Over the years, the Burning Man Festival has become one of the most popular events and party destinations in the US and has drawn roughly 70 thousand people in recent years. The growing number of partygoers each year has unfortunately drawn a growing number of police as well.
According to the reports of many burners on Reddit, police are more aggressive this year than ever and are indiscriminately pulling people over and searching them for drugs without probable cause.
Some sneaky tricks that officers are using to stop people, is pulling them over for having dim tail lights, or any of obstruction of view in their windows, which is common when people are carrying camping gear. As soon as someone is pulled over, officers are ready nearby with drug dogs to justify a search on the vehicle. Some posters on social media are saying that police are profiling drivers and pulling over anyone who looks like they would be attending the festival.
Local newspaper ThisIsReno reported that police in the region have orders from the federal government to target cars that are on their way to Burning Man and search them for drugs.
Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s Secretary Brenda Henry told Reno reporter Bob Conrad that these orders came straight from "the top." When Conrad asked, “You mean from President Trump?” Henry replied “Yes.”
“If you don’t have anything to hide, you’re good to go,” Henry said.
Police officials have been hiding behind the excuse of the opiate epidemic for their aggressive tactics at this year's event, but opiates are not the drug of choice at Burning Man, it is a festival that is largely known for its psychedelic drug culture.
Of course, Burning Man attendees will be pulled over and searched under the pretense of fighting the opiate addiction, but they will be handcuffed and thrown in cages for carrying substances that are proven time and time again to be safe and even beneficial for mental health when used responsibly. One small comfort that Burners can have this year is that cannabis is now legal for recreational purposes in the state of Nevada, which will undoubtedly prevent thousands of arrests this year.
According to one anonymous report published by ThisIsReno, “A friend of mine stopped to mail something in Nixon. The cops blocked him them in, claimed they didn’t see any signal and asked about drugs. The did not consent to search, after which police claimed their dogs alerted on their truck. Police took apart their trailer and part of their truck. They were there for over two. Be careful out there, burners, and don’t stop in Nixon.”
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It seems that Nixon is one of the most dangerous towns to drive through on the way to the burn, so one good samaritan is offering to be a decoy for the purpose of distracting cops so people carrying drugs can get by safely.
On Reddit, the decoy told fellow Burners that he would be driving with, "A flag with the word dildo printed on it in Arabic, (similar to the ISIS flag, only it says dildo) as well as Buddhist swastika flag, plastered my truck with all kinds of green stickers. Will be driving north on 447 starting at 2200 from the 80. Anybody that's dirty feel free to fall in line behind me. Still looking for a rasta hat though. If you have a spare one in LA please PM me."
Mike Harden, a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, told The Reno Gazette-Journal that local residents such as himself are being pulled over and harassed as well.
"They've been pulling people over for the smallest things. This is the first year I've seen (Bureau of Indian Affairs) officers out here at this time. Usually, they only come out for serious crimes, like meth rings or, I wouldn't say murders because we don't really have murders, but just serious crimes. It's hard to say if they came out just for Burning Man, or they're just sending them out here since apparently, they're increasing the Bureau's presence on tribal lands across the U.S. generally," Harden said.
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.