Not Okay: Vandalism in Black Rock City (Pt. 1: The Iron Monkeys)

Editor’s note: In the wake of the 2016 event, we need to call attention to some unfortunate incidents of vandalism. The goal is to bring to light the fact that this stuff happens in Black Rock City, to open a discussion about why it happens, and — hopefully — to end it.

There will be at least one more post in this series.

This post has been contributed by members of the Burning Man community who volunteered to share their views on this topic. The opinions expressed here are not those of the Burning Man Project. We provide a platform for the Burning Man community to engage in dialogue. If you would like to propose a post of your own, you can submit a story here: Submit a Story form.


By Karla Shults of the Iron Monkeys

I am part of the Iron Monkeys, a Seattle-based metalworking collective which has brought art to the playa for 10 years. This year, we built a blacksmith shop, Piazza di Ferro, and spent the week teaching blacksmithing to the citizens of Black Rock City.

Most nights, we are at our projects in the evenings from just after sunset until one or two o’clock. However, Burn night we have other work obligations and do not usually make it to run the fire elements of our pieces until at least 1:00 am. This year was like that. After returning to camp and eating a quick dinner, I rode out to Piazza Di Ferro ahead of a couple other Monkeys who would be joining me after they finished eating to begin the initial start-up procedures (MOOP sweep, check propane valves, start pulling out safety gear and so on). I arrived shortly after 2:00 am to find our art project trashed, for lack of more appropriate professional terms.

Some unknown persons decided to use our space to release some destructive energy. The doors to the shop had been pulled open; anvils were pulled from their stands, stands for anvils and forming blocks were knocked over and urinated on, one of the wooden panels forming the walls of the shop space was nearly pulled off its hinges (only one screw was left on each hinge holding it, and the hinges were bent beyond use). Some of the inner walls, outer walls, every corner in the shop and our propane control panel were all urinated on.

Not only was the internal shop space vandalized,  but aspects from the perimeter were abused as well: a bench was un-staked and laying feet away from its original placement, multiple hanging lanterns were knocked over, one fire torch was uprooted from the ground and laying on its side while another was leaning over half removed. I will point out that both the fire elements and the benches are Playa Stapled into the ground and are not particularly easy to un-stake without a pry bar. It appeared the persons who vandalized our space had to rock the items back and forth to remove the Staples in order to move them. To me this displayed a fair amount of intent and effort into the destruction of our space.

When I arrived at the project to the open doors, I thought to myself, “Oh no. Please let everything be okay.” I walked through the doors and became extremely upset upon seeing the tools on the ground. I turned our shop lights on to evaluate the situation, see what might be damaged, and to decide if we could light up for the night. I stood cursing for a few moments. Every direction I looked in and out of the shop, something was displaced, broken or urinated on. I was sad, angry and hurt. I picked up the anvil, placed it on the table in the center of the shop, cried and contemplated my options.

I thought about going back to camp to inform the rest of the Monkeys what had happened. I thought about not lighting up for the night. I thought about sitting down and waiting for others to show up to help decide what we should do. I thought about going back and getting someone with a camera. I thought about just cleaning everything up, lighting the project and not letting the vandalism ruin the night. That final thought was what I decided to do.

Many factors contributed to my decision. For one, I didn’t want to “give in” to the sadness and anger I felt. I didn’t want to let a small number of destructive people stop what we were there to do, to stop us from sharing our art and the space we built. Maybe I should have waited, maybe I should have found someone with a camera to document the vandalism. I still feel, in the spirit of things, I made the right choice.

A couple times while I was cleaning up the space, participants visited who offered kind words and hugs. (Thank you!) My fellow Monkeys shortly followed. After filling them in on the state of things, they very upset as well. Together we finished cleaning, setting up and began to light for the night. It ended up being fun night despite the bitter beginning.

I have never directly experienced vandalism or destruction of art on playa to the degree I did this year. I have heard stories of such behavior and witnessed art being damaged due to carelessness or inebriation, but never this. The Iron Monkeys pour blood, sweat, tears and love into what we create to offer unique experiences and interactions with the participants of Black Rock City. To have this level of disregard, disrespect and maliciousness offered in return, admittedly by a small few, breaks my heart.

It still upsets me. I have difficulty talking about this experience without tearing up. However, it’s important to talk about. Let’s start a conversation. Let’s stop this kind of behavior. I am grateful for the many that show us love, support, respect, kindness, excitement and friendship. Thank you, thank you, and thank you!


(Top photo by Kay Morrison)

147 Comments on “Not Okay: Vandalism in Black Rock City (Pt. 1: The Iron Monkeys)

  • Heath Williamson says:

    Wow, how did that happen at Burning Man. Some imposters must have snuck in. We should be able to leave camps, artworks, lighting etc and know that all of it going to be there when we get back, not stolen or trashed. I was saddened to read this story, every one puts so much love and effort in there creations on the Playa. Would be interesting to see what the Dickheads that did this damage what they contributed to the Burn, I am sure nothing. Ha but there is Playa Karma, I am sure the universe and the Playa magic will find away that there grubs never come back to this treasured place. Sending some love from Australia, we loved your work. See you all next year!

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    • Whiskey says:

      This is how the outside world is encroaching on the Burning Man culture. A mix of young people who came for the “Hotties” at Burning Man and not the life changing experience.

      http://chromeandfox.com/lists/the-hotties-at-burning-man-will-make-you-want-to-live-in-the-desert

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    • Kauncrete says:

      As a burner from ’86 /87′ , I can say that “bigger is better” was absolutely not the vibe then nor was the promotion of Globalism. The vibe was self empowerment through localism: Taking back our lives from mega corporations and media. Remember when no cameras were allowed to prevent it from becoming a spectacle? Burning Man has become a spectacle and a corporation and “bigger is better” should be added to the principles. Don’t expect self policing to work in this kind of system.

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      • Tom says:

        So you’re saying Burning Man was ruined?

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      • Deborah Eppstein says:

        Sadly, I’m afraid there is truth in what you said- I really want burning man to go back to being less commercial, less main stream but I don’t see how that can happen. Everything is an evolution and as one event like burning man gets bigger, more glamorous, more expensive, then newer events will (are) crop up.

        That doesn’t mean that burning man is no good anymore, but not the safe place ti once was.

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      • Foxy says:

        Some of my “Original Burner” friends, OBz, said that ’96 was really the last cool year. Take it for what you will. Certainly back in the day you could actually blow shit up or shot live ammunition.

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    • Griffin says:

      We dealt with a similar issue this year on burn night. Like most burners we are aware during the burn things in the city can be a bit ‘unruly’ so we had people at camp during this time. Around 3am we all decided to walk around until sunrise and this was our mistake.

      We returned to find someone had broken down several of the mailboxes we had in camp, thrown tp over everything and stolen several bikes. Granted non of this is a big deal to make right. The Tp was the biggest disappointment since it was windy that night and the paper was only turning into moop by flying away. I’m not sure what the intention was to trash the art we made and steal bikes. All I can think is there was a suv full of frat guys drinking red bull while heading back to LA or New Jersey talking about how ‘sick’ their prank was.

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      • Michael says:

        I guess the only asses come from LA or New Jersey? Did you really have to go there? I’m from NJ and that’s NOT how Jersey guys act.

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      • jersey girl says:

        Maybe your negative attitude towards people From NJ and LA is what gotcha!

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      • Boots Paramour says:

        And obviously they were “frat guys” because that’s who does this kind of thing. Ask anyone!

        My first year at Burn was 09. On the way home, probably 8 of us stopped outside of Reno at a small family owned Mexican restraunt.

        I ended up talking to the owner, who was telling me how shortly before we got there, a party of Burners had ditched on a $200 tab. She was understandably upset. To her, we were all Burners. I tried to explain how those people didn’t represent all of us and how great Burners are as a whole. But I fear to her, we will always be the “Burners who stole from her,” just as you see “frat guys” as the source of all evil.

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    • Gretchen says:

      Because burning man is getting larger and larger, it’s bringing in crime. Growth equals crime, in all cities. Burning man is becoming something I don’t stand for. I’m sure there was a lot of vandalism the night of the burn. These pieces of crap know you’re not in camp and seize the opportunity. Burning man needs to start going the opposite direction. Selling 5,000 to 10,000 less tickets every year. Burning man is also starting to cater to the rich and turn key camps, which is not being part of the community. These people don’t volunteer, and the have private parties! THIS IS NOT THE BURNINGMAN WAY. It’s all about money.

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      • erny says:

        amen huny amen!! have been coming for 10yrs and it is totally changing and becoming worse!! i am done…don’t want to be a in a community where there is constant vandalism and thievery,as in the past 2yrs.
        take care,namaste
        erny aka horney ;)

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      • Deborah Eppstein says:

        yes, I agree! smaller is better, no more plug and play- but there is still the lottery problem, don’t know how to solve that one

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      • Foxy says:

        Any decent gathering or festival assumes you are safe in your possessions in your camp and your artifacts. That’s not the kind of place where I want to camp when I have to worry that my camera or my friend’s screen might get ripped off. I can deal with a missing beer or two, however.

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      • Magnum says:

        Caters to the rich, huh? The rich don’t participate, huh? Where do you get this info from? Define rich. I’m pretty well off…CEO of a global company, with a 7 digit income. And yea, I’m the guy in the big luxury rv everyone bitches about. But you would never know that by looking at me, as I’m usually covered in a ton of dust and grease, wrenching on someone else’s art car so they can enjoy the playa.

