United States v. Kalb, Beck, and Sedlako, Western Pennsylvania (1999)

During Seed Camp the LEOs came around with a permit application looking for a signer. When they found unanimous refusal, they began a tactic they used for a few years after of trying to determine who the “leaders of the Rainbow” were, and targeting them to receive citations for group camping without a permit. The three they chose were Garrick Beck, Stephen Principle (not a legal but a Rainbow name), and Joanee Freedom (likewise). Stephen had been heavily involved in the 1988 Texas court case, and Joanee was one of the main sources of focalizing energy for CALM. Only these three received any citations, otherwise the LEO presence deep inside that gathering was mostly non-evident to me.

Their selection of these three people as “leaders of the Rainbow” seemed to have been because these three had been the ones who took the initiative in contacting the local resource rangers to let them know a gathering was coming. At a meeting arranged with the LEOs, Garrick was presented with a permit and he refused to sign, and he was issued a ticket. He said he didn’t want to be the only person to get a citation, and Stephen said he would also accept one.

All three went to a joint trial for criminal violation of CFR 32, Sec. 261.10, which included:

The following are prohibited:

(k) Use or occupancy of National Forest System land or facilities without special-use authorization when such authorization is required.

The penalty for this misdemeanor violation was (and still is) a term of up to six months in a federal prison and a fine of up to $500. They obtained the services of four lawyers.

In their “motion for acquittal” they said:

Simply put, it is the position of the Defendants’ that this regulation does not, and cannot, make criminal the actions of an individual. Rather, to the extent it imposes criminal liability, it imposes criminal liability only upon a group. … Only a group needs to get the permit … only a group can be liable if they do not get it.

What the Government refers to as the “group” of attendees at the so-called “Rainbow Family Gatherings” doesn’t have any legal existence of its own and it can’t appoint agents of its own under applicable law.

The regulations recognized only groups which

have a formal hierarchical structure capable of binding its members.


authorize an individual to deal with the Forest Service on the group’s collective behalf.

This being the case, the regulations were not “content neutral” in the case of a Rainbow Gathering, because the anarchy itself was an expression. Acting together without leaders was in itself a statement about how we think people could and should live.

By excluding those mistrustful of authority, by excluding those unwilling to join a group, by excluding those unwilling to surrender their individual autonomy to the group, the Forest Service regulations impermissibly infringe on the rights of individual speech, assembly, and association protected by the First Amendment.

Several other objections were also raised, but these were the ones that the judge addressed in his final ruling.

The Forest Service lawyers in their response introduced the 1999 Rainbow Guide as an exhibit. In his final opinion the judge quoted the section on “Council” in the Mini-Manual, which by 1999 a brother named Michael John had embellished considerably from what Butterfly Bill had written in 1995:

We gather in council circles to voice and creatively resolve the issues and concerns of our ever evolving Gathering. Participation in a council requires a focused mind, a listening ear, and an open heart as we make critical decisions on how to best serve the Gathering. The power to listen is sacred to the process. Councils occur regularly on all workings of the gathering. They include: Main Council, Coop Council, Vision, Clean-up, Legal team, Shanti Sena, CALM, Info, Rainbow Guide, All Ways Free, Focalizers, Kitchens, Fire Watch, Bus Village, and any other special event, issue or aspect. Councils are excellent opportunities to help create the Gathering.

The judge went on to say:

The Guide contains more details on gatherings, definitions, words, and phrases used by the Rainbow Family, and the names and addresses of “Focalizers,” people “who let you know what’s happening where and when, and who you want to contact when you have info to share.”

Then he referred to some testimony from the Incident Commander of the LEOs. He said he had:

met “focalizers” both in 1998 and 1999. They let the Forest Service know where the kitchens were going to be located, where certain individuals were located if we needed to contact somebody. … The focalizer tended to do all of’ the speaking and the other folks just would sit there and listen. Generally it was the focalizer that I would have the conversation with.

The judge rejected the precedent of Strider’s case because the Forest Service appealed his case and that court upheld the constitutionality of the regulation (but also upheld Strider’s dismissal because the new regulation was not yet in effect at the time of his citation). The judge in this case said that in the revised regulation:

The imposition of terms and conditions in noncommercial group use permits is limited to those designed to further the three public interests identified by the Forest Service in promulgating the noncommercial group use rule, i.e., the need to address concerns of public health and safety, to minimize damage to National Forest System resources, and to allocate space among actual or potential uses and activities.

It no longer granted an inappropriately broad range of discretion to the official, as the judge had found in Gideon Israel’s case, but now limited the official to serving these three specified interests.

The judge summarized by saying:

It is clear from the testimony of the government witnesses that there was never any animosity or acrimony between the Forest Service personnel and the defendants; indeed, they were on a first-name basis. The defendants simply refused to sign the permit application when requested to do so by the officers after lengthy conversations with them.

It is also clear from the trial testimony and the exhibits that there is quite a complete internal organization of the Rainbow family in the form of the Councils and committees. The members simply attempt to avoid the permit application requirements by refusing to designate an applicant.

On this basis, the judge rejected “the main thrust of the defendants’ argument” that

they cannot be cited as individuals since they have not been designated by the Rainbow Family to act on the group’s behalf”:

The defendants have not only fit the definition of “participants” in this gathering but also, as discussed in our findings of fact, had leadership roles as spokespersons for the Rainbow Family. They are certainly valid objects of prosecution.

In the summer of 2002, the three camping convicts went to three separate minimum security federal prisons to serve 90-day terms.

September 16th, 2016 by John Anderson