California peace gathering marred by violence and Indian complaints

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More than 16,000 people from eight nations gathered in a forest in California yesterday to hold hands in a circle and silently pray for world peace from dawn until noon.

More than 16,000 people from eight nations gathered in a forest in California yesterday to hold hands in a circle and silently pray for world peace from dawn until noon.

It was the high point of the annual Rainbow Family Gathering in the Modoc National Forest, held by a group that insists it has no organisers, leaders or members.

But this year's peace love-in has been blighted by violence. One participant has been jailed for allegedly beating another nearly to death with a shovel for driving too fast through the camp ground.

Marijuana is everywhere but alcohol is discouraged. However, by Saturday afternoon, there had been 11 arrests, most for "interfering with a police officer".

In the 30 years the event has been running, law enforcement officials have had an uneasy relationship with the hippies. But most tangles with the law are down to recreational drugs, occasional nudity and unleashed dogs. The Rainbows' choice of a site also drew protests from a local Indian community council, which said that digging latrines could harm ancestral artefacts. That was particularly galling for the group, which considers itself a tribe and draws on Native American traditions.

But most were determined that their party would not be spoilt. "It's about love, it's about community, it's about family," said a man known as Lucky Sunshine Day. "We're here to restore the Earth to its natural state."

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