How To Deal With Cops At Burning Man: 2017

A guest post from Mark Atwood


How to deal with cops at Burning Man (2017 update)

by Mark Atwood

(Feel free to print out, share, and repost. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. I am not a lawyer. This document is not legal advice. If you are ticketed, cited, or arrested, consult with an attorney. )

* Do not consent to a search.

Never consent to a search. Say the phrase “I do not consent to a search.”

The cops are trained to make you flustered and to “take command” of the situation. Or they can be “polite”: “Mind if we take a look around?” Yes, you mind. “I do not consent to a search.”

Even if you have nothing for them to find, always say “I do not consent to a search.”

Never consent to a search of your body, of your clothing, of your possessions, of your car, of your truck, of your trailer, of your RV, of your tent, or of your camp. You especially never consent to the search of anyone else’s property.

They can ask the other people in your group or in your car, not just the driver or leader. “Mind if we take a look?” You should all sing the same song: “I do not consent to a search.”

Even if they threaten you with arrest or if threaten to bring a sniffing dog, continue to say “I do not consent to a search”. Even while they are searching you or your stuff, continue to say it. “I do not consent to a search”.

* Being Questioned.

Cops can ask you questions.

They may say things like “We’re just talking”, or “What do you think of …?”, or “Can you help us out?”

You do not have to answer their questions, and probably shouldn’t.

They can ask you where your camp is, and who you are camping with. You don’t have to answer them, and you probably shouldn’t.

* Recreational drugs.

Never answer any questions about recreational drugs.

Remember, you never take drugs, you never carry drugs, you never supply drugs, you have no idea where to get drugs, you do not want any drugs, and you do not know anyone who does is the basics in learning how to deal with cops and how to get a job.

That includes cannabis in any form, in any amount. Cannabis is still not legal on BLM land, even for medical use. Having a medical card from any state is not a defense. The new Nevada personal use possession law is not a defense.

If you have a legal prescription to a Schedule II drug such as Adderall, Ritalin, OxyContin, and/or Methadone, keep your pills in their correct prescription bottle and locked somewhere safe. You can be charged if you cannot prove you have a legal prescription.

* Do not lead them to your camp.

They may try to make you lead them to your camp.

They can be very commanding and matter of fact about it. They may say “We are going to your camp.” They will make it sound as if you have no choice. You do have a choice, and you are going to chose to not to lead them to your camp. Never lead them to your camp.

If they really really insist on you leading them somewhere, then lead them to a Black Rock Ranger outpost.

* Keep your tent closed.

Always zip your tent closed when you are not in it. If possible, use screens or sheets to block transparent window screens, so there is no line of sight into your tent. You may want to use a luggage lock to lock the zipper of your tent when you are not in it.

If your tent is zipped shut, they are supposed to need a warrant to open it, or they are supposed to need your consent. They probably won’t have a warrant, and you are not going to give them your consent, remember? “I do not consent to a search.”

* Your name and your ID.

If they ever stop you, you do have to tell them your correct “wallet name” as it is printed on your official ID. Cops are uninterested in arguments about “dead names”. Tell them your name as it is printed on your official ID, driver’s license, or passport. You do not have to show them your ID if they ask to see it. You especially do not have to go to your camp to get your ID for them.

If you are a not a US citizen and are visiting on a visa waiver program, you do not have to carry your passport with you. If you are a resident alien on a visa (e.g. you have a “green card”), you do have to carry your green card with you. Sorry about that.

* Being Detained, or “Am I free to go?”.

The magic phrase is: “Am I free to go?”

Keep saying it. As soon as they say “yes”, walk away immediately and without another word. Do not run, just walk.

If they write you a ticket, you must take it. Put it in your pocket, and then you say “Am I free to go?”

If they ever say you are not free to go, you say “Am I being arrested?”. If they say “no you are not being arrested”, you say again “Am I free to go?”. Keep it up as many times as necessary. Yes, it will sound like a stupid kid game, like “stop copying me”, but the game is very real with very real stakes, and this is their game to win, and yours to lose.

* Being Arrested.

If they ever say anything like “you are under arrest”, or ever do anything to make you think you are being arrested, such as them restraining you in any way, you must immediately say the following magic phrase (memorize it!): “I do not consent to any search. I hereby invoke my right to remain silent. I want to speak to my attorney.” And then you SHUT THE FUCK UP.

Do not say anything at all about your arrest or why you may have been arrested until you are talking in private with your attorney. Not with those cops, not with any other cops, not with any onlookers, not with anyone else who was arrested, not with anyone who is being held with you. Not even with your campmates, or with your friends, or even with your family. Even your spouse. Assume the police cars, transport vans, and holding cells are bugged. Assume the cops will lie about what you say to them. Assume everyone you meet from when you are arrested to when you are released will testify against you and will lie about what you say to them. You invoked your right to remain silent. Now use it.

* Alcohol.

The camps with open bars that are giving away booze may ask to see your ID to verify you are older than 21. You don’t have to show it to them, but they don’t have to give you free booze either, and they probably won’t, fearing a bust.

The state liquor cops will be there trying to bust your camp with stings. If you are giving away booze, even if it’s only beer or wine, and the person you are about to give it to looks like they could possibly be under 21, you should verify their age by checking their ID.

Even if your camp is not running a public bar, random people will walk into your camp and ask for booze. You will almost certainly have an under-21 plainclothes liquor cop walk into your camp at least once during the week, trying to sting you. Be aware, an alcohol service bust is an expensive way to ruin your burn for your entire camp.

And even if the person asking for a free drink is not a cop, it’s rude and against the burner ethos to beg for a gift.

* Who Watches the Watchmen?

While the cops are dealing with you, you need to be memorizing the color and design of their uniforms, and if you can, memorizing their name tags. They are supposed to be wearing visible name tags while in uniform. Yeah, right.

As soon as you get away from the cops, go to Center Camp, or to a Black Rock Ranger outpost, and fill out a Law Enforcement Feedback Form and turn it in.

If you personally with your own eyes see the cops detaining anyone, arresting anyone, or searching anyone or anything, it is an act of Civic Responsibility (Principle 7) and a Gift (Principle 2) to Participate (Principle 9) in the burner community to memorize what you can, and then fill out and turn in a Law Enforcement Feedback Form as soon as you can.

* Your camera.

When you see the cops, you may choose to use your camera to record them. The judiciary at all levels has clearly stated that everyone, including you, has the right to record the police, as long as you don’t physically obstruct them. Cops hate it, but too bad.

If the cops tell you to turn off your camera, don’t do it. If they threaten to arrest you for recording, keep recording.

They cannot lawfully order you to stop recording. They cannot lawfully order you or anyone else to delete photos or video. They cannot lawfully delete any photos or video themselves. If they do, they themselves are knowingly breaking the law, and that will be very useful in court.

If you ever see a cop order anyone to stop recording or to delete anything, make sure that goes on the Law Enforcement Feedback Form.

While you are recording them, never get in their way, and stay back at least 35 feet / 10 meters.

* “Undercover” cops.

The cops claim there are “very few” “undercover” cops at the event. This is a very carefully nuanced untruth.

There are cops at the event who are not “undercover” but instead are “plain clothes”. This means that instead of wearing uniforms or visible badges they are instead dressed up to look like burners.

They do not have to tell you they are cops when you ask them. You will not be able to “sense” that they are cops. Some of them have been doing this every year for more years than you have come to the event yourself.

People have been busted by a cop who was wearing only sparkles and a miniskirt.

If someone you do not know asks for drugs or offers to trade you anything for drugs, they are a cop. If you met them this year at this Burn, you do not know them.

If you met these two girls a few days ago looking at art out in deep playa, and they are really cute, and they went out dancing with you last night, and they just suggested that if you can supply some “favors”, you all can “party together” in your tent, they are cops. No, really, yes, she and her girlfriend both are cops, and her coworkers are eagerly standing by to ruin your whole year.

* What if I need “Police Services”?

What if you are lost? Or a camp mate is lost? Or your child is lost? Or you have found a lost child? Or you have found a someone who is injured or who is unable to take care of themselves? What if you are assaulted? What if something has been stolen? What if someone is hurt? What if you are really too high? What if you find someone who is dangerously out of sorts? What if you just can’t even?

Go to a BLACK ROCK RANGER or to an ESD VOLUNTEER. The Rangers or ESD will help deal with the situation, and if the cops are actually needed, the Rangers or ESD can summon the cops and can deal with the cops. If the cops are not needed, then the Rangers or ESD can summon the right help for you.