        I work 170 hours over 3 weeks while on playa. I work on my vacation so you dont have to. I also drive the tow truck, and I have a lock out kit, so that if someone locks themselves out of their car, and their meds are in there, I’m the guy that will get them out.

        So please refrain from making baseless, generalized comments on someones financial status.

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      • Captain Jerry says:

        I agree with Magnum… rich is NOT the issue but some jealously might be. I also travel in a nice RV, with a gen, fridge, a/c, and “ice.” I often cook extra for my hungry camp mates, share ice, drinks, water, fuel, and contribute lots. I am the one that has “ice cream” on one of the last days on playa. I might also have snacks to feed the hungry. The very workers that are often too busy to eat but still need to eat something. I am there to give food, water, ice, friendship, and support. THAT is what “real” people do, not just burners. No complaint here against the rich. :) BTW – there are thieves “everywhere” act accordingly.

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      • St. James says:

        This was only my second year and I already felt a dramatic increase in what I can only describe as carefully outfitted, unsmiling, unwelcoming cretins who were remarkably dust-free. Not returning next year, hoping a regional burn will be a more communal, less hipster experience.

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      • Sharren Marie says:

        We have wanted to come to Burning man for well over 12 years, but coming from abroad and having a family has brought boundaries. This year we made it with our 12 year old son, who gave it 15 out of 10 he loved it we loved it. We now consider ourselves part of your culture.

        Burning man is about the people who care about all the principles, and the dust gets in their blood, like us. We met some truly amazing people and the Iron Monkeys inspired us all. I am now back at night school to learn sculptural metal work and welding, and my husband is on a waiting list, and our son has opted to do metalwork at school, so next year, ticket pending we can help.

        We probably fit into the rich RV type that is not liked much, but we donated beer and food to all our tenting neighbours, along with other gifts out on the playa. It was our first burn and we think we did well, but next time we will do better. It upsets me that people rant on that it is rich people, kids, first timers and people from overseas that ruin the burn. We followed the principles, we let it get into our veins, and our son will continue going to the burn long after we have gone….(hopefully). But we did not steal, we did not vandalise, we gave it our all, it has become our happy place.

        After the burn we donated to Kiwanis bike program, and other things to charity shops.

        On the night of the burn we noticed a change in atmosphere, and my husband decided to lock our bikes for the first time, we also decided to leave the city that night before the man had finished burning. On our way back, we noticed every street sign along 8 o’clock had been uprooted and taken, so obviously sometime between going to watch the burn and before he burnt, vandals had already started to show there form. Surely someone must have seen something, 70000 people. If I had, I would of snapped a picture and posted it online.

        Anyway, thank you Iron Monkeys for all your inspiration and hard work, we hope you do not give up or get totally disheartened by the thugs that did this to you. We love you all

        Shar

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    • Bruce says:

      I am saddened to hear the Iron Monkeys project was vandalized.

      My camp mates and I participated in your ironworks lessons… we are very pleased with our iron pieces that we sculpted !!!

      The Iron Monkeys are an awesome group , we hope that they will continue their great project for a long tome to come.

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    • Rusty says:

      There are Burners.
      Then there are imposters.
      I am so sorry this happened to you.
      Feeling at l So for words.
      I hope you come back home.

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    • Silvergirl says:

      Just my thoughts…of course, totally saddened by your experience and as other posters have said, (I paraphrase) karma is a bitch. That being said..I wonder if the wanton destruction of your property was done from someone your group knows or who had felt ‘wronged’? I am in no way justifying their acts, but urinating on property in multiple places smacks to me of willful retribution rather than a random act of vandalism. I hope you find closure on this one way or another!

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    • Amalin PicaFlor says:

      “Imposters” ????? What do you mean by that – do you really believe that burners are just like everybody else? Capable of creation & destruction? Theft has been happening for as long as I have been coming to BRC – fights – this year I hear from 5 different people that they were kicked out of their camps after build week because: “lack of space” “this girl needs closet space” “we really do not like your boyfriend” “we are an adult camp and you did not tell us you were bringing your baby….” Being off is also part of burner culture….

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    • Quiche says:

      Hello Burners,
      My idea is to gift bike stickers. Burners can write their camp locations and playa names on the bikes. The stickers can all be marked as if they have a GPS tracker on them. It’s like the house with the security sticker in the window. A thief couldn’t tell which sticker was real and which wasn’t. The same thing could be done at camps with a good sign and a fake camera. Creatively written signs and stickers can be fun. ie: “Steal not this bike for fear of shame. Stealing on Federal ground will get you a lifelong criminal name. ” or” Trashing this camp is a risk you should not take, our eyes may be upon you and the BLM is ready to burn you at the stake”

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    • julie serre says:

      made me so sad particulary thought the concept i could come ex^periment myself at welding , thought this idea is fresh & dynamic , what a pitty to the ones could trash what so ever , trashing as well the food place & workshop opportunity , keep going & happy , wishing you the best :-)

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  • David Varon says:

    The Iron Monkeys are the hardest working, most creative, generous & inclusive burners around. They have helped to raise the bar for metal arts and have made signification artistic contributions to burningman for many years. How sad they were the victims of this stupid and pointless act of ignorance.

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  • Murphy says:

    This seems to be happening more and more as the burn get more public and main stream. We get the people not for the culture but for the “I went to burning man” bucket list. I normally arrive early and these day don’t even want to stay for the man to burn as I notice as the weekend approach comes, the more vandalism, theft and salty people start to show face.

    I was a victim years ago a group of pepole came into our camp and we’re stealing our bikes. We got lucky and had enough people make them leave along with a BLM officer present. When asked why, the response was “we do this every year” so we can sell your shit back to you!

    I’ve talked with others and feel as tho this is just the tip of the ice burg. It seems those dedicated to the burn show up on time and early. There should be a cut off day to come in… not in by Wednesday well that sucks. Keep the weekend people that come to just party and rage and steal out even meaning those that come to be apart of it. Some just ruin it for the others.

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    • Rodeo says:

      I agree in so many ways, the weekenders are my least favorite, but, to play devil’s advocate do we not need to welcome them in staying with several of the 10 principles? (more a rhetorical question than a real one)

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      • This makes me upset, I got to go in 2013 and 14 and was not fast enough to get tickets the last two yrs , but this event has become near and deer to me for personal reasons . All I can say is to be aware of whats going on around you , and get involved . It hurts to think I didn’t get to go , but some slug did . It [BM] was one of my top things I , in my 65 yrs have ever done. Keep your chin up and think good thoughts , the force is on your side . LOVYA

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    • Opia says:

      The week is amazing, beautiful, touching experience. Its the time that a connection is at its truest. Unfortunately, as the weekend rolls around, we usually start setting up for the chaotic energies. My group gets tighter, our things are locked tighter, and it feels as if anything can happen. This happens to get more intense every year to a point where we’d prefer to stay until the weekend.
      We had someone uncap our gas tank to our RV, so by the time it came to leave, we couldn’t. We are good people and some choose to let their Demons/ insecurities control their behaviors to hurt others.
      We love you burn, but we are on the fence for the weekend celebrations.

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      • Nanuk says:

        I really don’t believe the problem is the “rich people” or the “plug and play” camps. Honestly The Burn wouldn’t be there if there wasn’t the amount of money people put into infrastructure, art, and gifting. The problem is a small group of people coming in for the party on the weekend who haven’t even been there the whole week.

        If the event required people to arrive by Tues midnight to enter and people had to stay the whole time there would be more requirement to plan and invest time into learning the principles; it would discourage the weekend ravers. Leaving early wouldn’t be an issue but just showing up for Burn night would be discouraged by this.

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    • dmongypsy says:

      I am totally with you. It seems like making entry cut off earlier in the week would circumvent a lot of these f**kwits with their weekender, frat party mentality.

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      • Deborah Eppstein says:

        actually that is a great suggestion1 and I’m agreeing, coming form someone who often came in on thursday- but only because my sinuses cannot take more than 3 days of playa. Let do this!

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    • Kara Noble says:

      Interesting suggestion. I just cannot understand a Burner doing this – therefore it isn’t. A friend of ours was robbed in a different way by kids who knew nothing of the ideology but had money.
      This story is so so sad.

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    • Daddy D says:

      I have also pondered this and I must admit I never thought of a Wednesday night cut off. I think this is worth discussion. Every burn I see the parade of RV’s enter Friday full of fresh bodies ready to party non-stop through the weekend without interacting with Playa life. I have no idea if these people are in anyway responsible for the vandalism but in chatting with these weekend warriors the response is always the same, “We just got here; this is freaking incredible.” Sad, if you want to see something truly incredible come for the week and experience the Playa.

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      • Rebecca says:

        As good of an idea for consideration, as stated, one should consider those that have other obligations and cannot get home till later in the week. We are not all blessed with the same time allowances and not all arriving late just for “the weekend.” In our camp, there are people that come early, help build, and then have to leave before it’s all over, as to get back to their own business. Then there are those that can’t get in till later and stay till the end to help clean up. It’s a great flow, and all get to participate in the playa love. To cut off good hardworking people from entry on Thursday, would be a disservice to all the hard work they’ve done to get there and withholding of their contributions to the community. That said, it’s a shame that vandalism is occurring. It’s disgusting really.

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  • HoldZ says:

    That’s not cool at all!!!

    I can kinda understand why cr@p like that may happen to plug & play camps like White Ocean carried out by misguided people trying to make a statement (even though I don’t condone or agree with it whatsoever) but this is just plain wrong on every level.

