Burn­ing Man re­sists agency’s search pro­posal

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - News -

Burn­ing Man or­ga­niz­ers say they won’t chal­lenge the U.S. Bureau of Land Man­age­ment’s plans to cap their at­ten­dance at cur­rent lev­els un­der a new 10-year per­mit but they will fight any move to­ward fed­er­ally-sanc­tioned screen­ings for weapons and drugs at the coun­ter­cul­ture cel­e­bra­tion.

BLM pro­posed in a fi­nal en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment June 14 that a pri­vate se­cu­rity firm even­tu­ally be hired to screen all ve­hi­cles, par­tic­i­pants, ven­dors, con­trac­tors, staff and vol­un­teers upon en­try to the tem­po­rary Black Rock City in the north­ern Ne­vada desert 100 miles north of Reno.

Burn­ing Man or­ga­niz­ers say that would sub­ject “a peace­able gath­er­ing of peo­ple to searches with­out prob­a­ble cause other than a de­sire to at­tend Burn­ing Man.”

“This is one re­quire­ment we are pre­pared to push back on,” the group said on its web site, adding that it would be a “mas­sive shift from Burn­ing Man’s 30year his­tory run­ning our own op­er­a­tions.”

Group lead­ers as­sured fel­low Burn­ers in the post last week that screen­ings would not be­gin in 2019, and BLM of­fi­cials said they did not fore­see any ma­jor changes to its law en­force­ment routine this year.

“These pro­ce­dures will be car­ried out in a man­ner sim­i­lar to pre­vi­ous Burn­ing Man events,” BLM spokesman Rudy Even­son told the Reno Gazette Jour­nal. “At this time, BLM has no new an­nounce­ments on changes to law en­force­ment and se­cu­rity pol­icy or pro­ce­dures re­lated to Burn­ing Man 2019.”

The EIS is­sued June 14 is sub­ject to 30 days of pub­lic re­view be­fore BLM can is­sue a for­mal record of de­ci­sion.

Fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about the con­tracted se­cu­rity firm and the na­ture of the “screen­ings” is not cur­rently avail­able, Even­son said.

BLM of­fi­cials have been care­ful to call the se­cu­rity mea­sures screen­ings, which they in­sist are dif­fer­ent from searches.

“Screen­ing in­cludes a broader range of meth­ods. When you get on an air­plane, ev­ery­one is screened, but only a few peo­ple have bags opened af­ter the belt,” Even­son said.

The fi­nal en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment, which de­tails the con­di­tions of the event mov­ing for­ward for the next decade, would cap an­nual at­ten­dance at the cur­rent 80,000.

ANDY BAR­RON AP

Burn­ing Man or­ga­niz­ers will cap at­ten­dance but will fight fed­er­ally sanc­tioned screen­ings for weapons and drugs.

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