Open Letter Questioning USFS On Arkansas Rainbow Gathering
Posted by jeremiasx on June 25, 2007
An Open Letter To Denise Ottaviano, Public Relations Official for the National Forestry Service Currently Working on the Rainbow Family Gathering in Fallsville, AR
Thank you for returning my call earlier, I wasn’t expecting such a quick response. Sorry I didn’t have all my questions right in front of me, but my little boy was hungry and I needed to get him some “vittles.” I was also having a hard time understanding you because once we started talking about constitutional questions, the line kept beeping and screeching like there was some sort of interference of some kind.
I have those questions for you now, though.
- You responded to an interview by the Harrison Daily Times with a statement that part of the concern was if law enforcement officials were under surveillance. Would you elaborate on that issue? Have there been any attempts to videotape or establish surveillance on the police and forestry service that have broken some type of law? If so, what is the law that prevents public scrutiny of official duties conducting their business in a public place?
Denise Ottaviano, U.S. Forest Service information officer out of Albuquerque, N.M., spoke to the Daily Times from Fort Smith where she is stationed during the Rainbow gathering.
She said Rainbow events often attract as many as 10,000 to 25,000 members from all parts of the country.
Those members can have “a large impact” on the forest and surrounding communities, she said. So, the Forest Service developed the National Incident Management Team (NIMT) to “manage the impacts of Rainbow Family national gatherings,” a press release said.
Ottaviano said officers come from all over the country to follow Rainbow Family gatherings.
Drivers in the area are stopped often, especially ones who drive on or off the Forest Service road that leads the two miles to the main camping area.
Drivers who ask why they were stopped are told that officers are making sure everything is all right and to make sure law enforcement officers aren’t under surveillance themselves.
2. Are you aware that a camp host in the Ozark campground (upriver from Hasty) died last week and that it took roughly a week for park rangers to discover his body, which was reportedly in such a state of putrefaction that the cause of death hasn’t been immediately determined, thus complicating an investigation of a mortality…and that there could be a rationale for the public to assume that park officials are focusing so much attention on the Rainbow Festival that they aren’t able to conduct their usual duties in a timely, responsive manner? The increase in calls which had to be responded by Newton County Deputies at Hasty and Kyle’s Landing instead of Forestry Service officials seems to be another indicator of this trend. What is your response to those who say that these enforcement actions surrounding the Rainbow gathering are detracting from their responsibilities to the public in other park areas?
3.You have stated that the rangers at the roadblocks are conducting vehicle inspections for compliance with state motor vehicle codes, and that this includes a check for drivers license, registration, and proof of insurance. Reports are that the roadblock is off of the highway, and not in plain view of approaching motorists who turn onto the FS road. This could possibly violate earlier rulings by the Arkansas State Supreme court and other courts which have contended that roadblocks which cause “fear and surprise” to motorists may not be constitutional or acceptable. What is your contention on this issue? Here is some info on how the court has previously ruled and I have bolded the relevant information, such as the “three-pronged test” I alluded to over the telephone. You said you hadn’t heard of it. While quite unfortunate, that doesn’t surprise me..
Roadblock stops constitute "seizures" under the Fourth Amendment. See United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 553 (1976); see also Michigan Dep't of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990). The question, then, is whether the Benton County checkpoint stops were "unreasonable."
Sobriety checkpoints are reasonable under the Fourth Amendment if, on balance, they maintain a proper equipoise between: (1) the gravity of the public concern; (2) the degree to which the public interest is advanced; and (3) the severity of interfer- ence with individual liberty. See Id. (citing Brown v. Texas,
443 U.S. 47, 51 A checkpoint's subjective intrusion lies in the perception that a checkpoint may generate fear or public concern. Id.; see also Sitz, 444 U.S. at 452 ("The fear and surprise to be considered are...the fear and surprise engendered in law-abiding motorists by the nature of the stop." )(5) This fear is heightened, if motorists perceive they are being singled out by random, roving, patrol stops. See Martinez -Fuerte, 428 U.S. at 559. The fear is, correspondingly, decreased if the stops are conducted in a "regularized manner," which "both appear[s] to and actually involve[s] less discretionary enforcement activity." Id. When, as here, the approaching motorist can see "visible signs of the officers' authority" and all traffic being stopped, the public is
"much less likely to be frightened or annoyed by the intrusion."
United States v. Ortiz,
(this is an aerial map of the turn-off to the Fallsville Gathering Site, and the location of where the roadblock was reported to be, just around a bend and not really VISIBLE to approaching motorists…maybe you should change this?)
Well, I hope that isn’t too much to throw on your plate right away…thanks for your help. You also asked me to supply you with my blog address…now Denise…I hope you realize that my blog isn’t overly sympathetic to the government’s authority because I am a Constitutionalist and I believe that in many ways the federal government and state governments have FAR exceeded their Constitutional mandate. The level of privacy erosion, the loss of individual liberty, and the progression towards an authoritarian state are issues that I report upon regularly. Don’t take this personal. Most government employees are GREAT PEOPLE and if they did a little more research into issues regarding THE SPIRIT AND ESSENCE of liberty and the Constitution in particular I think they’d be better off. So, in essence, that’s why I write. To illuminate, elucidate, inform, and infuriate people into action. I hope you’ll take action personally to make sure that “We the People” win here. I’m not on “your side.” I’m not on “their side.” I’m on OUR side.