Peace Pole (an altar in the center of the meadow), all of the children parade into the middle. Once the children reach the middle of the circle, everyone 'OHMs' together, and the rest of the day becomes a blur of music, dancing, watermelons, and hugs. Here's a short video to give you an idea of what it's like:
Interaction with the State (or lack thereof)
One of the many features of the Gathering is its intentional separation from the State and its rules & violence. Between the explicit unwillingness to cooperate, and the simple fact that the Gathering and its attendees are focused on peace, which is anathema to the State, there has been a lot of push back from the United States. Forest service, park rangers, and other LEOs have always had a presence at the Gathering, mostly focused on giving people extortion slips and stealing "illegal drugs".
Throughout a visit to the Gathering, you will hear calls of "6-Up", which is LEOs, and "7-Up", which is forest service. To simplify, "6-Up" means guns and "7-Up" means no guns. Over the years, LEOs have brought violence into the Gathering many times, coming to a head in 2010, when they attempted to kidnap someone they claimed to have a "warrant" for. They believed the man they were looking for was in Kiddie Village, so they came in full force to the camp with the most children and elders, and opened fire with paintball guns full of hard-plastic pepper-spray-balls, injuring dozens of people. This documentary of the 2010 gathering covers this in detail:
Why would we ask for permission to live?
From 1972 until the early 2000s, the United States Forest Service used violence and threats of violence many times in attempts to get humans at the Gathering to sign "permits" for using the land. For the first 10 years, many times they managed to find someone to sign their permit, almost always under duress, and never an honest or legal permit, as Rainbow has no organizers or "leaders". In 1999 at the Pennsylvania National Gathering, USFS picked out 3 people that they decided were the leaders, and charged them with not completing a permit. The charges went to court, and the "Rainbow 3" were given a sham trial, with no witnesses allowed, among other things, and ended up spending time in federal court.
Much more information on the battle around permits can be found here:
Keep away that fiat currency!
Along with not believing that any human should need to ask permission for the use of a piece of land, especially one that is public, meaning un-owned, the Gathering has stayed away from the use of government-issued currencies as well.
The Gathering is a completely free event, with no entry costs, no camping costs, no vendors, no selling of food... The only time that you will ever see currencies at a gathering is in the main circle, where the family comes together for dinner every evening, when people walk the circle with the "Magic Hat". 100% of donations to the Magic Hat are used for town runs to get food, lime (you'll know why in part 3), toilet paper, first aid supplies, etc. Food is all given freely by any kitchen, instruments are loaned to those who wish to play, and extra supplies are shared with those in need.
Don't worry an-caps, this doesn't mean there is no trade at the Gathering! You can actually find "Trade Circle" at any gathering, usually in a wide open field. People set out blankets, sheets, and rugs, displaying anything from handcrafted jewelry & artwork, to knives, Magic The Gathering cards, and anything else you can imagine. This is the true Agora, with people trading all sorts of things, from haggling over crystals to giving someone a painting that made their eyes light up in exchange for a hug. Here at Trade Circle, and anywhere else you want to barter with someone, the most common currencies are crystals, chocolate, and cannabis.
Trade Circle 2013 (Photo Source)