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28 Aug, 2023 16:51

US park rangers bust Burning Man climate protesters

Campaigners and ‘Burners’ faced off across a makeshift blockade in Nevada that snarled traffic for miles
US park rangers bust Burning Man climate protesters

Environmental authorities in the US state of Nevada arrested a group of climate protesters on Sunday after they blocked the one road leading to the annual Burning Man festival and caused a miles-long traffic jam.  

Park rangers in a white pickup truck rammed a makeshift barrier to which members of the climate campaign group Seven Circles had chained themselves following a standoff with angry drivers trying to enter the festival.  

The rangers emerged from their trucks with sirens blaring and guns drawn, ordering the activists onto the ground and manhandling several into handcuffs after they failed to comply quickly enough.  

In a video of the incident posted to social media, one demonstrator can be heard shrieking and sobbing “we’re nonviolent!” while another makes a half-hearted attempt to evade capture by denying involvement with the protest.  

The rangers can be heard informing the demonstrators they are “trespassing on tribal land.” Several were reportedly taken into custody. The roadblock, located between the tiny town of Gerlach and Burning Man’s temporary purpose-built metropolis Black Rock City, prevented cars from passing in either direction on a road already notorious for traffic during the opening days of the festival. The event brings 80,000 people to the Black Rock Desert for a week of dancing, themed camps, events, and by some accounts, copious drug use.  

In a video shot earlier on Sunday, the protesters dare angry drivers to “call the cops” as the festivalgoers’ efforts to fold up the barrier are stymied by activists chaining themselves to it. 

Seven Circles claimed the protest was meant to draw attention to “capitalism’s inability to address climate’s ecological breakdown” and the “popularization of Burning Man among affluent people who do not live the stated values of Burning Man, resulting in the commodification of the event.” The festival’s goals of being carbon-negative by 2030 are not sufficient, the group said in a statement on Sunday.  

However, the event’s most affluent guests often enter via private jet rather than driving the long, hot road through the desert, landing at an airfield set up specifically to accommodate these high-rollers.  

Dedicated to the spirit of “radical self-reliance,” the Burning Man Project bans the use of currency inside festival gates and requires attendees to bring whatever they need for the week. The festival’s “leave no trace” rule requires attendees to take all their trash out of the desert with them when the party is over, an edict which is not always followed. 

In January, the festival organization sued the federal Bureau of Land Management for allegedly violating environmental laws by approving a massive geothermal energy project less than a mile from Gerlach. The company behind the project countered by touting geothermal’s green-energy bona fides and attacking Burning Man for the “copious amounts of fossil fuels” its annual gathering consumes.

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