- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - A counterculture group that annually gathers with thousands of its members in a national forest could be headed to the Black Hills this summer, federal officials said Friday in Rapid City.

The annual Rainbow Gathering attracts thousands of peace-loving free spirits each July, and there’s a 95 percent chance the Black Hills will be home to the non-violent celebration this year, Black Hills National Forest spokesman Scott Jacobsen told KEVN-TV in Rapid City.

A Washington-based National Incident Management Team from the U.S. Forest Service in was in Rapid City on Friday to meet with about 100 officials from various federal, state and local agencies.

“Today’s meeting is about informing people it may happen here, so they aren’t surprised,” Jacobson told the Rapid City Journal.

Last year about 8,000 members flocked to eastern Utah and in 2013 the gathering drew 10,000 to Montana, where officials afterward put together a list of advice for other forest service workers policing the gathering in future years.

Authorities say they’re typically peaceful, but there can be trouble occasionally. In Utah, police said there 587 total incidents, including 31 arrests and 136 citations for violations. Two people died in their sleep during the event.

“If they do come, our biggest concerns would be public safety, resource protection and fire prevention,” Jacobson said. “Just like the Sturgis rally with a million people coming, there are always a few bad apples that come with it.”

The group was originally formed in the wake of the Vietnam War. Its creed revolves around nonviolence, and it has convened every year since 1972.

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