Climate and anti-capitalist activists blocked a road leading into Burning Man on Sunday, the annual event’s opening day, creating miles of gridlock and leading to clashes with motorists and tribal rangers in the Nevada desert.
Video and photos posted on X, the website formerly known as Twitter, show a trailer blocking the road that leads to Black Rock City, along with about half a dozen protesters, some of whom locked themselves to the trailer, and banners with signs including “BURNERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!,” “ABOLISH CAPITALISM,” and “GENERAL STRIKE FOR CLIMATE,” also blocked the road. A sign reading “Ban Private Jets” was draped across the asphalt.
The blockade aimed to spotlight “capitalism’s inability to address climate and ecological breakdown,” according to a statement from Seven Circles, a coalition of activist organizations who organized the protest.
“The blockade is also in protest against the popularization of Burning Man among affluent people who do not live the stated values of Burning Man, resulting in the commodification of the event,” Seven Circles said. “The group emphasizes the current existential crisis and importance of honesty when social collapse is at risk.”
The protests brought clogged traffic, with many people getting out of their cars or trying to find ways around the roadblock. One video shows confrontations between the protesters and people stuck in traffic, some of whom said they needed to go to work. Several motorists tried to remove the barricade themselves, according to videos posted online.
One video shows a white pickup truck that appears to be from the Pyramid Lake Ranger Station, a tribal law enforcement agency, broadcasting a message over the vehicle’s PA system telling demonstrators, “This is a state route,” and “Everybody will be arrested” if they don’t disperse and get off the road.
“Thirty seconds, send your leader to my vehicle, let’s talk, get off the f— road,” someone can be heard saying.
Another clip shows a ranger’s truck blasting through the barricade with its sirens and lights sounding through the desert. An announcement comes over a truck’s PA system telling demonstrators, “I’m gonna take all of you out, you better move.” An official then gets out of the truck with a gun drawn, yelling at protesters to “get down now.”
The protesters do not appear to be armed, with demonstrators repeatedly saying they are “nonviolent.”
Several protesters were put in handcuffs at the scene, according to the video.
It is unclear when officers were called, how many people were arrested or why an officer pulled a gun on what appear to be unarmed protesters. Officials with Pyramid Lake did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Jonathan Brunjes, deputy administrator with Nevada State Parks, confirmed that the responding officers were not Nevada state park angers or state of Nevada employees.
In its statement, Seven Circles criticized Burning Man’s “apolitical stance” and what it characterizes as the event’s insufficient steps toward “attaining carbon negativity and ecological regeneration for Black Rock City by 2030.”
“Much more can and must be done,” the group said.
The group has put forward three demands for Burning Man leadership, including advocating for systemic political and economic change, mobilizing Burners to collaborate with social justice and environmental movements on strikes and calls to actions to enforce bringing about systemic change and to “lead by example.”
An online petition started by Emily Collins, a burner and co-founder of Rave Revolution, one of the groups involved in the protest, had collected 23 signatures early Monday morning.
Burning Man began Sunday and runs through Sept. 4, according to the Burning Man Project website.