‘Zero Tolerance’: Law Enforcement Crack Down on Rainbow Family Gathering in Northern California

Nearly three dozen federal law enforcement officers have been assigned to monitor the Rainbow Family Gathering in Plumas National Forest. This unauthorized event, taking place about 5 miles north of Antelope Lake in Plumas County, is expected to attract thousands of people in the days leading up to the 4th of July.

The Rainbow Family Gathering, a counter-culture group that began in the 1970s, sets up camp in a different national forest each year. Currently, more than 516 people are participating, with numbers possibly growing to 10,000. Forest Service officials have reported 177 vehicles, including 133 cars, 6 buses, and 38 RVs, with the impacted area and roads covering approximately 900 acres.

In 2023, the Rainbow Family Gathering attracted 2,200 people to a national forest in New Hampshire, and in 2022, it drew 10,000 people to a forest in Colorado, covering 1,350 acres.

There are 34 patrol officers monitoring the gathering. They have observed participants digging trenches for latrines, compost pits, and running water lines from Indian Creek. Federal officials are also monitoring the quality of the water in the area.

Local residents have expressed concerns about the environmental impact and fire danger posed by the group’s activities, including building kitchens in the forest. Some forest roads have been closed due to the gathering and law enforcement officials are keeping a close eye on fire activity at the event.

“Zero tolerance,” said Coda Witt, the incident commander for the U.S. Forest Service. “No fire is going to happen. If they have a can of beans up there and they need to eat it, it’s gonna be a cold can of beans. We’re not messing around with the fire restrictions. The same rules apply to everyone.”

The Plumas National Forest entered Stage I Fire Restrictions on Monday, June 24, due to increased fire danger. Despite a slightly above-average snowpack, recent unseasonably hot temperatures have accelerated snowmelt, drying fuels faster than expected. In Stage I Fire Restrictions, campfires are only allowed in specific designated recreation sites with established campfire rings.

Meanwhile, the Susanville Police Department is warning the locals not to engage with people attending the event.

“We ask you to take extra precautions if you interact with some of these individuals,” said the police department in a statement. “Please do not offer them rides in your vehicle. Keep your personal items on yourself while shopping and not left in your shopping cart. Some of them will ask you to purchase groceries, supplies, or food. This is not recommended. Please keep your vehicles locked and secure any property you may have around your residence.”

The police department also said that people in the Rainbow Family Gathering have spoken about “puddle” locals or law enforcement who get in there way. The term “puddle” refers to dousing someone in liquid filled with the drug LSD.

“If you encounter a hostile individual, please disengage, leave safely, and contact our department so this person can be identified and appropriate action can be taken.”

Officials noted that while the group has made efforts to rehabilitate the forest in past gatherings, they have observed areas where people and vehicles are trampling vegetation. To see the U.S. Forest Service’s website for updates on the Rainbow Family Gathering, go here.

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