    There’s no accounting for the small percentage of total f**kwits in society either on or off the Playa. The best & only response to come back big & better next year.

    Sending positive vibes from the UK <3
    #f**kthehaters

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  • Byron Go says:

    Thank you for continuing to bring the magic. To allow for more moments that night of surprise and delight that are the kind that reverberate into people’s lives forever, that transform their notion of what’s possible in this world.

    And doubly then thank you for choosing to share this experience and relive it through the telling so that we may all learn and consider and create together as a community around it going forward.

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  • Kati says:

    This was my first time at Burning Man and we got our bicycle stolen from in front of our tent the second day, then my giant ladder was stolen when I was uninstalling my artwork on the playa. We left things there in a pile to pick up and we found no ladder, an abandoned bicycle and soda cans and trash everywhere. It was very bad because I borrowed that ladder from my friend and transported it all the way from NY to Nevada. Otherwise we had the most amazing time even with 1 bicycle for the two of us. But next time I will be more careful. I thought no one steels there…

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    • Ghostrider says:

      Unfortunately, the element that exists outside of BRC has managed to prevail in way to many instances for me…I’m guessing because of the 10 principles some burners feel what yours is theirs as well, true only if offered….I apologize to you for them and their disappointment they put upon your burn….return, you won’t be sorry!

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    • Queen Savage says:

      This was my 8th burn and I’m sad to say every single year (myself included the first year) I know someone personally who gets a bike stolen. It’s really terrible to know that you have to lock your bike at camp, at the porta potty… All the time..EVERYTIME

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  • Jo Bennett says:

    It breaks my heart to hear about things like this on the playa. What we have at Burning Man is so special and I guess it is naive to imagine that that in itself should make it immune to such unwanted attitudes and behaviors as it becomes more popular with the “mainstream”. But the city we build and the community we share is too precious to give in (I’m referring to all the endless rants of how the Burn had changed etc). The majority continue to be committed to the 10 principles and if we care about the Burn we have to stand up against infiltrators who think this is ok.
    PS. I say this equally in regards to what happened to White Ocean, I don’t care how someone tries to justify it, this is unacceptable on the playa or anywhere else!

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  • Ghostrider says:

    That’s been an increasing issue for me in the last few visits to the burn…..I’m sure those kinds of individuals have NO idea what Buriningman really is about….I wish them a better life with an opportunity to see that the destructive nature of their personality will lead them done a path of unhappiness and they will inevitably blame everyone else for their misfortunes!

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  • Jenn Dolan says:

    Augh, somebody went after the forge? That was the best thing on playa. That was the single installation that most unequivocally made me say, yes, Burning Man is worth bringing my friends to, yes, this event really is where people go to display their highest levels of generosity and courage and skill and effort and trust. I’m guessing the vandal(s) wanted to feel important by leaving their mark on the best thing they could find. At least they had good taste?? Thanks for lighting back up, OP.

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  • DigDugDude says:

    Maybe for future burns we need to be a little more proactive with “being our brothers keepers” there was surely plenty of people who saw it going on. Maybe what the weekenders need is a nice beatdown to teach them not to destroy others property? Just kidding. But seriously I know BM isn’t immune to the darkness of the outside world but holy fuck its getting out of hand.

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    • Country Club says:

      The principal of Radical inclusion should be modified to point out that vandalism, theft, defacement, etc. are NOT allowed.

      The principal of gifting should be modified to include Radical Retroactive gifting is not allowed :)

      Third, it’s federal land. With automation increasing, those “find me” bluetooth tags may just track down the perpetrators. Theft on federal property is not a trivial offense (AFAIK), I believe it gets you a permanent record.

      In fact, the more I think about it, maybe we can build a mesh of BT transponders on the city to locate “forgotten” items. Of course, accompanied by a BLM officer … heh.

      Maybe I could talk to the lamplighters guild.

      We could even make it into interactive content. If you join the easter egg competition, someone can randomly place items (with the tags) and a DB could lookup the particulars of the camp. Then, the Easter Egg app would tell you about the camp without the name, and you’ve got to find it. The key here, of course, is the items can and will move around.

      So, lots of interactive fun, at the same time, once you report your bike stolen, we find out where it is in real time and nail the bastards.

      == John ==

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      • Rikki says:

        Excellent post. Problem stated and creative, fun and effective solution we can all take part in to bring stolen items home. With the help of local law enforcement, hold those responsible accountable for their actions which we would hope includes a permanent persona- non-grata status for all future Burning Man events so the tickets can go to someone more worthy.

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  • Reverend Bobo says:

    The Basket of Deplorables strikes again. After having our camp icons and a bike stolen and hearing all the other stories of vandalism and thefts over the years I lock up everything of value, especially burn nights and Labor Day night. The Iron Monkey’s vandalism seems like it might have been personal.

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  • Tracer says:

    BM has gone from all all inclusive gathering of world friends to a Drug & Booze infused Frat Party. I’ve witnessed it little by little for the 10 continuous years I have attended. This year I watched it personally as a couple of totally out of control people trash a small camp close to where I was camped. Unfortunately BM has become a World Party where the original idea of a “Gathering” has turned into basically a Rave with no borders, rules or controls. Such a shame…

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  • Christi robinson says:

    This year at our theme camp we had a very special shot ski, that we shared our camp drink with. The last day of the burn someone scaled our climbing wall and took the ski even with the shot glasses unattached. We also had dealt with bike theft of a burner who climbed our wall and when she got down the bike was missing! That quick and it was gone right in front of us. Such a sad thing. All we can do is be more vigilant and unfortunately we cannot inherently trust every “burner”.

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    • Anthony Brichetto says:

      Awe. That was one of the coolest little moments I had at the burn, was comprehending why the heck the ski was in front of me and then lifting it together for that collective shot. Genius.

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  • Hestia says:

    I am so so sorry this happened to you and the Iron Monkeys. My boyfriend and I wandered into the Piazza di Ferro tired and cold on Thursday and I was uplifted by the experience. It was absolutely delightful watching folks learn how to blacksmith from patient, joyful, fun, and supportive Iron Monkeys. So many beautiful and happy faces. Your resilience is inspiring!

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  • Rocket says:

    Many of us who have attended for a number of years have seen theft, vandalism and other destructive behavior. I too feel anger, frustration and even depression from seeing it and experiencing it first hand. In giving this a good deal of thought, I’ve realized that this is inherent in our culture and it becomes more apparent as the city grows. I’ve seen some pretty Janky behavior out there and it corrodes my hope and joy with BM. I don’t think more rules and law are going to work, and I don’t believe we can eradicate this behavior as overpopulation continues.

    What would be most helpful is to explore and discover what would inspire and encourage us to continue our good works, especially after a harsh experiences.

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  • Phil says:

    I’m afraid it boils down to the sheer number of people.
    This was my first burn. Happily it was a transformative amazing experience. I did however go into it reminding myself that with that many people there, not everyone would have my best interest at heart. Sad but true.

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    • Anthony Brichetto says:

      That’s assinine. One bad apple spoils the bunch. Even if BMorg only sold 1,000 tickets… There’s still be a few baddies making headlines. Statistics.

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      • Kennita Watson says:

        Like the old song says, one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch [, girl :-) ] — while what happened to the Iron Monkeys was awful, vary few Burners even had any idea it had happened, and the vast majority of them respect the Principles and each other — and their possessions and art.

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  • Atheen says:

    I am really saddened by this. I ran across your blacksmith shop one night and I was outright giddy that it existed out there. I was on a different adventure at the time, and I never made it back. I really wanted to learn!
    Even so, it was one of my favorite things. I hope you you are able to bring it back again sometime.

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  • El Gato says:

    At Burning Man, we also have a 1%. 99% of participants are awesome people who, if we got to know them all, we would probably consider to be trusted members of our community. Then there is the remaining 1% who are the people that come from the land of “Assholia”. Doing the math, with 70,000 on the playa that’s 700 douchebags on the loose, each with varying degrees of douchery. Unfortunately, it’s always been like this and always will. But we can keep letting it be known that such behavior — particularly against a true burner art collective that contributes as much as the Iron Monkeys — is totally not cool.

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    • Rad says:

      We need to look out for another more as these type of events take place. We can’t let random acts of vandalism change the nature of the event and community. The perpetrators that do this are not burners and they don’t belong in our city. It unfortunately escalates the challenges on prevention, which may be futile. I feel or the Iron Monkeys as I would be devastated as well.

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  • Capn Joe says:

    Burning Man is getting more like any city it’s size. Thinking anything else is kind of futile.

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    • PaulSmithuk says:

      I sadly and strongly disagree. Burning Man works outside the normal boundaries and behaviours and conventions. As a group we need to be able to help and rise above this! Why bow down to the lowest common acceptable level. How can we reach for the stars if we just keep looking at the ground?

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  • Quaoar says:

    Burning Man must limit the number of participants. Why to accept more and more people ? Is Burning Man following that culture of “more and more” ? If too much people can’t get entry, that will mean we need other Burning Man in other place, other time … All people who have the wish may be able to participate, but why all in same time ? Otherwise it’s the end of BM !

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  • Clayton says:

    2017 was our first burn. At center camp, we stop guys constantly from taking peoples stuff, on their bikes. Easy to tell if they are the owners. When someone is looking hard at an item while walking to the bike, its not their bike or their shit. IM NOT AFRAID TO ASK , WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING! its easy just to say sorry, if im mistaken, people are usually grateful.

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  • Chris says:

    Unfortunately, the people who.most need to read something like this never will.

