DAHLONEGA, Ga. – Thousands of “Rainbows” left Lumpkin County over the weekend but not before staging a protest against what they believe was harassment by federal, state and local law enforcement.
Some 70-80 protesters who participated in the Family of Living Light gathering in the Chattahoochee National Forest lined the sidewalk across from the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office Sunday, singing songs and carrying protest signs demanding their fellow “Rainbows” be released from jail.
Local activist Frank Gilkeson, who joined the protest, said, “They’re protesting the fact that the local sheriff has incarcerated a whole bunch of people for a various assortment of crimes. We don’t know when these cases will come up and these people live all over the country. Their cases need to be expedited.”
Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard said releasing those in jail is as simple as paying the bond.
Steven Gilley, of Anniston Alabama, complained that he had been stopped multiple times by the authorities who searched his car for drugs.
“The first time, the Forest Service and state police stopped me for over two hours and had a dog running around searching my vehicle,” he said. “I told them there ain’t no drugs. They took everything out of my van and left it piled up on the road. They took my pipe and an open liquor bottle I had from New Orleans and gave me a citation on Friday. I forgot it was there. If I knew it was there, I’d have drunk it.”
The U.S. Forest Service estimates approximately 4,500 Rainbow Family members attended the gathering this year. Spokeswoman Cathy Dowd told WSB TV that overall things went well this year, although 30 people were arrested and approximately 900 citations were issued during the event.
The Rainbow Family began gathering in 1972. The movement is reminiscent of the counterculture, hippie movement sparked by protests of the Viet Nam war. It is billed as a peaceful gathering, but twice in the last three years, violence has ended in death to a participant.
In March 2015, a gathering in the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida ended in gunfire when 39-year-old Clark Mayers of Milledgeville shot 24-year-old Wesley Jones three times. Jones survived the shooting but was paralyzed and when Jacob Cardwell of Arizona attempted to calm Mayers, he was shot twice and killed.
On Saturday, Elizabethtown (Kentucky) Police Department arrested Joseph Bryan Capstraw who admitted to murdering an unidentified woman after the two left the Rainbow Family gathering hitchhiking to Kentucky.
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