Bowling for Protestors: Nevada Rangers Plow Down Demonstrators’ Roadblocks at Burning Man

JessicaGirvan /
JessicaGirvan /

Climate and anti-capitalist activists disrupted the opening day of Burning Man by blocking a road leading to the event. This led to extensive traffic congestion and confrontations with motorists and tribal rangers in the Nevada desert.  

The protest, organized by Seven Circles and Extinction Rebellion, a coalition of activist groups, aimed to draw attention to the perceived inability of capitalism to address climate and ecological challenges. 

Seven Circles claims the multi-purpose protest was also against the growing popularity of Burning Man among wealthy individuals who do not align with the event’s intended values, causing the event to “become commodified.” 

Images and videos shared on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) displayed a trailer blocking the route to Black Rock City, accompanied by several protesters, some of whom were chained to the trailer. Banners with slogans were also used to obstruct the road.  

Burning Man is an annual event held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, USA. It is recognized for its distinctive combination of art, self-expression, community, and temporary communal living. The event revolves around a temporary city called Black Rock City, constructed by participants. 

Burning Man emphasizes radical self-reliance, creativity, and active participation. Attendees, often known as “Burners,” create diverse art installations, theme camps, and interactive experiences. The event concludes with the burning of a large wooden effigy called “The Man,” which holds symbolic significance for participants. 

Seven Circles’ statement critiques Burning Man for its perceived lack of political engagement and inadequate efforts in achieving carbon negativity and ecological regeneration for Black Rock City by 2030. The group emphasizes the need for greater action, presenting three demands for Burning Man leadership. These include supporting systemic political and economic transformation, encouraging Burners to “work alongside social justice and environmental movements” through strikes and actions, and setting “a positive example of systemic change.” 

Images and videos shared on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) displayed a trailer blocking the route to Black Rock City, accompanied by several protesters, some of whom were chained to the trailer. Banners with slogans were also used to obstruct the road.  

Emily Collins and Collins and her partner, Tom Diacono, traveled from Italy to participate in the protest, opting to skip Burning Man this year after attending the festival for many years. 

“The planet is burning,” Diacono said. “It’s a bit absurd to continue with the festival while the planet is begging for a change.” 

Diacono said they parked the travel trailer across the two-lane highway, placing signs around their blockade that included a call for a ban on private jets. Diacono had expected to make some festival attendees angry by causing traffic jams. 

But law enforcement was having none of the protestors’ road-blocking activities. Rangers from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribal Police Department of Nevada drove through the blockade and started arresting the protestors. 

In a flurry of whining, the protestors found a new thing to protest about – being physically removed from the road by tribal police and frustrated drivers caught in the traffic jam. Some protestors chained themselves to a trailer, a move they quickly regretted when unimpressed drivers began to move the trailer with the protestors still attached to it. 

Rangers were called to the scene due to a reported threat that someone in the crowd might shoot the activists.  

A video captures a ranger’s truck breaking through a barricade with its sirens blaring in the desert while its driver announces, “I’m gonna take all of you out, you better move.” Following the announcement, an official was seen emerging from the truck with a drawn gun, instructing demonstrators to get down.  

The protests brought clogged traffic and confrontations between the group and drivers who were trying to get to work, but it wasn’t just what they were doing that caused an issue. It was where they were doing it.  

The protestors were told several times by rangers and bystanders alike that they were trespassing on tribal land. In addition, they were blocking a state route. Several of the protestors were cited, although the exact charges are currently unclear. 

Officials from Pyramid Lake have not provided immediate comments. Jonathan Brunjes from Nevada State Parks confirms that the responding officers were not Nevada state park rangers or state employees. 

Several protestors have been cited, and the actions of the unnamed ranger who drove through the barricade are under review. Per Seven Circles, “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.” 

But for millions of cheering fans across the U.S. and the U.K. alike, this ranger’s epic response is heroic. But kids, don’t try this at home.