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  • Eye in the Sky says:

    This is truly sad that opportunists have gotten their jollies at the expense of everyone else. What’s worse: they are probably… right now… getting their thrills by reading reports of their destruction.

    There are two possible solutions: use “extreme vetting” on those who enter BRC or be on guard. Obviously, only one of those will work.

    Before my first burn, I was warned to lock everything down in my camp prior on burn night. This year two people in my camp volunteered to stay behind and keep an eye on things. For those camps or projects that already don’t have that duty on their work roster, perhaps it’s time to consider it.

    Thieves can strike at any time. Vandalism such as this though tends to be a bit more predictable. So if it means that someone has to miss the burn to be a “designated driver” it might be worth the sacrifice.

    Perhaps this is an opportunity to strengthen the impact that the Black Rock Rangers have on our event by encouraging designated positions within each group, such as “Camp Rangers” or “Project Rangers” or “Night Ranger”.

    Perhaps this most unfortunate occurrence with Iron Monkeys will help serve as a catalyst for change and growth within our community.

    (I apologize in advance if I’m suggesting something that’s already in place, or if you now have the song Sister Christian stuck in your head.)

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    • SwayBreeze says:

      I do now! :) hoping the entire trans-formative experience that is BM, was trans-formative for the vandals as well, and they are now different and better people, having been through the aftermath of their actions via their own karma, if nothing else.

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  • Bill K says:

    In 2011 our camp Mosaic Lounge had brought an art car they had worked on for months. Blood, sweat and tears were shed in bringing this to the playa. We were parked outside of another camp sharing their love, beats and beers, inside their space. I went outside to get some fresh air, and caught 4 kids from out of the country, high on acid, spray painting our art car… It happens… It sucks… I wish I could have banged some sense into them, but we took their paint and shuffled them off into the night…

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  • Kelly Salem says:

    Our camp was also violated this year. We have a beautiful art gallery with new paintings every year. We come early to set up and leave late to clean our camp and the playa. It was the night of the Man burn when this happened. And a handful of us had come back to camp after the burn to grab some warmer clothes and refuel ourselves for the the rest of the night. I was done a few minutes before everyone so while I was waiting I hopped on my bike just to pedal up and down our block so I didn’t get to ancy… Plus I loved looking at our art gallery at night it is so beautiful and also rewarding. I immediately noticed a painting that was missing. And my heart sunk to the pit of my stomach. It was obvious that it was stolen but I thought I would ask a couple camp mates who rode out on their bike while I was standing there if it was possible that someone in our camp had started to take the artwork down early to get a head start on things. In my heart I knew the answer was no. And that’s exactly what they said followed by a sad sigh and quietness. I decided not to mention it to the others because nothing good would come out of that except for sadness.
    It was the next day that our camp leader went to assess the situation when he realized that not only was the actual painting cut to remove it from the zip ties on the bamboo stick, which makes no sense at all, but that someone had stabbed through that painting, through the tent and into a painting on the other side. This is of evidence that this was a random act of crime and whoever did this did not plan it at all because it would’ve been much easier to just cut for zip ties instead of ruining a piece of art. Wow.
    Over the next day or two it was mentioned here and there by most of our camp mates “I just can’t believe that someone would do that… here… At home, out of all the places “. We took the Gallery down as early as we ever have on Sunday before the temple burn. And the most we talked about it was to discuss a plan of action for the following years to make sure this doesn’t happen again. ( and some comments were made about karma! )
    We also had a camp mate Who had his backpack stolen from him right from under his nose basically while we were dancing at disco nights. Inside of his backpack was a number of personal items of his and a very expensive radio that belonged to me and my husband. The backpack and the radio both had tags on them with our phone number and address and a sweet note asking to please return And thank you. We looked for days and used to the radio to try to communicate with you ever had a backpack, going to keep high hopes crossing our fingers that it was an accident but after a couple days we knew it was gone and it was stolen purposely.
    I have never had this experience here at Burning Man in six years. I remember a previous year dropping our video somewhere in the middle of the playa… Yeah that’s right. We noticed when we were very far away and we took a moment to send positive energy out in the universe and started talking on the radio asking if anyone sees this walkie-talkie please can you return it please we love you and after about 10 minutes someone answered it and returned it to us.
    There was someone who wrote about earlier on this blog that they think that there should be a cut off time were you let people in like Wednesday, so people cannot just come for the The weekend and steel and vandalize. I will have to disagree with us because we ourselves have had tremendous trouble in the past one year and we arrived on Wednesday with our camps shade structure and couches and Hamic’s… We are good people and it would’ve been devastating, for lack of a better word if through all that time and struggle of packing preparing getting stuck for days if we got turned away at the gate.
    I believe that the more The city expands, no matter how wonderful and magical the majority of the people who go are, the more people to come the more assholes that come with it. Just mathematics. :-/
    I want to say Maybe try to regulate on the amount of virgins coming in and make sure they really want to be there for the correct reasons. But I even disagree with myself a little on this one because I have so many friends that haven’t gone and would contribute greatly to Burning Man and never steal or vandalize ever. I’m top of that I think everyone deserves a chance to go.
    I meant to write A small little paragraph on what happened to us and what we’re going to do in the future to change it but I got a little stuck sharing because this matter is very important to me and my camp. I was also even more surprised when I kept scrolling and scrolling and scrolling down to see how many similar stories there were.
    Personally, I will obviously continue to lock our bikes up wherever we go like always, and I will also bring the locks for our backpacks, etc. (and I encourage you all to do the same).
    As far as our camp goes, We are going to have to make some changes accordingly to prevent this from ever happening again. We WILL have someone(s) watching our camp on burn nights. And this someone(s) is willing to sacrifice watching the burn in order to catch a person in the act of such a crime. I doubt that whoever did this is reading this right now but if you are, I want to let you know that it will not be good for you if you are spotted at our camp trying to steal or vandalized again. That goes for if we see you anywhere on the playa as well.
    See you all next year. I hope this doesn’t happen again!

    We are Gallery BRC. On the 9o clock side. See you next year please come check us out !

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  • Mkay says:

    Gross. I was part of an honorarium project that was vandalized Monday night, so we roped it off and shut it down. Tuesday of the event we came back to repair it and our signage and ratchet straps were down, and it was even more broken- to the point where we could no longer fully repair it on playa- and had to just say “well, it”s still a shade structure…” This was my third year doing large scale installation art, and my second honoraroum team. Makes me never want to bring art back to the playa. I heard about similar experiences that other crews had too, we stand in solidarity with everyone else who left the event this year shaking their heads. Shame.

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    • Daddy D says:

      Two Burns back I lost a camera on the Playa. Though I gave it up being gone for good, the next day I stopped and visited the wonderful people at Lost & Found and WOW they had my camera. But the best part were the people who returned it. When I checked my pictures these wonderful people were as happy as could be and were blowing me a kiss. This is one of my fondest memories of Burning Man.

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  • Keith Finkelstein says:

    We have had bikes stolen and a generator stolen.
    I have been to the Playa 11 times and it seems that BM is attracting more and more of an element of people that I don’t want anything to do with. Because of these selfish Jackasses I am taking some time off from my favorite thing to do for a year or two or more. The whole thing is very sad.

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  • some seeing eye says:

    It is sad to read this, and for those personally affected by vandalism and theft, sadder.

    The business plan for the event is based on 35% virgins (2015). Many are acculturated to the values of Burning Man in advance, or participate in camps with experienced burners who set an example. That is why I always suggest virgins camp with veterans and why I am in favor of increasing DGS to established camps. And that is why I recommend that virgins get involved with the regionals before their first Nevada Labor Day Regional! Send out emails to virgin ticket sales registration addresses which cannot be unsubscribed and send those individuals to the relevant Facebook groups. Lowering the virgin percent and increasing the percent of veterans by seeking virgins more selectively works to the advantage of the event by, in business speak, lowering participant (customer) acquisition costs, and increasing the quality of experience.

    Vandals are an asymmetric problem – it only takes a few, even one. And so I’m sure the org will stress to participants next year to watch for and call out bad behavior.

    Thanks to Iron Monkey and others on this thread for relating your stories!

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    • G says:

      This . . . . Lowering the virgin percent and increasing the percent of veterans by seeking virgins more selectively works to the advantage of the event by, in business speak, lowering participant (customer) acquisition costs, and increasing the quality of experience.

      The ticket sales needs a certain sizable percentage designated for multiple repeat veterans. They are/would be the carriers of the culture. The culture is becoming more and more diluted. Disney in the dust is evermore the reality.

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      • Lauriekeet says:

        I totally agree – culture gets passed down by having old-timers outnumber newbies by a significant percentage. I heard that the virgin % was pretty high this year. This is probably a more important factor than people arriving on Friday, although I would be in favor of trying for the Wed. arrival cutoff and only 20% virgin/newbies allowed – and most of those as part of established theme camps. This year, our theme camp was allowed only half as many passes as we usually can buy. Why would anyone think that builds community?