Know what the Black Rock Ranger uniform is, and how it’s different from the cop uniforms. Rangers wear khaki shirts and khaki hats with the Burning Man logo on their hats, and on their chests, and on their backs, and on their vehicles. ESD have yellow shirts that say “Emergency Services” on them.

Have a great Burn!

“It Wasn’t Me, It Was The Neighbors” – Satya Yuga Defense Begins

So far, Satya Yuga Collective founder Derrick Ion has not been charged with any crime in relation to the so-called “Oakland Ghost Ship Fire” which killed 36 people at the beginning of December. Nobody else has been charged either, and so far there is no evidence of arson. The various authorities have not yet concluded their investigation.

$200 million of civil suits have been filed against 9 people by families of the victims.

re-blogged from The Daily Californian:

The family members of two victims who perished in the Oakland warehouse fire Dec. 2, including UC Berkeley alumnus Griffin Madden, filed civil lawsuits in Alameda County Superior Court on Friday against several people associated with the “Ghost Ship” warehouse.

One lawsuit was filed on behalf of 23-year-old Madden, as first reported by KTVU, and another was filed on behalf of Michela Gregory, a 20-year-old San Francisco State University student who died clutching her boyfriend, Alex Vega. These are the first known suits filed in connection with the Oakland fire, according to the East Bay Times.

The suit filed by Madden’s parents, Michael and Catherine Madden, alleges that the defendants were negligent with regards to the safety conditions of the “Ghost Ship” warehouse and are liable for Madden’s death. It also alleges that the defendants did not obtain permits to convert the warehouse into a residential or public event space.

Nine defendants are listed in the suit, including Chor Nar Siu Ng, the owner of the warehouse; her daughter Eva Ng; warehouse managers Derick Ion Almena and Micah Allison; and warehouse lessors Daniel Lopez and Omar Vega. Joel Shanahan, the performer at the warehouse the night of the fire, known most commonly by the stage name Golden Donna; Jon Hrabko, who organized and promoted the event; and Los Angeles record label 100% Silk were also listed as defendants in the suit.

The Maddens are being represented by Mary Alexander & Associates, a San Francisco law firm. In their suit, the Maddens demanded a trial by jury…Ng has hired attorney Keith Bremer from the firm Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara to represent her, while Almena is being represented by attorney Tony Serra…

“Said defendants had mandatory and nondelegable duties to inspect and maintain said property in a safe and usable condition, and to repair any dangerous or unsafe conditions,” the lawsuit states. “Each of them, were somehow negligent or otherwise responsible for the injuries and death of Griffin Madden and the damages alleged herein.” You can be easily recover from injuries with the use of the best inversion table for therapy there is.

The suit calls the warehouse a “death trap,” alleging that it was poorly constructed and lacked a safe and accessible exit, as well as adequate fire-safety measures…

[Source]

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Attack Is The Best Form Of Defense

A 2015 mug shot of Derrick Ion Almena. Source: LA Times

A 2015 booking photo of Derrick Ion Almena. Source: Glendale Police Department via LA Times

In a two-pronged attack, this week the defense team released to the media a report from an anonymous “expert” suggesting neighboring properties, government agencies, and P G & E could have been at fault for the blaze; and at the same time, Micah Allison (Mrs Ion) took to the stage at a city council meeting to say how sorry they were and they wish that something could have been done sooner and she needs a house.

They got a crack lawyer who has represented the cream of the crop of Bay Area ruffians: the Black Panthers, the Hell’s Angels, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and Shrimp Boy. Describing the defense team leader Tony Serra as a “firebrand attorney” is perhaps in poor taste, LA Times. He seems to be earning his money, as the defense have come up with what seems like an attempt to create reasonable doubt in the minds of a jury: the fire didn’t even begin on his property, and he wasn’t even there, so how can he be culpable in any way?

On Monday, Almena’s lawyers said they had conducted their own inquiry into the fire. “Our investigation shows that Derick Almena committed no conduct amounting to criminal negligence

[Source: LA Times]

Hey, if his defense attorneys say he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it…right?

YMMV on whose fault it was that the junk piled up around the idols and altars, that staircases were constructed from wooden pallets, that 20+ people were residential sublet tenants, or that it was not a licensed venue for occult trance rituals all-night dance parties with DJs and live fire performances.


Micah On The Mic

Micah Allison, the wife of Derrick Ion Almena, spoke publicly for the first time at a special meeting in Oakland on January 23.

She complained about unfair treatment from neighbors and the media, and that more had not been done earlier by the council – because now she and her husband have to carry a heavy weight on their shoulders.

She turned up at a special meeting of the City Council on Monday, where legislators were considering several proposals aimed at shoring up tenant protections and providing an emergency moratorium on evictions from unpermitted live/work spaces that spiked in the wake of the deadly blaze.

“The main thing I wanted to say is how sorry I am for what happened on Dec. 2,” Allison said, before thanking the activists and organizers at the meeting. “I wish that more had been done before because we carry a really heavy weight on our shoulders right now.”

But Allison spent the majority of her time at the podium decrying the treatment she said her family has received from the media and former neighbors, who she claimed thwarted a recent attempt to move back into an Oakland house where they had lived previously.

“It’s been pretty terrible what they’ve done to my family,” Allison said, speaking about media reports.

She continued, describing a former landlord who offered to let them stay in exchange for replacing windows and painting the older home.

“The neighbors, who were my friends during the entire time I lived in that house before, got wind that we were going to move back into the house because our landlord really loved us and wanted to help our family,” she said. “In a couple hours, or over a 24-hour period, they contacted the landlord and said that if they let us move back into the house that they would cause a lot of trouble for him over his house.”

The deal would have allowed the family some stability to enable them to “start changing this narrative that’s gone out about Satya Yuga, the Ghost Ship, my family, my husband, myself,” she said, referring to the art collective occupying the warehouse

Allison expressed frustration about trying to find a stable place to live while keeping her three children in their Fruitvale-area schools.

In order to keep my kids in school, I need a house,” she said

[Source: East Bay Times]

A house for the kids would have been a great idea, rather than a venue for underground raves all night DJ parties. 36 people including one minor might still be alive if that had occurred to them earlier. But is this really the City Council’s problem? They should be investigating this woman, not giving her a house. Her desire to “start changing this narrative” emerged the same day the defense team released their report. This act may have been more strategic than spontaneous.

Here is the anonymous expert report being used by the Defense team. It seems long on speculation and short on actual evidence.

A good report on the report from Matthias Gafni and Katrina Cameron at the San Jose Mercury News:

OAKLAND — The defense team for Derick Almena released a report Monday alleging that the deadly fire that killed 36 people last year started not in the now infamous Ghost Ship artists collective, but rather in an adjacent building.

In a 10-page report released Monday, prepared by an unnamed investigator hired by Almena’s defense team, also pointed the finger at PG&E for inadequate electrical inputs into the building. Almena’s attorneys argue the findings should relieve their client of any criminal liability. It is not the first time that Almena’s lawyers have sought to deflect blame from their client: last month they said government agencies were at fault.

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has been investigating Almena, who was the master tenant at the Fruitvale warehouse, and others for possible criminal charges in the Dec. 2 blaze. The office declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. But an expert who reviewed the evidence offered by Almena’s legal team, was not convinced.

The report, which cites various photos of the buildings on the 1300 block of 31st Avenue from street level and above, raises questions about how electricity was delivered to the warehouse and adjacent buildings. It has various conclusions, including that “there must have been enough heat PRIOR TO the entry into Ghost Ship section for fire to occur.”

“The defense team for Derick Ion Almena has received a reliable scientific report … indicating that the origin of the fire was at the building adjacent to the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse,” attorneys Jeffrey Krasnoff, Kyndra Miller and Tony Serra wrote in a statement. “Such should reasonably foreclose any criminal negligence charges against Mr. Almena. Recall that the ATF could not conclude where the fire originated. The reasonable doubt here is overwhelming.”

Dan Rapperport, a fire and explosion investigator and president of Rapperport Associates, reviewed the report and found the theory that the fire started next door a “stretch.”

They did not offer compelling evidence to me, as a fire investigator, that the origin of the fire started outside the Ghost Ship space,” he said in a phone interview. It is not surprising that the massive fire would create roof and other fire damage on adjacent buildings, he said.

