As The Free Thought Project reported earlier this week, police from various agencies were more aggressive than ever with searches of Burning Man attendees who were on their way to the festival this year.
Police in the region told reporters that they have orders from the federal government to target cars that are on their way to Burning Man and search them for drugs.
Organizers of the festival have responded to these reports with a letter to federal officials threatening a lawsuit if the traffic stops continue.
The letter cited "improper and apparently unconstitutional behavior" on the behalf of multiple police agencies.
Adam Belsky, special counsel to the Burning Man organization, was the organizer who signed the letter.
"Many of the (traffic stop) tactics are attempts to intimidate and harass travelers who are doing nothing more than passing through the Reservation on a state-maintained highway. This is unacceptable and this behavior should not be tolerated by agency leaders nor the public," Belsky wrote.
Organizers argue that there are many other safety risks that these stops are causing, and it could make it more difficult for them to get ice and other important supplies to where they need to be.
"Given the current situation and the likelihood that litigation will be necessary to remedy these violations, we request that the (Bureau of Indian Affairs), (Department of Interior) and (Bureau of Land Management) and any and all other governmental agencies involved preserve all evidence relation to the (traffic stops). It appears that the BIA agents are unconstitutionally targeting attendees of the Burning Man event in violation of their First Amendment rights of free expression and of freedom to assemble," Belsky wrote.
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BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling claims that these stops have nothing to do with Burning Man and that the timing of these traffic stops are merely a coincidence. Darling said that this operating is targeted at drug trafficking on tribal lands, and that they are looking for opiates and crack coming into the reservations.
However, Pyramid Lake Police Department Lt. Michael Durham said that the operation is scheduled to continue through September 5th, two days after the end of Burning Man, so it does very much appear to be targeted at the festival.
This is one of the largest events in the state every single year, and there is an increasing police presence at the event every single year as well. It is very unlikely that the timing of this operation was any type of coincidence or mistake. They may very well be running an operation to find drugs on tribal lands, but they are also running an operation on Burners as well.
The Burning Man Festival has long been a target of the Feds, who are threatened by the counter-culture nature of the event and its attendees. Burners have even been labeled as terrorists by the feds, as it was revealed in a 2015 Freedom Of Information Act request that the FBI sent undercover agents to the festival under the pretense of gathering intelligence on terrorists.
The 16-page document released under duress by the FBI is still heavily censored — especially parts pertaining to high-tech police surveillance equipment used to “gather information.”
The fact that terrorism is used as an excuse for the surveillance is interesting, especially because the FBI notes in its report that the festival is a “cultural and artisan event, which promote[s] free expression by the participants.”
Apparently, art and free expression can now be equated with terrorism.
The FBI claims the surveillance program is necessary to fight the “war on terror.” The agency said that the operation was “critical in the light of the ongoing war on terrorism and the potential for additional acts of terrorism being committed in the United States.”
The FBI report additionally indicates that this operation could target drug users and sellers. “The greatest known threat in this event is crowd control issues and use of illegal drugs by participants,” the FBI report said.