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    • Buck says:

      Don’t you dare malign virgins. I am a 68-year-old artist. 2016 was my first burn. We tried for years to get tickets. We drove 10 hours and arrived just after the gates opened at midnight and stayed until the last burn. We researched, talked to folks, and joined with two other virgins to share meals and adjoining tent space. I worked for months on handmade gifts to distribute randomly. We shared water, food, bike pump, mattress pump, clothes, costume items, and more with everyone. Everyone was a virgin at some point. In my experience, the virgins tried harder than others to contribute and abide by the principles.
      Jerks will be jerks and it doesn’t matter how many burns they have attended. Jerks with bullhorns or loud mouths and no sense of humor harassed me about my pink Barbie bike, told me I was too old to wear a kilt, shoved me aside in lines, and pretended I wasn’t there. I volunteered, helped, donated, and danced my ass off into the wee hours more than once. Being a virgin has nothing to do with one’s commitment or criminal tendencies. I have a better idea: don’t let anyone under 35 get tickets because it seems most of the vandalism is done by young drunk people. Yes, I’m kidding about the 35 rule. I support cutting off entrance earlier in the week. I also think we would all be willing to kick in an extra $5 per person to hire extra security on burn night. And when someone is caught, hold their asses down and call security. Otherwise, they’ll be back next year.

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  • teddy says:

    Someone posted about the vast hoard of virgin drug addled “coaster” party crowd being an essential part of the burn. It seemed totally counter intuitive to me… But hopefully not rationalizing an inevitable logistic issue I think that person may be right. There are many “hazards” at Black Rock City… Heat, cold, Sun, DUST, food spoilage… plug & play condescending “A-types.” And there is an ocean of twenty something balancing the percentage of dextroamphetamine, LSD, and Fireball Whiskey, while trying to ride a bicycle on 9:00 and Esplanade… at least half of them are virgins. In 1969 I left the lower east side of Manhattan in a truck carrying a printing press to a festival in upstate NY… yeah that festival. The press was supposed to publish an issue of the incumbent “underground” newspaper THE RAT. It was demolished by the rain. I was part of a militant tribe of inner city hippies called “the Motherfuckers” who were credited with tearing down the fences at Woodstock (which by the way I think that is urban myth… We were too busy trying to survive and have fun to police fences). The contrast between that festival and the “rip-off” free school of the lower east side was interesting. Hugh Romney and the Hog Farmers had created a “free area” through the woods and adjacent to the main stage area. One night someone discovered a warehouse tent of paper sleeping bags and orange blow up one man tents, and we formed an absolute silent fire chain to hand out all those goods from that tent to the hippies passing by in the meadow. The dude that was going to sell that shit was sitting in full lotus with his back to the stuff as we ripped it off… He must have been tripping his brains out. It was my first experience with a “de-commoditized” zone. But if you survived the urban war zone of New York City in the late 1960’s you didn’t pretend that there were vulnerabilities in every circumstance. YOU LOCKED THAT SHIT DOWN ALL THE TIME. The massive entropy that envelopes Burning Man by virtue of radical inclusiveness is going to provide some stunning disappointments. Perhaps a 12 hour exodus because of a disgruntled 17 year old stiffing her parents could be put in the same category as the random vandalism that comes with the junkie crowd we will inevitably attract. If that is ALL that happens we will be incredibly fortunate. I had three junkies from the south Bronx attack me in a St. Mark’s head shop back in those crazy days… one of them pulled out half a rusty scissors to try to cut me with. That circus culture still exists, and while they didn’t make it to Woodstock, they will make it to the Playa. When they do we will be really grateful for the BLM dudes and some hard ass motherfuckers to reel them in when possible. We have to expect it and be radically self sufficient on that level as well as with our water, and shade structures. Abbie Hoffman isn’t around to hold our hands, but if he were I think the patronly advice would be to toughen up. There is danger in every adventure.

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    • Foxy says:

      Well put, thanks for your perspective.

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      • Miss Lizzy says:

        Greetings Foxy!
        I’ve been fortunate enough to be a member of the BM community since ’98, with my husband and myself helping the legal department-more like a small gathering then, negotiate commitments to ensure Black Rock City had a permanent place to call home and help the citizens of Gerlach by providing solar panels for their schools and hospitals. We did this even though we’ve only been able to make it back six times since. “Frat boys”, NJ and LA residents, people that look “too clean”? Seriously? All these labels being thrown around is not the community that took us “rich” people in and made us feel like family. I’m a geologist and my husband’s an attorney and between the two of us we’re not at all artistic, but we are hard working and passionate burners. Shouldn’t that count for something too? Will we start auditioning potential virgins in lieu of a lottery? I’m sure Woodstock was just as magical as Altamont proved to be tragic. Acts of vandalism are a terrible price to pay for what should be an inclusive event, but who do we exclude from participating and what litmus test do we administer? The genie’s out of the bottle folks, and short of becoming an exclusive oligarchy – that which we strived to be the antithesis of, stuffing him back in won’t be easy…..

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  • andy says:

    In 2005 I did an installation inside the man, we had a tower in the center that held video projectors.

    One night, we caught a “frat boy” scaling the tower trying to do whatever. After my girlfriend yelled for him to get off of it, he proceeded to moon her. Very classy.

    This was back in ’05, I can’t imagine how many more principal-less frat boys types tromp around the playa now. I haven’t gone in years because the crowd has just gotten worse. Less art and more e-tard sparkleponies chasing Robot heart every single night. Sad. I miss the old day.

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  • Chris says:

    At the 2013 Burning Man, a young man on a bicycle that was extremely intoxicated plowed into a group us – about 20 people dressed in white with many glow sticks – very hard not to see. I unfortunately took the initial hit, resulting in 3 cracked ribs. This kid walked / ran away. How many other acts of violence does it take for BM to understand it has become the Monster that it tried so hard to keep out? Burning Man is over.

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  • Bob C says:

    Default world behavior is what happens when the event sells out to the highest bidders.

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  • Paul says:

    To the original poster a few questions: Do you think the vandalism was personal attack from another incident or just a random attack ? Do you think the attack happened because your camp was mistaken for a camp like White Ocean?

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    • Iron Monkeys says:

      Hi!

      We have no idea if it was a random act of crazy, or a planned attack. Our guess is that it was random, but we will probably never know.

      As for being mistaken for something like White Ocean, it’s unlikely. To be clear it was our art piece that was vandalized, not our camp. Our piece was placed out on the 3:00 arm between the Man and the city, across from the portos. It was a humble little blacksmith shop that 12 people built by hand. So whatever the reason for the vandalism, it’s doubtful that we had been confused for a big ass theme camp.

      Thank you for asking.

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  • Pooh Bear says:

    Based on what I’ve read here…how about…close the gate to new Burners on Wednesday. You could have “late arrival passes” sponsored by camps.

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    • Gerflash says:

      There may be some issues/problems to work out with your proposal, but overall, I like it. Such nonsense must be highly discouraged – and when it happens, investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

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  • Stephen Fosdick says:

    I was just at a regional burn, and heard a story of a young burner who’s sole purpose in attending BM was to sell drugs … this year’s earnings were around $40 k after expenses. You can bet this person protects his investment, and so, too, the art (and anything else of value) must be protected.

    So if you see this being done, at any level, (even street signs!), step up and do something, at the very least, take their picture and report it. This type of crime is against all of us.

    I never felt the need to lock my bike, in camp or in the city, but I guess I’ve been very lucky.

    We cannot let this ruin such a needed event as BM.

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  • YB says:

    The people at the Artery warn me every year, before making an art project – When it comes to your art project, people will vandalise, urinate or have sex in it (if it’s too well hidden and has “obscure” areas) and will steal anything not heavily bolted down to the ground (as souvenirs).
    So far, after doing small art projects for three years, I can say they were right.
    Even if just 0.5% of the BM visitors are prone to stealing/vandalizing before/after being intoxicated or on drugs, that still leaves about 350 people.

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  • Cello says:

    Hearing about such significant vandalism on Playa breaks my heart. I’m given a little hope that Iron Monkeys persevered in spite of the outright awful situation imposed upon them to really light the night. It’s because of amazing burners like them that our city can experience art uncensored. While this experience sounds personal, as does the incident at White Ocean, there is no good cause for it.
    Weekenders or otherwise, this has got to stop. I’m not sure if people aren’t doing enough to prevent fellows at the burn from being shitheads, if each individual needs to prioritize locking down their world, or if it’s a well noted problem that isn’t punished with any severity.
    An outrageous number of stolen/ vandalized property stories flew through my camp this year- from bicycles, to art, to wallets, and more- and it does’t seem like anything was done. Other than Temple burn, maybe the weekend just isn’t worth it anymore.

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  • Lynn says:

    Someone in the night tore the lights from our flag pole and dropped our flag to the ground! The flag is a beautiful flag that simply says “COEXIST ”
    Sorry but MEAN PEOPLE SUCK.
    They always have and always will and yet we continue to coexist with them.
    Lynn~

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  • RAT LADY says:

    An Artist staying in our camp had his Playa Art destroyed on burn night as well ( right near 9 and esplanade) it seems like we see things like this more and more often. A bike was stolen out of our camp on burn night as well, even thought 2 people stayed behind. Sad, sad,sad.

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  • Bill Morgan says:

    After 20 years of wanting to go to Burning Man, this year everything came together and I was able to go. My first experience at B.M. was fantastic and I can’t wait to go again.
    One thing that impressed me the most (besides the art, music, and people) was the Porta-Potties. We arrived on Sunday and I was surprised how clean the toilets were. As the week wore on, the toilets remained clean (except for a few “hovers” who don’t know how to aim) and there was always a spare roll of TP still in the wrapper. On Thursday, I noticed some deterioration, but that might be explained simply by 5 days of heavy use. Friday and saturday found toilet paper all urinated on, feces on the seats and even the floor, trash all over, and general filth to the point you didn’t want to go there. Granted, the population had grown over the 5 days, but the sudden change when the “weekenders” arrived was very obvious. A Wednesday cut of may be in order, or some type of restriction. I would hate to see this wonderful event destroyed by Default World people bringing their faults and defaults with them.
    I don’t know about the thefts and vandalism and was luckily not a victim of any, however it is sad to see that it happened here (or anywhere for that matter).
    Don’t let the event be destroyed by the weekenders, plug and plays, or others who are not of the right spirit.