However, Rapperport said, the report makes a valid point that PG&E’s conductors from outer power poles may have been undersized. The photos show “undersized wiring” leading into the building, meaning the PG&E capacity for electrical current from outside could have been below the inside capacity of the Ghost Ship wiring, he said. That could have led to overloaded wiring which could cause a short or ignite a fire, however that doesn’t mean PG&E is necessarily to blame, he added.

“There’s legacy wiring going into the place and if they’re using more power than PG&E ever anticipated, it’s up to the user to call PG&E to say I need more power,” Rapperport said.

Tamar Sarkissian, a PG&E spokeswoman, said records over the last decade-plus show no reports of “electric theft or any other anomaly from this location or the adjacent premises. We will await the findings of the official investigation.”

Sources have told this newspaper that the cause of the fire inside the warehouse art collective was overloaded electrical lines at the rear of the structure.

The Ghost Ship’s power sources — an ad hoc network of extension cords stretched through a maze of small dwelling units and studios — all fed from one line coming through a hole punched in the wall to a neighboring business, a person familiar with the wiring has said. The sources did not mention the fire started outside the warehouse.

Criminal defense attorney Dan Horowitz said Almena’s defense team are creating a jury defense to “humanize” their client.

Make him sad, sorry and pathetic. Have a cause that blames someone else ‘scientifically’. Then ignore the fact that the place was an illegal electrical nightmare and an accident waiting to happen,” he said. “Let’s say the fire came from the sky. A lightning bolt. Sprinklers, exit doors, clear pathways and the hellish death of dozens would have been avoided.”

A spokeswoman with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, some other tobacco procuts from https://www.superiorvapour.com/collections/mod and Firearms declined to comment Monday on specifics, saying the Oakland Fire Department final report has not been completed.

In a statement late Monday, Karen Boyd, Oakland’s communications director, said that the ATF and the Oakland Fire Department are “collaborating on a comprehensive investigation of the 31st Avenue warehouse fire. The investigation will yield a report that addresses the cause and origin of the fire. That report will be forwarded to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office as part of the ongoing criminal investigation. It’s premature to speculate about the origin of the fire until all investigations are complete.”

Almena’s defense team declined to name the author of their report, but said he was an expert “qualified by both education and experience.”

[Source: Mercury News]

The witness account of the wiring coming through the wall conflicts with the images in the report, taken from the outside of the building.


Show Me The Money

Almost a million dollars was raised in a crowdfunding appeal for the victims, and now almost 2 months after the fire $0 from that has been handed out to them. The charity that took the money, Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, is deeply in bed with the Burning Man Project, which may explain the redistribution inefficiency. Money donated via the Oakland A’s, Raiders, and Warriors was distributed in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.

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From the Gray Area January 25 2017 press release:

“The first phase of allocations for the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts’ Fund —set up as an immediate response to the Ghostship tragedy—have been reviewed by a research committee and program managers and approved by the Gray Area Board of Directors. As of January 25, 2017, 136 intake forms have been qualified. Documentation will be requested, and funds will be dispersed immediately upon receipt of qualification documentation.

To fully allocate the second phase of funds, Gray Area still needs those who may qualify to submit the required intake form. The form has been available since December 7, 2016, via the foundation’s site at http://grayarea.org/initiative/fire-relief-fund/. The deadline to complete an intake form has been established as March 7, 2017 (90 days from the publishing date).

In other words, coming soon.

Intake forms: the new burner profile? The whole process rhymes with Burning Man, that’s for sure.

Josette Melchor, Executive Director and Founder of Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, has been on the advisory board for the Burning Man Project since January 2012. In 2010 they received an Honorarium grant for Syzygryd, an art project for “Interpretive Arson”. Gray Area Chairman Peter Hirshberg wrote about Burning Man re-inventing money and governance in the recent book From Bitcoin To Burning Man And Beyond (worth a read).

Melchor didn’t waste any time getting the money after the tragedy:

“Every penny that is donated here should go to the fire victims’ funeral expenses, medical expenses and health-related expenses,” said Josette Melchor, founder of Gray Area Foundation for The Arts. Melchor spoke for the group intent on helping victims the Monday after the fire.

That’s our priority first and foremost,” she said.

[Source: NBC Bay Area]

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She has a funny take on the meaning of “priority”. Hate to break it to you Josette, but people who need financial help for funerals need that in days after the death, not months. The same goes for people who have lost their home and all worldly possessions. I would imagine that was in the mind of any donor in the week or two  following the tragedy.
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Amazing how this organization was able to mobilize to rapidly that they were speaking to the press the Monday after the fire, and yet 2 months later still can’t figure out who the 36 victims were.
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NBC reports:

“Why is it taking so long?” asked Carmen Brito, a former resident of the Ghost Ship. “They know what we’re dealing with. They know we lost our home. They know we lost everything.”

Brito said she, as well as others who spoke with NBC Bay Area but declined to be identified, are in need of help. They say they received cash assistance hours after the fire from the Red Cross, which distributed money from a different fund led by the A’s, Warriors and Raiders.

But the Gray Area foundation has provided them no money.

“They kinda just didn’t seem to get it,” she said.

That surprised us. Because in December, Melchor, the Gray Area founder, said she was enlisting the Red Cross to help manage the fund.

“This is what they do. They’re good at it,” she said. “We’re not going to reinvent the wheel.”

But the Red Cross says Gray Area opted to manage the fund itself, on its own schedule.

“I would like to have seen an immediate handout,” Steele said.

NBC Bay Area has been asking Gray Area for information for weeks. On Thursday, the founder agreed to a follow-up interview. She confirmed that all the money is sitting idle in a bank account.

 “We haven’t spent a dime,” Melchor said.

Melchor said she has heard people’s concerns but assures them that Gray Area is beginning to approve applications.

“Eventually, they will be getting a check, in the next days to weeks,” she said. “So, to a certain point, I think they’ll begin to be thankful. And I think most people are thankful. They are just a few vocal people who are speaking out.”

As for why it’s taken close to two months, Melchor attributed the delays to getting records from the city and the coroner, which she says the Red Cross had immediate access to.

“There was just a huge hold up in us getting the information that we needed to serve the people that were affected,” she explained.

Our research found another hiccup: a call from the Attorney General’s Office.

Records we retrieved show the state sent Gray Area three different delinquency letters in 2016 for failing to file financial records. One notice, from August, warned of the state’s “intent to suspend or revoke” its registration as a charity.

Melchor told us Gray Area was unaware of the letters until late December – in the middle of fundraising – when the Attorney General’s Office called.

 “We cleared that up within 72 hours of the phone call with the Attorney General,” she said. “So, that is completely a non-issue.”

Not everyone agrees.

“That’s really a bad sign,” said Daniel Borochoff, president of CharityWatch, which scrutinizes and rates nonprofit organizations. Borochoff reviewed Gray Area’s filings as well as its online fundraiser.  

He asked: “If the group can’t even get it together to get their finances reported, their basic public disclosure documents provided to the state of California and the IRS, then how can they be expected to get it together to get this huge quick influx of funds to the needed victims?”

Borochoff questioned Gray Area’s decision to administer the fund.

“There are certainly groups in the Bay Area that are better equipped and have the experience to handle a disaster such as this warehouse fire,” he said.

Melchor said her group’s recent budget exceeds the balance of $901,000 relief fund, so it is capable of handling that much money. 

The victims and donors we talked to told us they just want Gray Area to distribute the money with the same urgency that the sympathetic public donated it.

“I don’t think anybody who gave money was like, ‘Yes I want this money to sit in a bank account of a foundation that’s dragging its feet.’” Brito said.

Steele agreed.

“I understand that it’s a difficult process. It’s a difficult process to weed out. But there’s got to be a way to make it happen faster,” Steele said.

Gray Area is still collecting donations. It has increased its fundraising goal several times and says it will continue to up its target

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Now that Gray Area got all the information they were waiting for, checks will be going out within days or weeks. How many checks are they writing? Surely 36 checks can be written in one hour. Two if you’re slow; not weeks.
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They’re still in the process of figuring out what they’re going to do with all the money. The good news is that they have formed a committee of “5 to 6” people. If the committee can’t even decide how many members it has, it’s probably not going to be super-hasty on all the other decisions. It seems that some of the Bay Area Burner spaces might end up with the cash, rather than the immediate victims:
they are in the process of determining whether to distribute the funds to just displaced residents and victims’ families, or to a larger swath of people impacted by the fire, including DIY spaces that need support making fire-safety improvements to their spaces.
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Hiding In The Shadows

 la-me-oakland-fire-20161203-photos
Another video has surfaced on YouTube purportedly showing these people indulging in bizarre, occult behavior. Derrick Almena is not visible, but (allegedly) his voice can be heard. He is one of the adults in the skull mask seeming to terrorize the child. YouTube comments identify the man whose face is shown as Michael Allison, Micah’s father.

