It is supposed to be a utopian vision of peace and love but this year’s Burning Man Festival has been marred by “hooligans” carrying out a “revolution against rich parasites”.
The festival plays out each year in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert where 70,000 people build a city in a week, burn a giant wooden effigy of a man, and then restore the arid playa to its original state.
In recent years it has become popular with Silicon Valley millionaires, and billionaires. Luxurious so-called “plug-n-play” camps have sprung up which use hired staff like cooks, builders and security, and allow international jetsetters to drop in for quick visits.
— Harper's Bazaar (@harpersbazaarus) September 2, 2016
Many traditional “Burners” claim that is a betrayal of the spirit of “radical self-reliance” that is a cornerstone of the festival, which began in 1986.
As anger boiled over one camp called White Ocean, which hosts high profile DJs on a state-of-the-art stage, became the focus of anger.
The camp first made an appearance at Burning Man three years ago and its founders included the British DJ Paul Oakenfold and the son of a Russian billionaire.
— SF Examiner (@sfexaminer) August 26, 2016
While the camp was holding a party at which revelers listened to techno music it was attacked by vandals who flooded it with water and cut power lines.
In a dismayed post on Facebook camp leaders said: “A very unfortunate and saddening event happened last night at White Ocean, something we thought would never be possible in our Burning Man utopia.
“A band of hooligans raided our camp, stole from us, pulled and sliced all of our electrical lines leaving us with no refrigeration and wasting our food, and glued our trailer doors shut.
“They vandalised most of our camping infrastructure and dumped 200 gallons of potable water flooding our camp.”
— JARED LETO (@JaredLeto) September 1, 2016
The camp leaders said they felt like there had been an effort to “sabotage us from every angle” because “some feel we are not deserving of Burning Man“.
They said: “We actually had someone from the Burning Man organisation tell us ‘It makes sense that you have been sabotaged as you are a closed camp and not welcoming’.”
But leaders of the White Ocean camp said their reputation was unfair because they feed hundreds of other campers every day and have embraced other Burners with “open hearts and immense love”
They said: “We will absolutely not let this pathetic violation stop what we came here to do. We came here to unite people through music and love.
— son of an asylum seeker, father of an immigrant (@doctorow) August 26, 2016
“We can make these foolish acts of hate as minuscule as a particle of dust on our beloved playa.” Deputies from the local Pershing County Sheriff’s Office went to the camp to assess the damage and are investigating.
Many festival-goers were outraged that the peaceful nature of the event had been undermined.
Elena Serdiouk, a Burner from San Francisco, told the Reno Gazette-Journal: “This is evil. This should not happen at Burning Man. This is supposed to be about love, happiness, sharing, giving and appreciating.
“It is unbelievable that there are angry people here.”
But others supported the attack, saying it was time to “take back” the festival.
Tony Wichowski, a Burner, said: “And so the revolution has begun. Taking Burning Man back from the parasite class, back from the electronic dance music tourists. Taking Burning Man back for the people. This wasn’t much but it’s a great start.”
Danielle Palmer, another Burner, accused the camp of having “paid staff and bouncers”. She said: “You’re a closed camp and not very welcoming. I got yelled at for coming to close to your ‘gates’.
“We know you hire people in to cook and do other things. Feeding friends of your paid campers does not count as feeding Burners.”