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  • Tourist says:

    Karla, you are an inspiring human. Thank you for what you do, thank you for your tenacity, thank you for crying our tears. It hurts to read your words while inspiring us veterans to show those that need to learn the Burning Man ethos how to behave.
    The responsibility the pass on the BM ethos lies with the veterans to show the example. Whether it be by interacting with other burners to share stories, to participate or to clean-up MOOP on the playa. I teach my children by example, the playa is no different.
    When you live in a small town, you say hello to passers by, when you are in a huge city everyone is anonymous. BRC is different because we choose to make it different. Give your fellow burners “Welcome Home” hugs and talk to them.
    Blaming “the new BM” is cowardice, this city is what WE collectively choose to make it, WE are the experiment.
    Help each other, please.
    Peace

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  • HoneyBee says:

    So sad.
    As DigDugDude wrote, we all need to take care of one another just a little bit better. Someone must have seen something. Grab a Ranger. Yell for help. People acting this badly need to be removed from the event.

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  • EchoEcho says:

    Not related to this incident, but the Last Apothecary was tagged with spray paint (many colors if spray paint) in one big design, ruining the original design work. Make your own art ON your own art Jerkface.

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    • Foxy says:

      Unless you’re like Burn Wall Street which was meant to be tagged. It should be obvious if the artist intended his/her art to be “tagged.” Otherwise, if you feel the need to “tag,” then set up your own damn piece and “tag” the playa. “Tag the playa” I think that’s my new hit single. lol

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      • voyager says:

        Hmmm, since BM is part of highly sensitive ecological regions – the playa and … planet Earth – perhaps we should consider not allowing spray paint in BRC – as it spews highly toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. Accountability for the planets survival begins with each one of us…. peace

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  • Major Blaze says:

    My friends at Sideshow on the edge of the 3:00 keyhole had a beautiful installation of hand painted large banners. One was of a new addition, Luella the Strong Woman, it was stolen later in the week. She came all the way from New York and commissioned the artwork, it was so sad.

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  • Majik says:

    Why on earth would someone pay vast sums of money to go vandalize theme camps? It makes no fucking sense! My only conclusion is that these vandals must be Trump supporters!!!

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  • Elliot Naess says:

    The best tool we have to combat this is the Direct Group Ticket Sale program. It just needs to be expanded — expanded a great deal.
    From my first Burn in 2006, I have felt that BM ought to have an apprenticeship program for new Burners.
    The DGS program serves as an apprenticeship system in that camp and art-project leads have the opportunity to screen and coach their new people. And BM is in direct contact with those leads.
    I have heard the argument that this would not be “radically inclusive”.
    But every rule on Earth must be open to exceptions. We would not want to “radically include” Jack The Ripper.
    Anyone who develops a sincere interest in BM could contact leads and discuss their proposed participation. (E-mail addresses for leads would be on the BM website.)
    Most cordially,
    Elliot Naess
    Elliot’s Naked Bicycle Service & Piano Bar

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    • Lauriekeet says:

      I totally agree. This year our established camp (15+ years) was alloted half the tickets that we usually have. So there were many more non-camp people. I think we are better off having neighborhoods where we are connected with our neighbors and establish relationships. The apprenticeship/screening that happens in established camps will benefit everyone.

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    • Soul Patch says:

      I agree with expanding DGS ticket allotment. Seems a good way to have each theme camp sort of vett camp mates, even if they are virgins. We had 60 campers in our camp this year, with only 20 DGS tickets, and several virgins, but I can guarantee that none of our camp mates, virgins or other wise, participated in any acts of theft of vandalism. Our theme camp has been on Playa since 2011, And in recent years there is absolutely a change that takes place starting on Thursday before burn night. I can’t say that it is directly connected to plug and play camps, but the vibe changes, I notice more folks who seem to be less appreciative of our gift, more folks who seem to have the attitude that what we do in gifting is expected. That our camp is expected to gift to them, and they are only there to accept these gifts. It’s difficult to put this into words. Has any one else experienced this?

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  • Den Mother says:

    Iron Monkey I feel your pain and concern. This was my 10th Burn and the changes down through the years are discouraging. This year we were almost victims. On Thursday night 4 people tried to steal one of our mutant vehicles. It had just been parked in close to our main tent and left unattended for maybe 10 minutes when the 4 were found playing with the lights. When confronted, they admitted that their intent was to steal it. The motor was shot so they were not going to be successful regardless but I would have been devastated if they, in frustration, had damaged it in any way. The first reaction after anger is to want to circle the wagons and be less inclusive. I’m fighting that urge but next year we will request to be off the main street back with old friends to watch our backs.

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  • John McReynolds says:

    Perhaps the Wednesday shutdown would work. Possibly requiring sponsors for newbies would be valuable.

    What about different color codes, even florescent, for later arrival days, so one might recognize weekenders from afar?

    My 2010 rope and strut sculpture was slightly vandalized, but I shrugged it off.

    In 2011, my sculpture’s lighting system was stolen.

    I haven’t been back since.

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  • suzQ! says:

    Ugh. Sorry this happened.
    HOWEVER – comeon you guys – “oooh how could a BURNER do this” – really? Did you take a test and make a pledge? This is a city of 70k+ people – that means crazies, and bankers, and fixers, and commies, and prudes, and non-native speakers, and children, and (ALL OF THEM). Why oh why do you think that people who come for just the weekend are the “bad people?” Loads of people can’t break from their lives/jobs/responsibilities to “afford” the 7+ days. Why do you think someone “sponsoring” another will be enough? One of the sponsor-ers might be a “badguy” and now more on his team.
    Be freaking realistic. This aint your granny’s burn (when there was rampant sex related issues, bartering not gifting, limited medical care, fire not glowlights, etc etc). You are voluntarily going to a TENT city….where people have been told: whatever you do is cool. Your idea of “cool” and theirs may not be the same. “that camp is rich, I will take their food that is sitting out” “that street sign means so much to ME so I will take it down NOW day two before someone else gets it” “i NEED that more than they do” Whatever. DON”T TAKE STUFF you don’t want ruined, stolen, broken, taken….Don’t take stuff you WANT.
    Get the glitter and feathers out of your eyes and see it for what it is NOT for the “warm fuzzy feeling” your friend brought home or you remember. 70k people. limited security. Be a responsible grown up. Things change every year. Nuff said.

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    • roissy says:

      I look at all of this somewhat bemused, the whole “Burner” is “better” than the general public is a load of crap. My wife first attended in 94, car camping with a girlfriend. The friend was dosed at a camp and woke up the next day naked and with no memory as to what happened, she never returned to BM. I have only been going for 16 years, thefts and assaults have been happening all along, but the numbers seem to be increasing…
      As the insightful writer above pointed out, the street signs use to remain until Sunday!!!

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  • Sherpa says:

    Black Rock City needs more and more targeted ticketing to people who will participate in making it an even more amazing place. Radical Participation should be a higher priority over Radical Inclusion.

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  • Nick Freeway says:

    I came to BRC quite late in the game in 2006. I have attended 8 USA Burns since. Even in 2006 I noticed a big diff between the week day crowd and weekend crowd. Since 2006 BRC has doubled in size and there is now a cell reception over it … The crowd has changed as a result. … wealthy plug and play camps have been enabled by the cell phone / internet reception which allows people to work from the playa….. Whilst he expanded numbers has allowed more and more weekend warriors who give little and take a lot. The alternate reality bubble has been burst and it is now much more like the outside world …. With outside world problems…. including rampant disparity of wealth and douchebag behaviour like this vandalism.
    BM needs to Get rid of the cell / internet network and don’t allow entry after Thurs 1pm …. BM should demand a commitment from people …Make something you cant just pop in and out of / work from he playa….. This will filter out a lot of he idiots who have no place at BRC.

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  • Chapul Mipar says:

    2016 was my first and the experience was all the way positive (even until now!), but I was surprised about something I was told by my son (25 years old and three times burner). One of the nights he went with a friend to the Thunder Dome. there was a group of people, as he depicted to me, in the good Mad Max “goth” style, split tongue, etc… quite in an intense state of mind. When they saw my son and his friend entering the dome (my son and his friend are white clear hair but not blond, dressed like normal burners) they starting focusing on them shouting things like “stab them!”, “get the fuck outta here” very intensely, and then they started to throw beer cans at them (one of the cans hit his friend on the chest).
    When I spoke with my son about it, he, in the burner spirit, told me that “those things happen in a radical participation environment… so he wasn’t gong to do anything about it.
    Ok with his point of view. But I started thinking about it. Was that kind of behavior “radical inclusion”? what do you guys would have done in such hostile environment?
    I thought that if we consider BM as an organism, those kind of things are like cancer cells that might or might not, in the long run, start to affect the whole. I wonder if the vandalism doen’t have its roots in this… I never understood the Thunder Dome concept being part of BM…

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  • Michael says:

    2016 was my third Burn. Over these past 3 Burns, the issue of who comes, what happens and what is and isn’t ‘acceptable’ behavior in BRC has become a hot topic. As the discussion about plug and play camps has progressed, I wonder what the founders have to say about how the event has grown, changed. The context of this discussion has failed to examine human development in general, the growth and death of various civilizations, the stratification of societies, the application of technology and its effect on behaviors, etc. Every society evolves, for the better and sadly for the worse. BRC is no exception. If you read what Larry wrote about this year’s theme, its clear that BRC has evolved into a a city that needs wealth to continue to develop. The argument that the renaissance would not have been possible without the wealth of the Medici’s and the like was clear recognition that the days of the initial concept of radical inclusion has evolved along with the society that it fostered. All societies ruled by extreme wealth and the power it brings devolve with crime, poverty and loss of a spiritual center being the usual result. A city of 80,000 people in the middle of the desert is no different from any city so large, so diverse. BRC recognizes this. There is a leadership class, a police force (the Rangers), a library, a ‘hospital’, a radio station and lots of other manifestations of a ‘mature’ society. We shouldn’t be surprised that all the problems of such a society are also present. These problems aren’t going to go away. The question we should be asking is what we can do to emphasize the principle of radical self reliance. What does that mean when the event gets ‘richer’ while the principles remain the same. Do we want to expand the role of the police (BRC Rangers)? Do we want to ‘arm’ ourselves to protect ourselves and our property? Do we want to expand the concept of camps into clans or tribes? Should we ‘segregate’ camps based on some social standard the way we separate KIds Camp from the rest of BRC? Do we want to exclude people based on some common. shared criteria? Do we need a ‘laws’, and a way to make sure everyone knows them? Do we share our expectations of one another in a way that everyone understands before anyone gets a ticket?
    I don’t have answers to all these questions but I’m not ready to surrender those decisions to some ‘leadership’ group either. The community has a ‘privy council’ now, the regional leaders. Should their role be expanded in some way? Are they able to address these issues? How can we all be more active players in shaping the future of our city? Do we need a way to investigate crimes? How do we punish those that commit such acts? Who makes these decisions? Vandalism is a crime plain and simple. It should have been reported. Everyone NEEDED to know about it. Many would have been more vigilant about ‘maintaining the peace’.
    We’re not a communal village anymore and we need a shared vision of how we’re going to ‘govern’ such a large city with all the problems and challenges that it brings.
    That’s the real purpose of the principles, to help bring the greatness and goodness that they represent to society at large. To a large extent, we’ve avoided this. We look forward to escaping all of this by getting on the Playa with many of life’s necessities provided for us, but not really by us. We trust that ‘The Playa will provide”. The plug and play camps don’t have to share, they provide for themselves. We don’t have a way to force them to share and I’m fearful that their immunity from living by the principles is fostering the same behaviors from the have-nots that we see in our society at large.
    Whether we like it or not, change is constant and we need to be ready for the consequences.

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  • Stephanie B says:

    I KNOW WHO DID THAT! I didn’t KNOW him but Saturday night while everyone was at the burn my husband and I found a dark area from what I could tell looked like a gazebo there were benches all around it and we decided to sit and take a break not long after we were there a guy was flying full speed on his bicycle he obviously did NOT see the bench due to no lights on it and smashed into it he was thrown from his bike onto his back he played there for a while rolling and moaning we asked if he was ok and he didn’t respond. Then he stood up and proceeded to shake the tall poles yelling “who’s is this who made this” he freaks us out so we left… I didn’t think he was actually going to be able to do any damage. Sorry for your hard work being destroyed :(

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    • Rich says:

      Thank you, Stephanie. I would be surprised if he decided to cause so much damage as a result of his accident – but perhaps it makes sense if he was in an altered state and decided to take ‘revenge’. It does make me feel a little better if it was a random action of just one person, rather than a group of people. Truth is, we did put lights all around it but maybe they weren’t bright or obvious enough…that could be something we address going forward. I also want to reiterate that this year’s project was a huge success and the vast majority of people enjoyed being able to participate and make something to take away. Those are the stories we want to remember :-)

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      • DrTune says:

        Have to say if I crashed at speed into an (allegedly) unlit structure on the playa at night I’d be pretty damn unhappy too. Sorry that happened to your art but it definitely mitigates the feeling of being randomly vandalized. Next year – moar blinkies! :-)

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  • xtraslky says:

    I have seen vandalism on playa every year for the past 15 years burning. Y’all are barking up the wrong tree if you think its related to noobs or that there are some kind of “different” burners now than there have been for the past 15 years. Its always been RADICAL SELF RELIANCE to lock your bike, keep your stuff safe and lock down your camp hard on burn night. There will still be jackasses, as there are in every city, but hopefully you can avoid being their target.

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  • Fritz Richter says:

    Blacksmith shop was the coolest thing I saw at BM. When people ask me about BM, I describe what you were doing. I did some forge work in High school shop. Made a chisel and a ball-peen hammerhead. I would like to have participated but figured someone else could have a turn in my place. Thank you for that awesome display. I was inspired to google Iron Monkeys when I got home.

    This was my first burn. Hope It’s not my last. I’m going to try to get tickets next year.

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  • Phoenix says:

    SO disappointing!! I’m so sorry you had to go through that and that someone was in such a place as to show NO respect or appreciation for what you offer. WOW.

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  • Country Club says:

    I’m so sorry this happened. It sounds personal, but that doesn’t make it right (quite the opposite).

    I didn’t get a chance to participate, but really admired the setup and the chance to show people this ancient art. Thank you so much for your gift.

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  • Fox says:

    I hear tell back in ’11, a group of 500 near-do-wells pulled a whole damn art piece a thousand non-consensual feet across the playa, because it was the thing to do. No one got killed, but it was dumb luck they didn’t. At least that is what Big Sam told me.

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    • Foxy says:

      You call that “vandalism?” Lol. True, no one got seriously hurt and this made for a great if not bittersweet memory. However, I think there is a difference between “allowed to get your feelings hurt” versus “we’re gonna smash all your shit up and go to bathroom ‘johnny-on-the-spot’ style.”

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  • Dr Dave says:

    My sympathies for Iron Monkey and truthfully, all of us. My buddy and I are part of Spanky’s Village and Wine Bar, this year at 2:30 and Esplanade. He and I build the Playa Penthouse as an observation tower for all Burners to enjoy a view from 30 feet above the playa. I created Da Vinci-inspired artwork on massive tarps, clothing the entire structure. It was weeks of work. Some douchebag who goes by the name “Poet” brought his cancerous urban scrawl to BM and tagged my art in two places, ruining it. I tried hard to not let this ruin my burn but one of the reasons I come to Burning Man is to briefly escape this societal blight…and there it was. It followed us all and slipped in the gate. Fists clenched, it was good for “Poet” and for the Burners nearby I did not catch him. I might have lost my peaceful vibe just long enough to bloody the worthless POS.

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  • Rob says:

    Reading these comments makes me realize I am not alone in feeling that BRC is now a vast sea of douchebags. Cell phone zombies, people who don’t say hi back, people who come into your camp and take what you’re offering and turn around walking away without interacting or thanking. People who are there to look beautiful, to fuck and get fucked up. This is not the burning man I first encountered 4 years ago, the burning man that changed my life. I pray that the organizers can start to turn things around but I am already planning outside of this event for next year :(

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  • ReyRey says:

    I have gone to Burning Man for ten years and have slowly watched the event morph into the warped reflection of what it once was. It has been one of the more heart breaking things to witness. The amount of unstable, douchey energy that seeps onto The Playa most certainly increases every year. Fewer tickets and weekend warrior mitigation are great ideas. It actually can go back to the way it was. That is if the people who run the event are brave enough to admit they have the power to make changes.

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  • Jaime says:

    I missed discovering Iron Monkeys on my first burn but I will be sending you all love and dreaming of the magic making until next year. Continue to be the change we wish to see in the world. Namaste.

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  • James sasso says:

    Iron monkey was in league with white ocean bros promoting radical exclusivity. They were punished for being a plug and play camp. We and cacophony society has spoken. James sasso

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  • Jk says:

    Hi all,

    My concern, and I could very well be wrong, is that the individuals involved in the vandalism probably won’t be ones to even get or read these things…. and along with the next jerks that don’t take the principles seriously. So yes conversation is great I think it’s a wonderful concern, but what about the next people that think this is juist a dusty Coachella? How Can we remind and instill the 10 principles into our community? lets continue to make conversation and find ways to possibly implement these great ideas!

    Much love!
    Jk

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  • Jk says:

    Hi all,

    My concern, and I could very well be wrong, is that the individuals involved in the vandalism probably won’t be ones to even get or read these things…. and along with the next jerks that don’t take the principles seriously. So yes conversation is great I think it’s a wonderful concern, but what about the next people that think this is juist a dusty Coachella? How Can we remind and instill the 10 principles into our community? lets continue to make conversation and find ways to possibly implement these great ideas!

    Much love!
    Jk

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  • Jolly Green giant says:

    To my Burner Brothers and Sisters, I read with sadness of dozens of acts of violence that that have no reason. Why we ask would someone do such things ? The answer is Evil. It is as simple and as complicated as that. Oscar Wilde said ” we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking up to the stars” To those who are “looking up to the stars” please never give up trying to seek the good, the beautiful, the decent, the righteous. We need you. All my love, Jolly green giant

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  • FaciaBella says:

    I know this comes well after the fact but I am so so sorry that happened to you all this year. I am beyond disgusted at people most times. Burning Man to me is the one place I came come to get away from the garbage of the world and it saddens me beyond belief that this could happen at all.