Is it really them? Hard for me to say either way, but it would be an awful lot of trouble to go to just to troll somebody that is potentially under police and ATF investigation. The claims of drug and sex parties were also made in the Daily Mail. I couldn’t find Micah Allison on Etsy but they do sell voodoo dolls.

Image: Daily Mail

Michael Allison, Micah’s father. Image: Daily Mail

Anti-Burner Judge Gets Spanked by Appeals Circuit for the SEVENTH Time

0511-0709-0620-2149_Judge_With_His_Gavel_clipart_imageBurning Man announced today they won their appeal. Burners were left scratching their heads, without Propaganda Czar Will Chase there to put the usual spin on things. What does it all mean? Who’s suing whom? And will this affect ticket prices?

Here is the full text of the ruling. And here’s a summary in one paragraph:

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Basically, Pershing County wanted Burning Man to pay for their police presence. BMOrg said no, we pay the Feds, we pay Washoe. Pershing said pay up, and we don’t like nudity around children. Burning Man said “fuck you! free speech! We demand nudity!” and sued Pershing. Pershing responded by making life very difficult for Burners, partnering with the Feds for an unprecedented police crackdown. Sniffer dogs were brought in from the Mexican border. This was the beginning of “we’ll pull you over for the slightest thing and the dogs will search your car”. Burners were understandably pissed. Some of the more vocal DPW crew formed a group called RIOT and threatened to strike. BMOrg decided that maybe they should just pay the extra hundred grand or so to the cops. They agreed a deal, and both parties took it to the judge. The judge went apeshit and threw it out of court, telling the prosecutor to go back to law school. Near the end, romors of a negligence and malpractice law firm in Chicago getting involved pro bono, but the case settled before it could get that far.  It seemed like it was all sorted it out, but it obviously wasn’t because of this appeal. The one judge sounds a little loco, and his Boss Judges in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals seem to agree.

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This has nothing to do with Burning Man’s other matter, objecting to the Live Entertainment Tax. So no effect on ticket prices. They will probably keep going up, and new things like Vehicle Passes and handling fees on Vehicle passes will be introduced to drive revenues further.

Here’s our previous commentary on what’s been going on in the case, in reverse chronological order. The headlines kind of speak for themselves:

https://burners.me/2014/02/04/radio-interview-with-pershing-da/

https://burners.me/2014/02/03/reno-gazette-journal-covers-pershing-county-cops-settlement/

https://burners.me/2014/01/13/judge-backs-off-pershing-roadblock-deal-is-done/

https://burners.me/2013/11/29/absurd-illegal-mealy-mouthed-more-on-judges-ruling-on-burning-manpershing-dispute/

https://burners.me/2013/11/29/go-back-to-law-school-judges-nukes-pershing-deal/

https://burners.me/2013/11/14/associated-press-misreports-pershing-county-fees/

https://burners.me/2013/11/11/breaking-burning-man-reaches-deal-with-pershing-county/

https://burners.me/2013/08/23/pershing-county-cops-and-federal-agents-integrated-and-synchronized/

https://burners.me/2013/08/22/busting-man-riot-calls-for-general-strike-at-burning-man/

https://burners.me/2013/05/07/failed-to-even-make-a-facial-pershing-county-claims-huge-defeat-over-burning-man/

https://burners.me/2012/10/11/pershing-county-hits-back-at-burning-man/

https://burners.me/2012/08/17/county-cops-duke-it-out-with-feds-for-burning-man-buck/

Today’s coverage by Scott Sonner (AP) in the Sacramento Bee was much better than the BJ or Burning Man in-house reporter Jenny Kane’s sales pitch for Will’s job piece at the RGJ.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned another ruling by the same conservative federal judge in Nevada, criticizing his unorthodox handling of a Burning Man lawsuit and taking the extraordinary step of ordering him off a case for the fifth time in two years.

U.S District Judge Robert Clive Jones had no legal basis to reject a deal lawyers for Burning Man and Pershing County reached in 2013 to settle a dispute over security costs and First Amendment rights at the annual counter-culture celebration in the desert about 100 miles north of Reno, the appellate court ruled on Wednesday.

Jones — who recently shifted to senior status on the Reno bench — inappropriately mocked the lawyers during a hearing, accused both sides of malpractice, described one lawyer’s comments as “mealy-mouthed,” suggested another should return to law school and “noted his own laughter on the record,” the three-judge panel said.

“We have in the past expressed concern over the district’s court’s handling of a number of cases that have reached this court, and we unfortunately must do so again here,” Chief Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas wrote in a unanimous four-page memo issued Wednesday in San Francisco.

Thomas said in granting the Burning Man lawyers’ appeal that he was remanding the case back to district court and instructing Nevada’s chief U.S. district judge to assign the case to a different judge. He listed six cases in which the 9th Circuit reluctantly has issued similar orders involving Jones since 2012 — five in just the last two years.

Read the rest of the story at the Sac Bee.
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Although the case has to go before a different judge again, given that both parties have agreed a settlement and are getting along swimmingly in the new integrated Tier 1 Unified Command and Control structure, that should be just a formality.
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How can this Judge tell lawyers to “go back to law school” when he gets slapped down unanimously by the Appeals Court – 7 times in 4 years? He must have some powerful friends in the Wild West of Northern Nevada. Pantsless Santa tells me that Federal Judges are appointed for life, and it would be no surprise if one was part of the old boys network.
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Masks in the Cibolo Creek hunting lodge, where Bohemian Grove spin-off the Order of St Hubertus hosted Burning Man-connected Judge Antonin Scalia's mysterious demise. Image: Wayne Madsen Report, via Fellowship of the Minds

Masks in the Cibolo Creek hunting lodge, where Bohemian Grove spin-off the Order of St Hubertus hosted Burning Man-connected Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s mysterious demise.
Image: Wayne Madsen Report, via Fellowship of the Minds

Victory for the Little Guy! [Updates]

bm tm

Over the last couple of years, we’ve been following with keen interest a lawsuit in Canada. The plaintiff was Decommodification, LLC – a private company the founders set up, which owns all the Intellectual Property assets of Burning Man and is paid royalties by the Burning Man Project for their use. The defendants were Napalm Dragon and Burn BC – a Vancouver-based arts collective co-operative that has been participating in Burning Man and other burn events since the early 90’s.

Here is some of our previous coverage

Canada Draws Battle Lines for Burner Culture May 14

BURNILEAKS: Bullying the Burners Sep 14

Embattled Burners Ask for Support Sep 14

Help Canada Sep 14

South Bhak Oct 14

Quick Update from Canada Nov 14

Burn BC Admits Defeat in Battle for Public Domain Jan 15

The lawsuit saw some eye-brow raising moves from BMOrg, including a claim by founder Crimson Rose that she invented fire dancing.

A year ago, it seemed that BMOrg had won – Burn BC couldn’t raise enough money for a lawyer, and was forced into a default judgement.

Napalm Dragon explained how he was prevented from even mounting a defense in our Jan 2015 story Burn BC Admits Defeat:

A couple of months ago the Lawyers for Decommodification LLC (The new American Corporation that now owns the American Burning Man Trademark) blocked Burn BC from defending itself.

They would not allow the directors of Burn BC to submit a defence, suppressing a very lengthy defence I’d put together for the organisation.

(I was hospitalised with a major panic attack from the stress of dealing with this).

The judge gave 30 days for Burn BC to find a lawyer. If Burn BC could have found a lawyer, we have mountains of evidence that could have easily defended Burn BC.

So without a lawyer, the flimsy claims against Burn BC went to default judgement. Without a reasonable defence for Burn BC, the Judge was forced to rule based on weak claims by the plaintiff.

Decommodification LLC didn’t just stop at $10,000 plus $25,000, they also wanted the Burn BC website. There’s NO need for the website.

The Judge ruled $10,000 damages (based on one sided claims, and no defence), and turning over our Burn BC website to Decommodification LLC. I can’t blame the judge, he had limited information, and Burn BC was completely unable to defend itself.

The judge ordered them to cease using the trademark, they agreed – so BMOrg got what they want, right?

