Burning Man installation

photo: GemGemRemy

The 2019 Burning Man festival is nearly two months away — and it’s already making news.

This time, the focus is on renewed efforts by the U.S. government to clamp down on the open, largely unregulated gathering.

Just this week, organizers of the event insisted that they will resist all efforts from government officials to search attendees for drugs and weapons.  Though, at the same time, they have said that they will not resist attempts by the government to cap attendance at 80,000 people for the next ten years.

Burning Man will take place from August 25th to September 2nd in Black Rock City, Nevada, and upwards of 70,000 people are expected to attend.

On June 14th, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management issued an environmental impact statement relating to the event, which included not only the attendance cap but also a proposal that event organizers hire a private security company to screen all those who attend the festival.

The screening effort would include:

  • Attendees and their vehicles
  • Vendors and contractors
  • Staff and volunteers

In response to the government’s proposal, the organizers of Burning Man issued a statement declaring that such screenings would subject attendees to “searches without probable cause.”

Organizers went on to say that they are prepared to fight this proposal with full force, as they see it as a fundamental change to how they have been operating the festival for the past 30 years.

Over the past few days, organizers of the festival have made a point of assuring fans that there will be no screenings at the upcoming festival.  They also indicated that security arrangements at this year’s festival will be no different than they have been in the past.

While the Bureau of Land Management has not officially responded to festival organizers, they have insisted that screenings are not the same as searches.  They used airports as an analogy, in which everyone gets screened but only a few select people are searched.

That sets the stage for a continued tug-of-war, though attendees probably won’t be steered into metal detectors in August.