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  • Matthew Cline says:

    Sad to hear about the vandalism. I have not been to the event since 2010 (kids) but that was my 11th year attending. It seems like even then we were always conscious of locking up bikes and valuables especially on the night of the burn even then. Whenever there are a bunch of people getting together there is always going to be a small percentage of bad apples. Burning Man is a city and it has cops and bad guys just like any other city. It has definitely evolved since my first year in 1999 but with the bad has also come the benefits namely a much larger art budget. I worked with a group during my last 5 years of attending building fire sculptures and the scale of projects that we built would not have been possible without the large grants from BMORG which would not have been possible without the increased ticket sales. I just hope that for every AHole that tags someones art there is another person who was going to tag but was instead inspired by the work.

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  • ameno says:

    I caught a girl roaming through our camp this year, so I grilled her for what she was looking for. “I am not here do do anything nepharious” – she eventually admitted uncomfortably that she was looking for a place to piss. Odd but I pointed out the porta potties 2 blocks down. She looked like a burner not a frat boy, and who knows maybe she was there to steal too.

    Maybe we should ban all the girls from burning man? Then the frat boys won’t come to look at hot chicks and chicks won’t piss all over the playa. See? I have silly creative solutions too. lol.

    Vandalism and theft is a problem, as well as drug dealers that require on-playa financial transaction hence possibly encourage theft, and I don’t know how to solve it. Since they’re there, maybe push the undercover cops to act more as buyers than dealers to catch the actual dealers.

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  • Paul says:

    Time for bait bikes.

    Gather some burly peeps, set out a really sweet bike, watch from distance, wait for dipshit to steal it, commence “education”.

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  • Valerie says:

    My first burn was in 2004 and at that time you could buy tickets at the event. The energy always changed on Burn night so after watching the man burn I would try to find a quiet peaceful place to chill out and avoid the crowd. Later they stopped selling tickets at the door and this cut down on some of the people who decided to just come on a whim for purposes other than to participate in the burning man culture. Perhaps having a cut off date for entering the event may have the same effect but it goes against the burning man principle. Some of those coming late to Burning Man maybe are/or will be burners who contribute to the event.

    It is very sad and upsetting that bad things happen at Burning Man, however they do. It is even sadder to me that people let that define their whole Burning Man experience and decide not to attend anymore. You can’t control what others do but you can control how you choose to react to it. Some of the stories so far, like the experience of Iron Monkey, tell of how they turned a negative into a positive by overcoming the bad experience and continued to contribute to the Burning Man culture.

    Those burners that decide not to return because bad things happen are turning the event over to those bad people. Burning Man will continue as an awesome experience only if we continue to go and practice the 10 principles and set the example for others.

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  • Victoria Rose says:

    I ran into a group of bike “collectors” last year…they were on the playa with a pick up truck and had a weird outside contractor vibe. It wasn’t the guys with the big flatbed obviously out there cleaning up.
    Anyhow these guys were definitely sneering, creepy outside contractor guys…not burners, not DPW (we love you assholes) Perhaps that is part of the problem…non burners vandalizing our event and I’m not talking about people that just come for the weekend, although burn night/morning does seem to be the target time for vandals.

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  • char says:

    I think folks are going to have to start policing their camps at night. Bring a few members who are willing to guard. When word gets out that property is being watched, the fad will wear off. It seems right now BM is open season for any destructive types to attend. I suppose this can open the door for yet another business at BM, security guards. The reality is when large numbers of humans gather in concentrated places, its not all going to be warm and fuzzy. I’m surprised BM is this naive. Frankly considering the the high level of fund raising and large donor courting BM partakes in every year, security hasn’t been incorporated into the budget. Make no mistake, this is a large, and becoming larger, non-profit corporation. This is no longer a fun festival bringing in friends and like minded spirits. The world has been invited, what did you all expect? That only the mentally healthy would attend your special festival? I think BM should know better than to assume that this will be a love fest forever. You should have known, and been prepared for, this type of violence before it even happened. If you want to keep this festival going, you need to start predicting these type of events, not wait for them to happen multiple times, before preventative action is taken. It won’t be long before sexual assault becomes the prevalent crime out there and you know it. Are you going to wait until its 500 cases before some preventative measure is enacted? It happens and your ignoring it, waiting to deal until its in the news. Shame on you.

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  • BGV says:

    So sorry this happened to you guys. It’s endemic to Burningman being mainstream now. Our principal of inclusiveness leaves the gate open to people who don’t get it and are just showing up to party. This is sad. I just wanted to let you know, as a former member of a Medieval reenactment group, I’ve had exposure to Smithing. It was quite a treat to wander up on you guys out on the Playa. I found you on a cold night when your fires were a welcome refuge and the familiar sight of your forges a special treat. It was a wonderful installation. I enjoyed it immensely. Thank you for bringing it. I hope to see you all return.

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  • Wild Bill says:

    Oh Dear….I just came from the White Ocean part of this story and the anger there was too much to handle. Reading this section, here are some observations. The vandalism of the Iron Monkeys was sometimes dismissed as human nature and the solutions in some of the posts were also human nature as in (lock the gates to keep them out”. OR..lets be vigilantes and give them a good thumping…OR get rid of all of the non-hard core burners). This all begs the question: Who would spend $500 on a ticket and drive for hours to come and pee all over other peoples things and break them? Summary so far….This is all looking a lot like the default world. Which makes sense as seeing the event grow and problems associated with that growth appear, the Burning Man organization uses solutions from the default word (like safety inspections for art cars, controlling the use of UAVs and such.)

    My input here is to the Burning Man organization. If you can solve this by some other means than increased security or establishing a jail in BRC, or what others have suggested, than you may just come up with something that fundamentally changes way humans interact together and move our civilization forward by a 1000 or 10,000 years. Now that would truly be taking the playa to the world. And it seems that that is what you all wanted in the first place.

    So how do you get that 1% or 3% of BRC citizens oriented to contributing and building the culture instead of the opposite? I don’t know (maybe there is an 11th principle somewhere) of a solution but it is an interesting problem and if a solution could be rolled out to the default world, there would be a noble prize in it for someone.

    In the meantime, as citizens of BRC we can only be open, engaging and caring for all that attend this lovely party in the desert. And lock our stuff up!! I feel amazingly safe in BRC and am in awe of the people there.

    Can’t wait to see you in 2017!!

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  • Lionmane says:

    I couldn’t go this year and was deeply saddened. But the only thing that hurt my heart more was to read about this incident. I kept ensuring my friends here in the default world that this behavior is NOT what the burner culture is all about. I believe us to be parishioners of the land, devotees to the lion-hearted spirit of the community, and cultivators of BR experience.

    My personal thoughts after hearing this: “we are going to get in trouble.” And what I meant by that was I assumed the BM org was gonna lay the smack down for the upcoming years. I figured there would be some serious ramifications, curfews, patrols, increased limitations on entry and camping. In the default world we have so many laws, authority figures; we are constantly being put in line by the social constructs surrounding us.

    Was my response just one from the default world? I’m so used to the fact that the consequences of a few arrogant assholes inevitably changes things for the rest of us proper folk. But, Burning Man is not the default world. They don’t fix problems with fear and intimidation.

    Should we allow our deeply rooted and cherished principles be marred just because a few dickless swine double-fisted whiskey and stupid-juice when the last cute clan of dust bunnies refused their sweaty and musty advances? Well, we wouldn’t be the artists, inventors, teachers, dreamers, or loving burners if we could truly go down like that.

    I am sorry for the Iron Monkeys and want to thank them for being who they are, strong, resourceful, and resilient! You guys are rock stars and can’t nobody hold you down! If I was there I would have fought them off with my leather paddles and crops and stuck around to help you clean. <3 <3 <3

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  • voyager says:

    BM has the ability to come up with some sort of sifting process that will discourage late arrivals who care not a wit about the BM experience. A data base with experienced burners and a db that ID’s newcomers.

    Lottery tix made more available to returning burners. Late arrivals cut off at Weds night? We all honor the mantra of Leave No Trace – create a new mantra – “Steal No Stuff” … I’m a 10yr burner who has not been back since 2008 when I began to sense the seismic shift from a special festival with a true sense of adventure – just to get there after weeks of planning – embracing my brc neighbors, sharing the joy of just being there – to a sad caricature of societal shit – with massive RV camps – colder uninviting peeps arriving towards the weekend- and a general sense of non-inclusivity…. If BM can change itself yet again and fend off some of this evolution towards degradation .. then perhaps myself and my friends – and their friends and their friends some of whom took part back in 1992 – just might return to spread more love and cheer. ….. peace

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  • Major Disaster says:

    My camps sound system was vandalized Burn Night 2014, the speakers were stabbed with kitchen knives during the burn. We cam back in 2015 as a sound camp on 2:00 with a much bigger system.

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  • dragnet says:

    i feel your pain………this is the second year in a row i have had objects taken, 5 each year now, off my deep playa fence projects……this year 5 Jacketz were stolen out of 50 and some solar lights……so not only the big art people are getting hurt but also us smaller projects…….but like you it was worse on the drive home, they don’t win and “bum my high” karma will surface at some point……sorry for your negative experience

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  • playamoth says:

    Vandalism ain’t new to Burning Man. I witnessed illegal burns back in 1999 and 2000. One was the ship made out of pianos. The other was a stack of wood shaped like a pyramid. The Capitalist Pigs I believe burned their own camp after they got ejected from the Playa. Artists and campers should take responsibility in watching out for their pieces and camps as Burning Man also attracts the dregs of society. Some are on the prowl to steal or create mayhem. Some are in attendance in celebration together with probably the largest horde of pyromaniacs from all over the World. Beware!

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