It seems this small victory wasn’t enough. Decommodification LLC – apparently using the Burning Man Project’s extensive legal resources – had to burn the villages too. They pursued Napalm Dragon personally for damages. No matter that the guy has no money, and they take in $32 million a year. He needed to be taught a lesson, publicly shamed, ruined. How dare he be throwing burns and contributing to the community for 20+ years! How dare he try to defend himself against outrageous claims and character attacks! Destroy! Exterminate! Humiliate!

Well, karma can be a bitch: it looks like this strategy backfired. Since Decommodification LLC was going directly after Napalm Dragon personally, he was able to represent himself in court without a lawyer, something which was not possible the way the original case had been structured. It seems the Court did what courts do, looked at the facts, looked at the history, heard the arguments from both sides, and made a ruling based on the law – resulting in a total defeat for the American Decommodification company, and vindication for Canadian Burn BC.

Here is Napalm Dragon’s initial report on his victory:

Burn BC Founder and Champion of Burner Rights, Bhak Jolicouer

Burn BC Founder and Champion of Burner Rights, Bhak Jolicouer

The final paperwork came back today.
I WON!!!
I ROASTED the lawyer, and he caved. He very literally cowered before the courts.

The Burn BC Arts Cooperative is alive and well, I am in the clear, and I forced Decommodification LLC to, not only back off of me, but to leave me alone and relinquish any attempted claims to otherwise very important sacred cultural domain I’ve been intimately involved with for over 20 years.

I briefly thought about going all the way with it; pushing “Burning Man” finally and completely (and undoubtedly) back into the Public Domain where it is and belongs (and could have without a lawyer). I was very literally one Court Motion away from doing it.

But, instead I roasted the Lawyer, and demanded respect, and demanded some clear terms, and got EXACTLY what I wanted and had declared for over a decade.

I was able to do this because Decommodification LLC was not satisfied with destroying Burn BC by forcing it into an undefended default judgement and just leaving me alone.

No, the vengeance of one greedy sadistic and highly duplicitous and domineering woman, and her asinine arrogance, nearly led to her complete downfall by one punk from Canada and his little prank.

[Metaphorically speaking] I had her, and her entire plot by the balls, I squeezed tightly to get her attention, then said “Leave me the F**K alone, I am free to do and say what I please, and if you push me any further you lose every exaggerated claim”.

When Decommodification LLC came after me personally they screwed up. They gave me the opportunity to finally defend myself; and when this finally came before the courts, I completely ROASTED the lawyer. He was very literally cowering before the “judge”, and went pale.

All the egregious demands disappeared.

I then turned it around and said (metaphorically) “This is what’s going to happen, and this is what you are going to do.”

So now it’s done and I’m moving on, and I am free to do and say what I please; as has ALWAYS been my right, as an Artist, Prankster, Empresario, and Sacred Clown.

F**** You!!!…and your Burning Man too.
Keep that dead lie far away from me, and anyone I love.

Now I can finally get back to what I really want to do before this giant stinking pile of bull dung distracted me.

BMOrg have not had their Propaganda-spun statements tested in a court very often. There were a couple of big cases in 2007. Founder John Law tried to keep the Burning Man name in the public domain for all Burners to use, saying “If Burning Man is really a movement, the name should belong to everyone, not three guys who don’t get along anymore”. Although the case got a lot of media attention, and raised the hopes of many Burners, it was settled for an undisclosed sum before going to trial. In the Paul Addis arson trial, BMOrg controversially provided muddled information that ensured a mischievous prank in the Cacophonist spirit was treated as a terrible, malicious felony. Addis got jail time, lost his legal career, then became yet another Burner whose exit from this “movement” was a horrific public suicide.

I asked Napalm Dragon if he had any further comments for Burners.me readers. He said:

I want nothing to do with Marian Goodell or her “Contractually Obliged Brand Cult”.
Anyone who “volunteers” for any project, group, or event, “controlled directly or indirectly by Decommodification LLC” through the use of the so called trademark “Burning Man™” is being taken for a ride by a private American corporation that wants to join the Billionaires Club on the backs of the wide eyed and naive, lost in a labyrinth of past relevance.

The last Great Cultural Emergence of the 20th Century is moving on, leaving behind an empty calcified echo of a spectacle.
The culture created Burning Man; “Burning Man™” did not create the culture.
There is no longer a home for the culture under this so called trademark “Burning Man™”.

When it comes to Burners.me, know that I forced Decommodification LLC to agree to make no claim to “The Burn”. SO the culture has a place to go, freely, and of its own free will and accord, and it’s beyond the reach of Decommodification LLC. (IN WRITING).

Fuck “Burning Man™”, that term missed its opportunity to have a profound, respectful, and positive relationship with relevance, and instead chose to suffocate an agonising and slow retreat into obscurity.

When Decommodification LLC went after me personally, the lawyers could not block me from defending myself (like they did with Burn BC)
I waited for someone who understood the significance of this to hand me a lawyer, and when it didn’t materialise. I played my cards wisely.

Unable to block me from defending myself, I decided to turn it in my favour and completely roasted the lawyer before the Canadian Federal Courts. All the egregious demands faded in the presence of the courts.

I protected some sacred terms, protected Burn BC, and protected myself.
I’m bowing out of this stinking saga with this last prank; and letting Marian Goodell and her American Corporation Decommodification LLC fester in the pursuit of a meaningless trademark in Canada.

Anyone is free to oppose the application with CIPO, I will not be participating in any opposition.
I’ve lost interest. I have nothing but disdain for Decommodification LLC and the words “Burning Man™”.

I’m now going to take some time to consider the most epic prank of my life, and think about the love of my son, and the love of my wife, and our rights to be the creative people we are; unfettered by the looming shadow of a “Contractually Obliged Brand Cult”, or the American Corporation that claims to control it.

I was right all along, and I feel at peace with a clear conscience.
I hope this prank offers some peace to Paul Addis, Caleb Schaber, and Howler (Rest well in your afterlife).

This is my parting gift to those I inadvertently led astray, and those who have inadvertently led us astray.
With Love,

Bhak Jolicoeur (AKA) Napalm Dragon
Avant-garde Artist, Impresario, Prankster, and Sacred Clown.
(Now, to get busy with the good stuff.)

Maybe now BMOrg will accept that Burners create this culture and event, not them. The point of Burning Man, and burns in general, is to create a temporary city together for entertainment –  not to cook everybody’s souls using a cauldron called The Devil so they have a Transformational Experience™. The culture has been developed from the bottom-up, grass roots if you like. Replacing it with top-down legal control from a tax-exempt entity and a board of 1%-ers is not going to make our culture flourish for the next hundred years under their Burning Man™ corporate banner.


[Update 1/14/16 1:29pm PST]

Napalm Dragon wanted us to be clear that Burn BC is a co-operative, not a collective. Sorry about that!

He also points out that the owners of Decommodification LLC, mostly are in no ways the founders of the Burning Man event. He has a good point: Larry Harvey is the only one of the 6 who was at the first one; Michael Mikel the only other one who was there at the Beach and Desert; Crimson Rose and Harley Dubois came to the second desert event, Will Roger arrived in 1994 and Marian Goodell 1995. Black Rock City LLC was incorporated in 1997, after the disastrous Helco burn.

Are the 6 owners of Decommodification, LLC, the same as these 6 “Founders”?

Again, it looks like Napalm Dragon is right. We don’t know very much about this private company. It was spun off before the donation to the non-profit, and the main assets of the business were transferred to it. Supposedly, the “6 Founders” each have an equal share, and have to unanimously vote against a transfer to the Burning Man Project in 2018 to stop it. Does it earn royalties from the Spark movie, the newspaper photo rights, music soundtracks, art sales, or anything else? Or does it simply get $75k per year from the Burning Man Project, and nothing else – everything else goes to Burning Man? We don’t know, and I’d love to think it was the latter – but if so why don’t they just be transparent about it? Why are we only going to find out what is going on with all these LLCs and assets and inter-group relations AFTER many years?

Here’s the official story, as of about a month ago:

Screenshot 2016-01-14 14.10.32

Here’s what Corporation Wiki says:

Screenshot 2016-01-14 12.33.06

 

Doug Robertson is listed in the Burning Man Project IRS Form 990 as the organization’s CFO. Ray Allen is the Burning Man Project’s in-house General Counsel. Nanci Elliot is better known by her alias Crimson Rose.

Screenshot 2016-01-14 12.59.32

The address listed here in 3rd street is also associated with Black Rock Arts Foundation, Black Rock Solar, and Tomas McCabe. From CorporationWiki:

Screenshot 2016-01-14 13.43.25

 

Justia lists trademarks owned by Decommodifcation, LLC. Interestingly, the Ranger logo is here, but the name Burning Man and the regular )'( dude are not.

