Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Peaceniks Stir Suspicion in Osceola

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Peaceniks Stir Suspicion in Osceola

Article excerpt

OSCEOLA NATIONAL FOREST -- From all over the country, hundreds

of Rainbow Family members converged here to savor peace, love,

storytelling, drumming, strumming and reggae chanting. But

they're finding some less harmonious stuff in the quiet piney

acres.

The pilgrimage of bands of self-described hippies lugging tents

and bottled water has raised the suspicion of park rangers and

local authorities. Officers set up roadblocks to check driver's

licenses and taillights on creaky Volkswagen buses, much to the

mingled amusement and frustration of the Rainbow Family flock.

The latest and biggest challenge is a federal lawsuit, filed

Friday in Jacksonville by the U.S. Attorney's Office, against

the Rainbow Family and a gaggle of folks identified by names

such as "Butterfly," "Two Bears" and "Bullwinkle."

Managing Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kane said he cannot

comment on a pending case.

The lawsuit challenges what family members claim is their right:

to gather peacefully in a national park and celebrate nature and

themselves.

"It's a joke," said Bullwinkle, a bearded Vietnam veteran with a

saucepan tied around his neck. "The whole problem is they're

trying to stop us from exercising our constitutional rights. The

Forest Service want to make the national parks into tree

museums."

The lawsuit says the Rainbow Family broke U.S. Forest Service

rules by not applying for a permit and asks a federal judge to

halt the party. Rainbow Family members say the lawsuit is merely

an effort to deprive them of their First Amendment right to

gather. No permission is needed for that, they say.

"We do not sign permits or agreements with the government,"

their literature says. "Our non-hierarchical structure gives

nobody the authority to sign such a thing, and we are exercising

our rights, guaranteed by the Constitution, to assemble

peacefully."

The Rainbow Family, also known as the Rainbow Nation, the

Rainbow Family of Living Light and a bunch of other names, is a

loosely knit group of free spirits who first gathered in 1972.

They've spread around the country, meeting by word of mouth and

relayed messages.

They advocate respect for each other and the Earth. They dig

their own latrines, share their meals of beans and rice and tell

stories around evening campfires. The crowd in Baker County

yesterday{ was nearly all white teens and twentysomethings with

tattoos, dyed T-shirts and dusty feet. Some are troubled,

searching kids who find a haven in the warm mix-and-match

family. Others, like Bullwinkle, are aging hippies who seek

their bliss among peaceful friends who don't litter, use

weapons, tell sexist jokes or hurt wildlife.

They began converging on the Osceola National Forest this month. …

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