NIXON — A tribal ranger’s conduct is under review after he pointed a weapon Sunday at environmental activists and plowed his patrol vehicle through their blockade on the road leading to the annual Burning Man counter-culture festival north of Reno.
The incident unfolded on a stretch of highway on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe reservation. The protest calling attention to climate change stopped traffic as attendees were headed to the festival venue in the Black Rock Desert north of the reservation for opening day of Burning Man. More than 70,000 people are expected to attend the festival, which ends Monday.
James J. Phoenix, the tribe’s chairman, confirmed in a news release that the ranger’s actions were being reviewed. But Phoenix declined to answer questions from The Associated Press, including which agency is conducting the review and whether the weapon pointed at the activists was a handgun or a Taser.
“Bottom line up front, we are on it,” Phoenix said.
Videos on social media showed the ranger slamming into the blockade, then driving back toward the group of activists while announcing on a bullhorn, “I’m going to take you all out!”
The ranger, whose name has not been released, then exited his vehicle, drew the weapon and yelled for the protesters to get down on the ground, according to videos taken from multiple angles. The ranger approached one of the activists as she lowered herself to the ground and grabbed her arm, pulling her down and kneeling on her back.
Other activists can be heard in the videos announcing they were unarmed and “nonviolent.”
“We have no weapons,” one of them yells.
Seven Circles, the coalition that organized the demonstration, called the ranger’s actions excessive in a statement released Tuesday.
“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.