 

Screenshot 2016-01-14 12.54.57

Trademarkia only has one trademark associated with Burning Man: the main one, which proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that Burning Man is a festival. It was last renewed in 2014, with Decommodification, LLC as owner.

Screenshot 2016-01-14 12.57.05

Of course, “organizing community festivals featuring…live music, art displays, and participatory games; conducting entertainment exhibitions” is not even remotely close to Live Entertainment – what are they smoking in Nevada?

Bizstanding lists Larry, Marian, and Harley as the three “Managing Members” of Decommodification LLC. It also lists Brooke Oliver, who claims to have been the legal architect of Burning Man’s non-profit transition.

Screenshot 2016-01-14 13.56.02

 

 

Where’s Will, where’s Danger Ranger? Both of those guys only got paid $70k or so in 2014. Why’s that?

Did donation money given by Burners to support art projects end up going to this lawsuit in Canada? Or did Decommodification, LLC pay for it?

I don’t expect we’ll hear answers to these questions – although it would be a lovely surprise if we do. Simply to ask them, doesn’t make me a “conspiracy theorist”. They are quite reasonable questions, the kind of thing I would ask any $30 million non-profit that wanted me to give them money.


Napalm Dragon has cemented his place in Burner history, along with other eclectic and eccentric figures like Chicken John, Paul Addis, John Law, Caleb Schaber, and (IMHO) myself, who have risked a lot simply to fight for what’s right. A movement that came from a community, not a corporation.

Bhak reached out to the community to help raise funds to get a lawyer. They raised $1650, he wants to wish a big thanks to everyone who donated. If more Burners had stepped up in support, perhaps “Burning Man” might be a free term in Canada today.

The idea that BMOrg need to protect the Burning Man name from anyone else ever using it because people might get confused is kind of ludicrous in 2016, when it’s on Oprah and The Simpsons. Dude. We get it. It’s BURNING MAN™. A name that is now MASSIVELY COMMODIFIED after years of saturation promotion in mainstream media. You need these lawsuits because people might sell t-shirts, really? There are 30,000 merchants on Etsy selling Burning Man products and nearly 8,000 on eBay. Let’s stop kidding ourselves, stop pretending that this is somehow “against Burning Man” or “ruining Burning Man”. This event was built on selling t-shirts. If anything, it’s the “hey it’s cool if we jump the shark, we want new people anyway, doesn’t matter if they’re self-reliant or participants” attitude that is “ruining Burning Man”.

burning man 98 tshirt list

We want to go to officially sanctioned events that are based on the Ten Principles. So why not enable thousands of those around the world, get royalties from all of the franchises, donate generously to art and the environment, and really see if we can make a difference with this culture? Take the royalty money from the 30,000 Etsy vendors, and use it to do some good?

They have enough Burners for that…but do they have enough lawyers? It seems to me that is what is holding our growth back the most right now.

Why is “Burning Man: The Board Game” (free, made by 20-years Burners to entertain other Burners) bad, but “Burning Man: The Musical“, (commercial, by a Google employee who’s never been to Burning Man) good?

Why does Decommodification, LLC feel it has to own Decommodification Itself? What would be the point of that, in a temporary company created only to safeguard Burning Man’s brands for a couple of years? 

Here is Napalm Dragon’s Christmas Day message (and Gift) to those of us who did support him.

2279639_1451186923.317_updates

I submit this with a heavy heart.

Yet, I submit this with a burden released from my conscience, after enduring a long, distressing, and frivolous process.

Signed on the longest night of the year (December 21), in sacred concert with the ages, I part ways with the empty spectacle, and protect the integrity of a sacred domain of the arts, and the ancient rites.

My signature ends an era of open cultural relationships with what was once the most relevant cultural event of the 20th century; made relevant by the gathering tribes of the last great cultural emergence of the 20th century.

Until December 21, 2015 I held in my hand the last flickering flame of the Original Burning Man Culture that created the event, created the city, and created the communities.

We created Burning Man.
Burning Man did not create us.
This is the truth, and the truth has set me free.

My submission today, and my signature on this document ends the name of our culture. It ends our relationship with the secret American corporation (Decommodification LLC) that secretly makes questionable claims to what was once the public domain name of a culture, and the public domain iconography of a culture.

In Canada, this secret American Corporation (Decommodification LLC) will soon take control of a trademark based on our Public Domain Culture and Public Domain Iconography in order to steal control of what little remains of our independently developed communities.

I will not be taking part in any opposition to this, that window has passed for me. I held that window open and the loud cries of the vain were all that were heard.

I will not participate in this deceptive practice in any way, or with any organisation, group, or individuals who are blindly mislead by this contractually obliged brand cult.

Our culture and it’s association with what was once our name has lost all relevance. What remains is an illusion, a deception, a mere figment that exploits misconceptions.

What remains is not our culture.
It’s the synthesised echoes of how we express our culture.

It’s a calcified and degraded, proprietary facsimile of the expressions of our culture. It looks like culture, but it’s little more than the exploitation of those of us seeking to connect with our culture.

Our Culture has moved on, and no longer exists within the domain of what Decommodification LLC vainly and arrogantly claims to control.

Pushed to the very brink, I stood next to justice with my back held straight against the wall of truth. I held to my convictions, my rights, my honour, and trusted in my faith that the truth prevails.

In the face of intimidation, being ostracised, slandered, my reputation all but destroyed, and my friends deceived, I stood by the truth and trusted in the power of justice to perceive the truth.

Very literally under the scrutiny of our Canadian judicial system, this deception and intimidation fell apart. What remained was a compromise.

I accepted this compromise and demanded concessions to this compromise that might respect my artistic rights, my integrity, my honour, and my self respect (the only things left to me in this fiasco)

I was failed by the very people who so grandiosely stand on the backs of the artists and declare themselves “the community”. These people loudly proclaimed to support my position, but did little to step up to “Radical Self Reliance”, and offer what mattered. Their words fell to the floor, the empty ashes of an illusion; those of us believing in this illusion vainly grasping at it.

Yet, despite my challenges, I faced the truth on my own accord, and the truth prevailed through the wise mediation of the honourable Prothonotary Milczynski.

I can now lay to rest this deplorable action by Decommodification LLC and move on with my life, as I asked before, and have asked many times before that.

The integrity of my culture now remains relativity intact by other means; holding back the looming shadow over our culture, and out of reach of this secret and deceptive corporation.

I have taken responsibility for my part in being mislead over the last 10 years, and inadvertently misleading others who respected my reputation and good will over the last 25 years.

I can now get on with my life with a clear conscience. My last gift to this community being the truth.

I submit my settlement agreement with a heavy heart, a clear conscience, and a clear perspective on the heinous actions that have transpired over the last 20 years.

I choose today (December 25th) to submit this document to the Plaintiff and the Courts, not as a gesture of good will, but as a reminder of what it really means to offer a gift to the world.

To remind the Plaintiff that a gift was offered to the world, and it was tossed aside like a dirty worthless bone.

I pick up that bone and bury it with grace and respect.

It was a sincere, heartfelt, gift to the community; something we (our culture) offered to the world. Something taken from us, perverted, and tossed away; then synthesized and sold back to our peers with the intent of making the profound; proprietary, mundane, and superficial; something to easily consume from the bucket list of past notoriety, a minor novelty exploiting the good will of vague references to an obfuscated past.

With this settlement, there is no going back.
It is done.

The desert has lost it’s last hope to be anything more than just a misguided, shameful and shallow expression of excess and delusional cultural exploitation; a spectacle cut off from the profound depths of an open culture.

It is no longer a maze of possibilities to transcend the madness, it’s a labyrinth of madness that has no exit.

It’s a culture trap.

A gift is something offered without obligation, and the obligations demanded by the Plaintiff throughout these proceedings with Burn BC and myself were deplorable. They were both egregious and vitriolic. They only served to destroy what remains of the beauty and grace we offered this Culture and Cultural Iconography, and the independent communities that have given (very literally) their love, and their lives to our culture.

Many of us have very literally given our lives to the gifts we offer to our community. We had no intention of giving our gifts to greedy, exploiting corporations. Many of us who could not face our complicit assistance to this deception committed suicide, or died by the symptomatic obfuscation that confuses the profound.

