Burning Man organizers sue over rules


RENO - Organizers of the Burning Man arts festival have filed a federal lawsuit against local officials for imposing an ordinance that could require participants to wear clothing and otherwise tone things down a bit at the event dedicated to radical self-expression.

There is always plenty of nudity at Burning Man, held annually in the Northern Nevada desert. Starting in 2013, the local festival ordinance will enable sheriff's deputies to regulate activities they consider to be "obscene, indecent, vulgar, or lewd."

The ordinance also could prohibit children from attending.

Burning Man organizer Black Rock City LLC filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Nevada on Thursday. The lawsuit alleges that the festival ordinance, which never before has been applied to Burning Man, would bring significant new costs and restrictions to the event.

The rules will change the nature of Burning Man, and it's not within the authority of Pershing County to do that, said Marian Goodell, a Black Rock City board member.

"I'm confident we can get through this and people will see us out in the Black Rock Desert in 2013. Northern Nevada is a perfect home for Burning Man," Goodell told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

The lawsuit names the Pershing County Commission, District Attorney James Shirley and Sheriff Richard Machado as defendants. Pershing County officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Burning Man takes place over Labor Day weekend. This year's event is expected to draw some 60,000 people who will camp out and create a temporary city in the desert. The festival features elaborate art installations, music, a gift-based economy free of advertising and plenty of free-spirited people. Last year's Burning Man drew a record 53,000.

Such crowds make it one of Northern Nevada's main annual attractions. Burning Man draws an estimated $15 million in economic activity to the region.

The festival has taken place in the Black Rock Desert since 1991 and has operated under a federal permit issued by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Attorneys for Burning Man said the local ordinance conflicts with the BLM permit.

 

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