By Laura Zuckerman
(Reuters) - A Montana police chief has apologized for labeling a group that espouses nonviolence but is known for woodsy gatherings where showers are rare as "extremist" when seeking federal grant money for a new command vehicle.
Missoula Police Department Chief Mike Brady said in an email released on Wednesday that his department had wrongly named the Rainbow Family of Living Light as an example of a group that needed watching and a "possible response" by authorities.
The original application seeking funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for a vehicle that would upgrade police communications cited the Rainbow Family as an "extremist" group whose activities made the vehicle necessary.
"While the intent of citing the Rainbow Gathering was to provide an example of a large event in which there could be a local impact that would need monitoring and possible response by law enforcement, it was a bad example for which I apologize," Brady said in an email submitted Tuesday to the Missoula City Council.
A public uproar ensued at a council meeting earlier this week when Rainbow Family followers objected to pairing the pacifist group with avalanches and the Hells Angels motorcycle club as examples of "hazards" local police might address with the so-called command vehicle.
The Rainbow Family last flocked to public lands in Montana in 2013 for a gathering that raised concerns among some locals about the group's personal hygiene practices but otherwise proceeded without incident, federal land managers said.
The group first gathered in Colorado in 1972, according to its "unofficial" website, where the Rainbow Family is described as "the largest organization of non-members in the world." The website does not contain an estimate of the "non-members."
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Eric Walsh)