A tribal ranger is under investigation after he reportedly pointed a weapon at climate activists and then rammed his patrol truck through their blockade on the road leading to the annual Burning Man festival.
Videos posted to social media show the ranger approaching the activists who had chained themselves to a travel trailer in the middle of the road as he yelled on a bullhorn: “I’m going to take you all out!”
The Pyramid Lake Paiute tribal ranger, whose name has not been released, could be seen on the videos as he exited his vehicle, drew the weapon and yelled for the protesters to get down on the ground.
Protesters can be heard in the videos repeatedly stating they were unarmed and “nonviolent.”
The tribe’s chairman, James J. Phoenix, later released a statement and said the ranger was using his patrol vehicle to clear “debris” out of the roadway after climate activists refused to leave.
The incident unfolded on a rural stretch of highway on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe reservation in northwestern Nevada.
The protest calling attention to climate change stopped traffic as attendees were headed to the Black Rock Desert north of the reservation for opening day of Burning Man.
Seven Circles, the coalition that organized the demonstration, called the ranger’s actions excessive in a statement released Tuesday.
Nevada rangers drove directly into a blockade set up by climate protestors on the road to Burning Man. An officer pulled a gun out, tackling a protestor and threatening to shoot
Environmental activists were demanding that #BurningMan ban private jets + single-use plastics pic.twitter.com/dawDjxhV4y
— michelle lh࿊࿊q (@MichelleLhooq) August 28, 2023
“The excessive response is a snapshot of the institutional violence and police brutality that is being shown to anyone who is actively working to bring about systemic change within the United States, including the climate movement,” the statement said.
According to the tribe’s chairman, rangers cited five of the demonstrators, who had traveled to Nevada from New York, Washington, California and the European country of Malta. The chairman did not say what they were cited for.
Emily Collins, one of the activists who had chained herself to the blockade, and her partner, Tom Diacono, traveled from Italy to participate in the protest, opting to skip Burning Man this year after attending the festival for many years.
“We have no weapons,” Ms Collins yelled on the video as the ranger approached them.
Mr Diacono said they parked the travel trailer across the two-lane highway, placing signs around their blockade that included a call for a ban on private jets.
“The planet is burning,” Mr Diacono told The Associated Press. “It’s a bit absurd to continue with the festival while the planet is begging for a change.”
He had expected to make some festival attendees angry by causing traffic jams, but the demonstration’s outcome took him by complete surprise, he said.
“If you asked me to imagine 100 scenarios,” Diacono said, “police ramming us with their truck was not one of them.”
Burning Man is a six-day festival in the Black Rock Desert that ends in the torching of a 40-foot effigy. Some critics say the festival has negative effects on the land and climate.
The Bureau of Land Management capped the festival’s attendance in 2019 at 80,000 because of concerns about excess trash being left behind and safety issues, according to NPR. The festival also contributed 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide that same year, The Guardian reported.