People took their lives, and have died for this culture.
– Caleb Shaber walked into his room in Gerlach Nevada and killed himself with a gun.
– Paul Addis threw himself in front of the San Francisco Bart Train.
– Hours after visiting with my wife and I in Austin Texas, a man went home and shot himself.
– Another close friend swam to his death, and drowned himself.
– Another hung himself in Vancouver.
– Others were murdered by a crazed gunman in Seattle.
– One man hung himself in the Nevada Desert.
– Another recently walked into the fires of an event in the United States.
– A famous CBC radio host died.
– A woman was killed while riding an Art Car.

People died for this culture and because of this deceptive cultural appropriation. These deaths are now empty, sad statements to the deceptive cultural appropriation this corporation has committed with absolute callous disregard for the very culture they claim to have created “from a ceremony on Baker Beach”.

My conscience weighed heavy, it is now clear, and I remember these lives with dignity as I move forward with the rest of my life.

I close this heinous chapter in disgust. I open a new chapter alleviated by taking responsibility. I move forward with a light and clear conscience to live with joy, share in charity, and love with honour, dignity, and respect.

I have fulfilled my obligations.

The intentions of our culture, and our lives, were to offer a gift to the world, and offer a gift to our communities by creating spaces for our communities to flourish unhindered by mediated consumerism, and the marketing exploitation that turns people into predictable products to be repackaged and sold back to us as a limited set of archetypes that we adhere to without question or Critical Thought.

The very foundation of our culture was deeply undermined in the name of pure greed. We were deceived, and as I faced the obfuscation that surrounds this deception, a most egregious realisation was revealed by this frivolous litigation.

It is no longer my concern, this is for others to contemplate.

I am irrevocably done with the words: Burning Man™

What has transpired here with this document I submit, and my signature, is no less than the “end of an era”, not because I have the power to end it, but because I’m willing to recognise the significance of this settlement agreement in relation to the dark shadow that looms over it.

I have been blessed to witness and participate in the last great cultural emergence of the 20th century which emerged around the world throughout the 90’s. It gave profound power and meaning to a name, and cultural iconography.

Now with the stroke of my pen, a cultural relevance is gone forever. It is truly the end of an era. This sad end forced by the unyielding and arrogantly uncompromisingly deceptive greed of one woman and her secret corporation.

When given the opportunity to share in an incredibly significant opportunity to continue respecting the independent nature of our cultural relationships; this was not only rejected, but crushed with brutal dominating vengeance; I realised that the best course of action was to walk away from possibly the most damaging relationship I have ever encountered.

Questionable claims were made by Decommodification LLC under frivolous litigation. There was no reason to waste the precious time of the courts.

The Burn BC Arts cooperative was prevented from defending itself; and even after the matter was clearly resolved, intimidation, and callous technicalities were exploited to undermine justice and force an undefended default judgement against Burn BC.

What remains is a lie, a deception of cultural proportions, a system of exploitation that sullies the very idea of the founding culture here in Canada that gave the last great cultural emergence of the 20th century its power and relevance, and opened a door to beauty, grace, kindness, and the sincerity of The Gift.

A gift is given without obligation. Yet under the guise of a gift, one greedy woman and her secret corporation have taken the greatest gift we could offer to the world, and turned it into a farce, a façade, a lie. She forced those of us afraid to challenge this injustice into obligations that robbed us of hope.

Twenty years of my life have been taken from me, exploited, and destroyed; My reputation ruined by slander, and blindness, and the rewriting of a profoundly beautiful history to wipe the truth from the pages of relevance in a vain and arrogant attempt to own a delusional messianic nightmare based on an outright lie.

My contributions to the history of my culture and my local community developed in British Columbia; and the real significance of it’s impact on the greater cultural evolution have been vainly and disrespectfully wiped from the history books, and replaced by a superficial lie.

I have nothing but disdain for Decommodification LLC (et al), and will never be party to it’s deplorable deception. I will not be party to the death of a once beautiful cultural relationship, and cultural relevance.

Yet, a compromise has been reached.

An agreement has been forged that protects the ancient rites from the delusional claws of this sadistic attempt to “own the exclusive rights to a culture”.

I hold hope in my heart, and feel at peace moving forward. After years of enduring the stunning realisations of what is happening, why it’s happening, and how it transpired, I have found a compromise that can let me live with my conscience cleared and in relative peace.

I can close this ugly chapter and concentrate on what matters. The love of my son, the love of my wife, and the unfettered joy we will have without the looming shadow of this American Corporation and it’s domineering, vengeful, and deceptive practices.

We are no longer party (in any way) to the cultural exploitation of this “contractually obliged brand cult”.

I leave you with this on Christmas Day, the day of The Gift, to remind Decommodification LLC of the vitriolic and divisive darkness they have spread under the guise of “gifting”, and the heavy conscience they must live with on what should be a day of peace, forgiveness, and kindness.

Before this transpired they were given the greatest opportunity to have a dignified and mutually respectful relationship with Canada.

They choose greed, and get the empty remains of the fading echo of the past. The greatest gift slipping through their fingers, greased by money, and replaced by ignorance.

Good bye forever to this deception.
Napalm Dragon
Avante-Garde Artist, Impresario, and Sacred Clown.

[Source: Gofundme]

 


[Update 1/14/16 2:00pm PST]

Anon wanted links to the court documents. Here’s one. If anyone else has any, please share.

Suing For Your Supper [Update]

Thanks very much to Burner ShaggyDog for this guest post about some of the legal issues surrounding the recent Quiznos parody.


