Leaders of the Burning Man gathering have announced some unsettling news regarding the future of their free-spirited event and involvement with the United States Government. Event officials stated that due to a potential risk of a terrorist attack, that Burning Man is now facing “unreasonable conditions” on a proposition to extend the capacity of the long-running festival to 100,000 attendees.
A ten-year special use permit that was designed as a growth proposal for the event was introduced to the committee and was countered by stipulations from the Bureau of Land Management that include an increase in security searches and perimeter barriers that is claimed to reduce opportunities for potential terrorist attacks. The permit would be brand new for Burning Man and would include certified building inspections, maintenance of a country road, and air quality mitigation that could raise their annual costs up to ten million dollars.
The countermeasure from the government came in the form of a draft environmental impact statement and is full of references of terrorist attacks, implications of security soft spots, and worst case scenario situations.
The draft that was issued last month refers to the mass shooting that occurred in the Las Vegas Strip in October of 2017, as well as a popular unnamed novel that illustrates Burning Man as the target of a terrorist attack and brought to light potential weakness in security which raises opportunities for attacks on the event.
Draft document states that even though no sort of attack has ever occurred on the Burning Man grounds, that an attack would result in mass casualties and would overtake the abilities of medical professionals and law enforcement officials. Excerpts from the draft include the language that measures must be implemented “since the event is a soft target with the potential to draw the ire of international and domestic terrorists, tactics from an active shooter, vehicular assault and improvised explosive devices are real threats with low to moderate risk of occurrence.”
With indications of potential threats to humanity regarding the danger of lack of security, the draft warns that “several vulnerabilities exist due to the iconic status of Burning Man, and the widespread media coverage of the event could make the festival an attractive target for an individual or team of attackers.”
The annual week-long Labor Day based event that takes place 100-miles north of Reno has seen exponential growth over the years and has expanded from 30,000 to 79,000 over a fifteen year period. Attendance is currently capped at 80,000, but the event reached out to expand the cap to 100,000 people, which is where the counter-draft stemmed from.
Despite the claims from the government’s 372-page draft document that states “limited access controls and lack of professional security resources at entry points into the city, coupled with law enforcement staffing, open two critical event vulnerabilities”, Bureau field manager, Mark Hall, said that this would be the first time that he is aware of his agency analyzing terrorism in an environmental review on federal land.
In an email to the Associated Press, he wrote: “however, since October 1, 2017, shooting a greater emphasis on large scale outdoor gatherings has evolved and the Department of Homeland Security recently provided new protocols for outdoor mass gathering safety.”
The draft calls for 10.4 miles of perimeter fencing for the 100,000 person proposal that would lock in the closure area to 23 square miles. The barrier would alleviate any concern for vehicles to bypass the current “orange plastic trash fence” that has been used in prior years and would halt entry of “contraband or firearms.”
In an email to AP, a spokesperson for Burning Man, Dominque Debucquoy-Dodley, said “Our initial assessment reveals that the measures recommended by the BLM in order to issue our next permit are unreasonable” and “would forever negatively change the fabric of the burning man event.” Burning Man organizers are claiming that the draft would force them to hire private security teams that would “conduct unwarranted searches without probable cause as a condition of entry into this section of public land.”
Burning Man has announced that the imposition from the government would substantially raise ticket prices and it does not seem as if they are willing to comply with the terms. Alternate options are on the table, but they do not involve advancing the attendance cap to 100,000 people, they could keep the capacity at 80,000, reduce it to 50,000, or completely deny the operation permit.
Following a public comment period that closes April 29th, the agency will pick a final alternative. Public hearings are scheduled April 8th in Reno, and April 9th in Lovelock.
Free spirits, dancing machines, and all people that represent freedom let your voices be heard. Stand up against the atrocity of the machine. This can not happen and apparently the only thing that can stop it is human voices, get up, stand up.