U.S. Forest Service officers were hit, elbowed and pelted with a rock when they tried to arrest unruly campers at a gathering of the Rainbow Family, a free-spirited, loosely affiliated band of hippies, officials said.
The confrontation Monday night was one of at least three clashes between officers and campers as thousands of the Rainbow Family gather for a weeklong outing, which officially begins Saturday. None of the injuries was serious, Forest Service spokeswoman Kimberly Vogel said Thursday.
About 5,000 members of the group, which promotes non-violence and harmony with nature, have arrived at the campsite in the Routt National Forest about 50 kilometers north of Steamboat Springs in defiance of the Forest Service, which has refused to grant the group a permit, citing the fire danger.
About 200 campers surrounded 15 officers and became verbally abusive Monday night, Vogel said. As the officers tried to arrest some campers, the crowd surged forward, striking at least three officers and pulling the suspects free, Vogel said.
Campers piled on top of one suspect, blocking officers from making an arrest. One male officer was injured when someone dived at his knees, a second suffered bruises when a rock was thrown at his leg and a female officer was elbowed in the knee and face, she said.
Officers arrested one suspect, drew their batons and used pepper spray as they backed away, Vogel said.
In the previous two clashes, campers surrounded and intimidated Forest Service officers, she said.
Campers are spread out in 20 square kilometers of meadow and forest where up to 60 percent of the trees have been killed by a beetle infestation and are vulnerable to fire, officials said. Forestry officials worry that in a fire, the narrow dirt access road would become clogged and campers would be trapped.