Phoenix Gazette 3/2/96

Neo-hippies trip on peace, love
Osceola National Forest, Fla - AP

Take a scene form the 1960's: the pungent smell of marijuana, youngsters with flowers in their hair, beads, feathers, tattoos, nudity, peace and love solving the world's problems.

Fast forward three decades, and you have the Rainbow Family, finishing up a month long encampment under a fresh canopy of pine and palmettos deep in Osceola National Forest.

Scorned and scoffed at by society and unable to save the world, many of the hippies from three decades ago wander the United States like lost souls, living out of beat-up trucks and rusting cars. This is the free lifestyle, said a 47-year-old man knows as Brother Ray.

WE live simply so that others may simply live. The Rainbow Family evolved from the back-to-nature movement of the 60s counterculture. The old and new hippies roam from gathering to gathering, often in national parks and forests. Breaking camp this week, they were looking forward to the next conclave, somewhere in Alabama in mid-March. Only a few dozen stayed behind to clean up. The Rainbow Family shuns violence. Although some smoke marijuana, the Rainbows say they frown on hard drugs. In others' eyes, they feel, their biggest crime is that they don't strive to have a four-bedroom house with a pool. They have frequent contact with the police. Florida police made 91 arrests at the encampment, 58 on charges of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, others on accusations of public nudity or drunken driving.

Some Rainbow members are originals who left the concrete and steel of the cities, which they refer to as Babylon, years ago. Many adopt new names: Tree Frog, Two Bears, Brother Ray, Gypsy, Peaceful. But many Rainbows are youngsters, pulled on one side by the lure of consumerism and the other by the suspicion of Big Brother society.

We are society's throwbacks, people who have not found peace in the culture, said Jessica, 24. This is a healing place, a place for worship, where everyone is accepted. It's not just a bunch of aging hippies trying to recapture the 60s, said Joseff Greenfeather, 47. We are here to promote peace and healing among ourselves and the planet. The federal government doesn't accept them.

The Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service to force the Rainbow Family out of the woods. Authorities said the Rainbows did not have the required permit for a gathering of more than 75 people. It's the people's forest, countered James T. Trimmer, 41. It doesn't belong to the government. Besides, the Rainbows say, they leave the forest sites in better shape than they find them, reseeding and even removing trash that they find on arrival.

But they were leaving Florida anyway.