'Rainbows' bring peace, love, complaints
The Rainbows have officially arrived in full force in Lumpkin County. And a multitude of law enforcement officers have been there to greet them.
Sheriff Stacy Jarrard said he’s heard plenty of reports, both good and bad, as thousands of participants have shown up for the much-talked-about Rainbow Family of Living Light 47th annual National Gathering in the Bull Mountain area of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.
“I think a lot of people are up in arms about it on both sides,” he said. “And all law enforcement is trying to do us keep the event safe.”
Estimates range from 5,000 to 20,000 possible attendees at the seven-day event which culminates with a daylong prayer for peace on July 4th.
In preparation, Jarrard has deputized 30 US Forestry Service agents while coordinating with officials from the Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Bureau of Investigations, the Georgia Department of Corrections, the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Homeland Security (and the Department of Family and Children Services.
The Nugget was in the area Saturday evening and tallied a total of 19 Georgia State Patrol vehicles at the end of Forest Road 28.1 on Nimblewill Church Road running a license checkpoint around 9 p.m. while another seven to eight GSP vehicles ran another checkpoint on the opposite side of FS 28.1 where Hightower Church Road intersects with the forest road with three GSP cars parked at the end of a local resident’s driveway.
When contacted about whether or not GSP had asked the local resident for permission to use his driveway for the checkpoint, the resident replied, “no.”
The United States Department of Agriculture had posted Facebook updates about the gathering on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week, but no daily updates were given for Friday or Saturday.
The last update posted on Thursday, June 28, stated that 1,500 attendees of the gathering were on site and that 493 incidents, written warnings, citations and arrests had been recorded.
When The Nugget asked for a breakdown of the incidents in order to find number of arrests, number of citations and a breakdown of the various charges, USDA Public Information Officer Kate Salm stated that the agency could not give out the details until the cases were closed.
“That is not something that law enforcement releases,” said Salm. “So, I can’t give you that information.”
As of press time Monday, the most serious reported crime appeared to be an attempted aggravated assault as a man charged at an unsuspecting passerby with a knife, according to reports. The attack didn’t go as planned since the would-be victim was a US Army Ranger who easily fended off the attacker.
The assailant reportedly fled and as of press-time had yet to be arrested.
Many of the arrests reported by the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office appeared to involve license violations and misdemeanor possession of marijuana.
MEET THE RAINBOWS
Meanwhile Gathering participants held a town hall meeting Lumpkin County Parks and Rec. Thursday night in hopes of quelling any Rainbow-related rumors in the community.
Attendance was sparse when compared to the standing room only reception at the LCSO-led event a week prior as only about 25-30 locals attended the meeting, and only a handful had questions.
Internal security, destruction of the land and trash removal appeared to be concerns for some. Others attended out of simple curiosity while others were there to offer support.
One woman was relieved to hear the Rainbow masses would not gather for their July 4 ceremony on the Public Square, as she had heard, but in a meadow in the Bull Mountain area.
A woman who referred to herself as “Feather,” said there will be several hours of silent prayer for world peace, a kids parade into the center of the prayer circle, a chanting of Om, “then a yahoo! and a picnic where we feed each other watermelon … Singing, drums and dance and greeting old friends are all part of the celebration.”
Barry “Ghost” Sacharow and “Glowing Feather” Maji took on the question about security. Both are Vietnam veterans and original members of the tribe.
“We may not have any leaders, but we do have leadership and strong and experienced security,” Sacharow said.
“Security is everybody’s business,” added Maji. “It’s group conflict management.”
As for drugs, participants made it clear their goal was not to turn people using alcohol or marijuana or psychedelics away, but “hard” drugs—such as opioids—were not welcome.
“We take the hard drugs away and ask you to leave,” said a man who goes by “Water, Singing-on-the-Rock,” a retired naturopath who is part of the family’s Medical Tribe.
As for so-called “soft” drugs, he said, “We don’t want to turn them away. We want to stop them, we want to heal them.”
As for damage to the forest and leaving trash behind, Ryan “The Professor,” Smith said the Rainbow Family usually leaves an area cleaner than when they found it, and if there is damage to the land, they make repairs.
Feather read a letter from a local visitor to the Oregon Gathering, saying “… everything looks untouched. You can’t even tell that a gathering took place up there. No trash. Even the parking lot is full of grass. I didn’t expect it to look as good as it did. You all are amazing.”
Smith has been among the first in and last out for the past six years. This year he helped set up the camp, installing gravity fed water lines to provide clean drinking water and other infrastructure necessary for a gathering of an estimated 8,000 people at its peak.
“We’re a multi-cultural interfaith assembly,” Smith added. “We all have a different focus.”
There are multiple “camps” at the gathering where like-minded people choose to camp and congregate.
“There’s the Jesus Camp; the I Don’t Know Cafe, where skeptics gather—you’re most likely to hear people talking about GMOs, vaccines and other subjects there; Nic @Nite distributes cigarettes, but mostly information about what is going on; Lovin’ Ovens is one of the kitchens—there are bunches of kitchens,” Smith said.
Each of the camps contributes to the communal evening meal.
“It’s amazing. You’re all invited to come sample the food,” Sacharow said.
‘CULTISH’ OR CARING?
Local resident and self-described ‘redneck’ Brandon Godbee wouldn’t be mistaken for a hippie. But after hearing conflicting reports about the event the Harley-riding local decided to stop by the camp during its earlier stages. He was surprised by what he saw.
“When I first heard about it I didn’t know,” said Godbee while talking to The Nugget. “I thought it sounded a little cultish. I was looking at the media and looking at what everyone was saying, and told my family, ‘Let’s go out and let’s experience it ourselves. When we got here everyone was like, ‘Welcome home!’ and ‘We love you, brother!’ And, I was like, ‘How’s it going?,’ because I didn’t know what to say and didn’t want to be disrespectful. Every single person we met was so nice and the hospitality is amazing.”
Jarrard said he has no problem with those that are true to the Rainbow philosophy of peace and love. But he added that he’s on guard against those that might arrive amongst the crowd with ill intentions.
‘The Rainbows that are there for the right reason, good for them,” he said. “I hope it all goes well.”