Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.
One hot Thursday afternoon in Black Rock City, Root and I stopped at Center Camp to catch some shade. We lucked out; the first Jamaican reggae band to ever play Burning Man was on stage, and people were getting down. I danced by the stage while she hung out in the front row. There’s nothing better than the ecstasy on dusty faces when a live band breaks through the week-long fog of indistinguishable DJ sets.
The band finished playing, and we all rejoiced. Wiped out, I sat down next to Root to watch the next act, a couple of lawyers dressed like ancient Egyptians who were there to tell us how to deal with law enforcement on the playa. That sounded useful.
After all, it had been a big year for run-ins with law enforcement on the playa. We had read plenty of stories about severe and surprising busts in the run-up to Burning Man, and we heard more tales of woe from friends after we arrived. The Bureau of Land Management had insisted on tighter control at the gate. It seemed like a good year to brush up on our rights.
For a while, this talk felt righteous. We were becoming better citizens. But the conversation gradually turned toward philosophical pronouncements, indignant rants, and wild warnings about undercover narcs. “This is a little too us-versus-them for my taste,” Root said to me. “Plus, I’m getting kind of paranoid about there being cops everywhere. Aren’t you?”
I sure was. So we hopped up off our floor cushion, hoisted our packs, and stepped out of Center Camp into the afternoon heat, only to be greeted by an enormous convoy of federal agents in SUVs with their lights flashing, rolling right through the middle of Black Rock City.
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August 25th, 2013 | Filed under News
Gate road, 2008
We don’t want to see participants get cited or arrested by law enforcement as they enter Black Rock City, nor do you want it to happen to you, right? Right.
OK, so be smart, be prepared to be pulled over for any infraction that draws attention, and tighten up your ship before you get here. Yes, really. Here’s how:
- Make sure that all your taillights, license plate lights, turn signals and headlights are working.
- Ensure your license plates are not obscured by bikes, gear, or dirt.
- Wear your seatbelt and go the speed limit (10MPH on Gate Road and 5MPH in Black Rock City).
- Don’t drink and drive, don’t have an open container in your vehicle, and — as fun as it may be — do not ride on top of your vehicle while entering the city.
- Carry a current valid drivers license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
- Always be polite and respectful to law enforcement officers.
- Know your civil rights: law enforcement must have clear probable cause to search your vehicle. Watch this video to learn more:
Finally, please report ANY interaction with law enforcement — good or bad — by filling out a Law Enforcement Feedback Form at Ranger HQ so that we can use this (anonymous) information for our daily meetings with law enforcement heads.
Be smart, stay safe!
[Editor's Note: John Curley is one of our best and most respected bloggers, however his original story didn't include important details that give a more complete perspective of law enforcement onsite. The Burning Blog editorial staff will always reserve the right to expand a story to provide a deeper understanding. We have made these edits with John's permission.]
Law enforcement arrived in a very visible way
The Man is not the only Man who arrived on the playa yesterday.
The other arrival we’re talking about is that other Man, the police, aka law enforcement officials, who have joined us in town and made their presence clear.
At least two people onsite for setup were cited for peeing on the playa (which carries a $275 fine, plus the threat that the offense could, at the officer’s discretion, be elevated into an indecent exposure rap, which would make you a sex offender and really make a mess of your record). Burning Man supports the event being all ages, and it’s important we keep that in mind even pre-event when it might look like there’s no one there to see you pee. Read more »
You Wish These Were the Handcuffs They Use
While Burning Man is certainly a remote and freewheeling place, it’s also a functioning metropolis. And just like any other city, numerous law enforcement agencies patrol Black Rock City day and night.
Yes, not to toss cold water on anyone’s excitement, but this topic is important: all Federal, State and Local laws still exist at Burning Man, and any illegal action witnessed by law enforcement can lead to a citation or your arrest. Law enforcement officers have a difficult yet important job, both on and off the playa. Please respect the valuable work that they do. It is the duty of all law enforcement personnel to enforce the law, and they are there to help protect our citizenry.
In order to give you the best understanding of how law enforcement works at Burning Man, how to interact with a law enforcement officer, and how to protect your Constituional rights, professionals in the extended Burning Man community have generously provided the following information. Read more »
Not the Burning Man Gate
Since Burning Man tickets have sold out for the first time in our 25-year history (ticket sales were stopped in order to manage our population count over the course of the event, as stipulated by our BLM permit), it’s more important than ever that our community knows and understands Burning Man’s longstanding Gate policy. Here’s what you need to know:
- There are no tickets for sale at the Gate. You will be turned away and not allowed entry if you show up without a ticket.
- If you are giving someone a ride to Burning Man, including ride shares and hitchhikers, please be sure they have a ticket or you may end up driving back to Reno to drop them off. Leaving them at the Gate or in Gerlach is not an option. Washoe County Sheriff will be watching out for people loitering in or around Gerlach.
- Harboring stowaways or assisting people sneaking in is as bad as sneaking in yourself. Any vehicle with stowaways or assisting people sneaking in will have the whole vehicle refused entry with no refund of tickets.
- Anyone caught trying to sneak in to the event or causing a disruption at the Gate or Box Office is subject to citation, fine, and arrest by the BLM.
Finally, we expect long lines coming into the event and going out during Exodus, so arriving or leaving at non-peak times — and exercising patience — is advised.
If you have further questions about the Gate and Exodus, see our Gate FAQ.