Rainbow Family Gathering Producing Good Vibes, Arrests

Rainbow Family Gathering Producing Good Vibes, Arrests

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Forest Service has arrested 14 of the more than 3,000 people gathered in the Uinta Mountains for the annual Rainbow Family counterculture gathering this week.

Six of the arrests were for assault or officer interference, and five arrests were drug related. Others were picked up for driving under the influence and disorderly conduct.

Forest Service officials, however, were sounding tolerant as the gathering approached its first official day Tuesday. Members of the family have been arriving in recent weeks.

"They appear to be trying to cooperate with the Forest Service at this point," said Donna Wilson, spokeswoman for the incident management team monitoring the Rainbow Family. "We're trying to let them have more responsibility for doing that, for managing the area themselves according to the rules and regulations for everybody."

One member of the Rainbow Family is in federal custody for allegedly throwing mud, rocks, and snowballs at Forest Service employees who were trying to tow illegally parked cars Wednesday. Ernie Gunnoe, 23, of Mantua, Ohio, could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The loosely organized counterculture group spends a week each year in peace rallies and meditation. This year they chose the Little West Fork Black's Fork area of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, about 70 miles east of Salt Lake City.

Wilson said attendance at this year's gathering is far less than past years, but she expects numbers to climb with warmer weather and sunshine this week.

Snow and rain last week made roads muddy and slick, and the Forest Service has re-graded one road. The mud is mostly gone, but roads and parking lots are still congested, Wilson said.

The gatherings are so logistically demanding that the National Forest Service has an incident management team assigned to the group. The service issues a daily update on the gathering.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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