The BMOrg has put out quite a bit of bluster regarding a certain ad for a sandwich company – one that pokes fun at Burning Man with a satirical caricature of some aspects of the culture (mainly the ones that have received the most attention lately – it comes not even close to capturing the full gamut of Burning Man). And though BMOrg’s intent may be to protect the culture from commodification, their PR department has come off looking pretty foolish for their efforts, with outlets such as the WSJ and the Young Turks satirizing the Borg’s response to this satire. Their response has also had the side effect of generating yet more free publicity for the very ad they were trying to squelch.
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Whether you love the ad or hate it (I thought it was on point and hilarious), it’s pretty hard to argue that this isn’t Commodification in some form. The more difficult question is what (if anything) should the BMOrg, and we burners more generally, do about it?
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BMOrg has opted for the route of legal sabre-rattling, but as Thomas Schelling taught us in his masterpiece ‘Strategy of Conflict’, for a threat to be effective, it must be a credible threat. How credible is the BMOrg’s implied threat within its Cease & Desist letter to Quiznos? Let’s take a look at what the law says.
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Intellectual “Property” – Trademarks and Copyrights
Intellectual property laws bestow certain rights on creators and persons to control how their creations may be used. In the USA, thanks to the American Enlightenment principles of the founding fathers, these rights are based in a utilitarian philosophy which recognizes the tradeoff between encouraging the creation of good works, and limiting freedom of expression. This is interesting, because we can recognize similar tradeoffs between conflicting (10) Principles – for example Radical Expression vs Civic Responsibility, or even vs Decommodification.
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IP protections includes copyright, trademarks, patents, trade secrets, and a few other esoteric and less common constructs such as design patents and character rights. But the only protections relevant here are trademarks  and (maybe!) copyright.
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Copyright law exists to encourage the creation of art and culture, by granting their creator a limited monopoly to make and sell copies of their works, to create derivative works, and to perform or display their works publicly. The ‘limited’ part of the monopoly is important, and includes not only a time limit, but exceptions such as Fair Use.
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Trademark law, at least in theory, is primarily about preventing consumer confusion and protecting the consumer. It is helpful both to the business and to consumers to know that when they buy Spanky®’s meat tubes they are getting meat tubes that have in fact been produced by Spanky®, and not by an inferior competitor that may be using hazardous ingredients, or extruding them from a nearby communal Fleshlight.
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The Burning Man trademark
The BMOrg (or rather, the Orwellian-named Decommodification LLC) controls the trademark for “Burning Man”, allowing them to prevent others from attaching that name to their products and services to prevent confusion and protect their brand. But that isn’t a free rein to control any and every use of a trademark. Imagine if you had to seek permission every time you said to your friend “I’ve got an idea for an art project. Wanna go and photocopy our butts at the local Kinkos?”. Mayhem would ensue. It’s pretty hard to talk about visiting Kinkos without using the word Kinkos. And in fact this situation is covered under existing trademark case law – it is called “nominative fair use” and applies when you are using the trademarked name of a thing to refer to it accurately, there’s no other simple way to refer to it, and you do not imply any endorsement by the trademark owner. These all apply to the Quiznos ad, and so BMOrg’s trademark case is looking pretty anaemic.
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Add to that the fact that parody is typically afforded even more leeway in fair use rulings, and it’s clear the Borg’s case never really had legs. An instructive example is when Mattel sued MCA records, the label responsible for Aqua’s ‘Barbie® Girl’, over their use of the trademark. The case dragged on over 3+ years and several appeals, but Mattel lost every one of them. So the BMOrg were shooting blanks in their C&D, and one wonders what they hoped to achieve?
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The Embrace copyright
Matthew Schultz has also written some heartfelt posts about the exploitation of his work – the Embrace sculpture – in this ad. I really feel for Matthew, and Embrace was an incredible achievement, one that it is hard not to feel is cheapened by such a use. But the law is likely not on his side, and even less on that of the BMOrg. In fact, BMOrg don’t even have standing to sue over the inclusion of Embrace in the ad, because they don’t own the copyright – the Art Grant contract gives them only a perpetual unlimited license, which does not provide the right to sue.
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Matthew could assign them co-ownership so they could sue on his behalf, but that would not achieve much either, because the real problem here is that the use of the copyrighted Embrace design and image here is very likely protected by Fair Use.
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Copyright fair use is determined by a four factor test – Purpose and character of the use, Nature of copyrighted work, Amount and substantiality of portion taken, and Effect of use on potential market.
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Though the commercial nature of the work would go against a fair use finding on the “purpose and character of use” factor, the other three factors are pretty clearly in Quiznos’ favour.
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The use of the work was not only transformative, but parodical (and parody is seen as an exemplary fair use). The substantiality also favors fair use – it was shown incidentally in the background for a split second only. And the effect on the potential market is also in favor of fair use – as there is no secondary market for a work that you burn. It is a somewhat bitter irony that the Decommodification principle ensures that the market for the work was never really a motivation to begin with.
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So on both the trademark and copyright aspects, this is a very tough case for anyone wishing to sue Quiznos. So what should the BMOrg have done?
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The Streisand Effect and the Internet Outrage Machine
Perhaps confusingly, I think the answer is probably very little. The BMOrg doesn’t have the ammunition it needs to make credible threats to Quiznos. And on the internet things like threatening to sue (which is all a C&D letter really is) have a terrible habit of backfiring.
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Trying to bury something on the internet is basically impossible – as EFF founder and long-time burner John Gilmore said “The Net treats censorship as a defect and routes around it“. Without the ability to censor, pushing back on something has the opposite effect to that desired –  it draws more attention to it! This is the infamous Streisand Effect, named for the incident in which Barbara learnt this valuable lesson. With so many tech-savvy folk at the Burn and in burner circles, you would expect the Borg to know better.
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So the best course of action for the Borg was probably to ignore this and let it blow over. Maybe write a little blog on Voices of BM, but don’t go threatening anybody, play it down, and ignore these tacky fuckers commodifying our Burn. Expressing any kind of moral indignation is a lightning rod on the internet – outrage attracts eyeballs, and with them clicks and advertising dollars. So much for Decommodification.
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Community Solutions?
So what is left to us? We can’t rely on some omnimpotent (sic) authority figure to solve this problem for us. Is there anything we as a community can do?
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Sure. Don’t buy Quiznos. Don’t share the ad. That’s easy right there.
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More challenging and more risky would be to hijack their message, and make it work against them. There are some precedents to hijacking PR messages and turning them against their creators. Anonymous is a master of this sort of thing with its constant fuckery with online polls and the like. But even arguable failures like Fitch The Homeless are instructive here. The notion is to co-opt in turn those that are co-opting our culture, and do things they don’t like with their brand. On the FB Victor suggested re-purposing Quiznos subs as buttplugs – this is exactly the kind of message hijacking that might work.

victor facebook suggestion

This can easily backfire though, especially to the extent that this is a brand where “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” is true (the Kardashians spring to mind).
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If we really are impotent to fight this sort of commodification, we might have to just be happy with building our own communities and living within them, and not paying too much attention to this sort of exploitation by external actors. Really that’s what we’re already doing.


Burners.Me:

Just to add further to ShaggyDog’s excellent commentary. There has been an attempt to “fuck with the fuckery” – replacing the audio in the Quiznos ad with “eat a shit sandwich”. This is a more “Burnery” approach, IMO.

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In the final Supreme Court ruling on the Mattel vs RCA Barbie Girl case, the judge ordered the parties “just to chill” . Mattel eventually chose to embrace the Aqua song, using the music in official Barbie TV advertising in 2009.

 

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Uproxx in an article titled Our Nonsense Is Serious! Burning Man May Sue Over Legitimately Funny Sandwich Ad compares the situation to the Book of Mormon. Rather than suing the South Park guys behind the spoof, the church embraced them – advertising in the musical’s playbook, and even sending busloads of churchgoers to Broadway to see the show (if you’re lucky enough to have seen it, you’ll know that it’s harder on the Africans than it is on the Mormons).

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Other Burners have raised the example of another recent parody “Burning Man – The Musical!”, which BMOrg seem to have allowed so far.

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This article at TechDirt Myth Busting – Yes, An Advertisement Can Be Fair Use Parody has some good information and further links.

 

A few choice comments from Reddit:

HotterRod:

The primary protection for trademarks is to prevent consumer confusion. No one is going to confuse a sandwich with an arts festival, so that’s obviously not in play here.

The secondary protection is dilution of the brand (in this case tarnishment: “association arising from the similarity between a mark or trade name and a famous mark that harms the reputation of the famous mark”), which is covered by the Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006. Section 3.b & 3.c explicitly exempts news and noncommercial use from charges of dilution, so the rest of the act covers commercial use. The Act section 3.a.ii defines fair use as:

identifying and parodying, criticizing, or commenting upon the famous mark owner or the goods or services of the famous mark owner.

Personally I think Quiznos’ ad is obviously fair use and the Org’s purpose here is to scare off other people who might make parodies and don’t have a legal team to defend them. It’s sad that the legal system works that way. 😦

Deckard256:

I think the bmorg is gonna have a hard time on this, and quite frankly I think it’s a bit hypocritical to piss on Quiznos over it. How many parodies of business has burning man hosted over the years? Wall Mart, Costco, Starbucks, jiffy lube, and Wall Street are just a few of the brands major theme camps have parodied. The org should lighten up a bit. If a samich shop can make everyone giggle like this, then maybe they’re saying something about the event that everyone else seems to be clued into. 

Larry Harvey: (not on Reddit) 

“Gift giving networks can produce massive amounts of social capital, and the rate of return on social capital is a lot better than the rate of return on normal capital investment in the market world”

ABurnGuy:

They took that social capital right to the bank!

And now with the hordes, sufficiently convinced by what they read in the brochure about ‘decommodification’, bring the pitchforks out whenever it isn’t Blessed By Larry. Of course they don’t seem to care about it if Larry Likes It.

A dumb internet video? We need the lawyers, they’re profiting off of our brand!

People running for-profit camps at Burning Man itself, directly profiting off of the brand and experience? Oh, just have some token effort to pretend you’re a “theme camp,” it’s okay, commodification is a spectrum!

(Spark BluRays on sale near the door. Make sure the last one to leave turns out the light.)


Now that BMOrg have come out and said “People at our office thought the video was clever and funny” and “we are not threatening to sue Quiznos”, I wonder if the Burnier-Than-Thous will change their tune also? Burning Man was never supposed to be serious.


 

[Update 9/17/15 7:34am PST]

The Voices of Burning Man have finally spoken. It seems they have a brilliant sense of humor, and really enjoyed this funny joke. It’s just, they have to stick up for the poor artists who got no compensation for someone else making money from their work.

As creative and funny as it was (we had a good laugh, we’ll admit), clever unfortunately doesn’t trump our commitment to protecting our community from commercial exploitation. We’ve been fielding anguished calls and emails from participants and horrified artists whose creations were used in the video without permission, a number of whom who have issued take-down requests of their own accord. We can laugh at ourselves. But we’re not laughing when a corporation exploits the artwork of others under the guise of poking fun at our event.

Brings to mind Green Tortoise, the exception that proves the rule of how they protect our community from any commercial exploitation.

Halcyon aka Pink Jesus has weighed in on QuiznoGate (I was calling it SandwichGate to avoid promoting the brand). Facebook users can follow his new “happy happy joy joy” page Pink Hearted at Burning Man and Beyond. Even BM’s biggest fan is outgrowing the NV Burn…