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How to talk to cops at Burning Man: Mark Atwood
Do not consent to a search.
Never, ever ever consent to a search. Say the phrase "I do not consent to a search." Even if you have nothing for them to find, ALWAYS say "I do not consent to a search." Never consent to them searching your person, searching your car, or searching your tent. You especially never consent to the search of anyone else's tent. They are trained to make you flustered and to take command of the situation. Or they can be "polite": "Mind if we take a look around?" Yes, you mind. "I/we do not consent to a search."

They can ask the other people in your group, in your art car, in your car driving in, not just the driver or leader. "Mind if we look?" You should all sing the same song: "I do not consent to a search."

Leading them to your camp. Don't.

They may try to get you to lead them to your camp. They can be very commanding and matter of fact about it, they may say "We're going to your camp." They will make it sound as if you have no choice. You do have a choice, and you are going to chose not to lead them to your camp. Never lead them to your camp.

Seal your tent.

Always zip your tent closed when you are not in it. If possible, use screens or sheets to block window screens, so there is no line of sight into your tent. You may want to use a luggage lock, and lock your tent when you are not in it. If your tent is zipped shut and locked, they need a warrant to open it, or they need your consent. They probably won't have a warrant, and you are not going to give them your consent, remember?

Name and ID.

If they ever stop you, you do have to tell them your name. If you have your ID on you, you have to show it to them if they ask. If you don't have it on you, you don't have to go get it for them, and you never ever should.

If you are a non resident alien visiting on a visa waiver program, you do not have to carry your passport on you.


They can keep asking you questions. They can ask you were your camp is, and who you are camping with. They may try the "we're just talking", or "what do you think of XYZ", or "can you help us out?" You do not have to answer those questions, and probably shouldn't. Never ever answer questions about being altered, people you have seen altered, and what being altered may be like. And again, never tell them where your camp is.

"Am I free to go?"

The next magic phrase is: "Am I free to go?" Keep saying it. As soon as they say "yes", leave immediately and without another word.

If they write you a ticket, you take it, put it in your pocket, and then you say "Am I free to leave?"

If they say "no", you say "Am I being arrested?". If they say no, you say "Am I free to leave?" Iterate as necessary.

If they say "yes", you immediately say "I do not consent to a search. I invoke my right to remain silent. I want to speak to my attorney." And then you shut the fuck up.

Watching the watchmen.

While the cop is dealing with you, you need to be memorizing his uniform color, his name and his badge number. As soon as you get away, immediately fill out a Law Enforcement Feedback Form.

If you see a cop detaining anyone, arresting anyone, or searching anyone or anything, get out your camera and start filming. If they tell you to turn it off, don't. They cannot lawfully command you to stop photos, they may not ever order you to delete photos, and the may not ever delete a photo or video. Ever. If you ever see a cop try to order you or a fellow burner to delete a photo, make sure that goes on the Law Enforcement Feedback Form that everyone should turn in.

While recording, never get in their way, and stay back 35 feet / 10 meters. That's tazer range.

What if I need "police services"?

What if you are lost? Or a camp mate is lost? Or your kid is lost? Or you have found a lost kid? Or you have found a lost burner who is high out of his mind? What if you are assaulted? What if something has been stolen? What if there is a medical emergency?

Go to a RANGER, not a cop. The rangers will deal with it, and if the police are actually needed, the rangers will deal with them.

Know what the ranger uniform is, and how it's different from the cops' uniforms.

Good luck out there!
For updates and info, contact scott at planttrees dot org.