A group of Pagans were kicked out of public park in Bakersfield, California, after complaints were made to local park officials. While at first it seemed like it was going to be a simple misunderstanding that would be cleared up, it soon escalated to them being ejected by park rangers and told they could never come back.
“Collin Bentley, an Odinist, said, “Our arms are raised (in the air). So it’s easy to see how a bunch of white guys, in a park, with tattoos, could be mistaken.” With all of the complaints from the nearby community, a park ranger and two Kern County sheriff’s deputies were called out to investigate these rituals.Don Parkins, an Odinist said, “We paused, answered their questions, pointed out our artifacts, the altar, the flag, what we were doing, laid it out for them in basic. And they said, ‘OK, you’re not breaking any laws, you’re not being disruptive, so you folks have a good day now.’” But the group said the ranger came back with five more deputies, and wanted them to leave.Parkins said, “(The ranger) said, “I won’t have that (expletive) in my park ever again.’ And I said, ‘Well let’s go back to north of the river’, and he said, ‘You won’t have it in any of my parks.’”" He stepped over the line at that point. He’s gone beyond what his call of duty is,” Parkins said.”
After this story hit the news-wires Wren’s Nest picked it up, and soon it spread through various social networking sites and message boards. It is certainly obvious that the group shouldn’t have been kicked off the park, they didn’t seem to be harming or threatening anyone, and they’ll no doubt have recourse for a lawsuit should they choose to pursue it. But why the strange about-face from the park ranger? Why did he go from “have a good day” to “you won’t have it in any of my parks”? Now it is true that Bakersfield, California is no wonderland for occult and Pagan religions, they were the infamous home of a major Satanic (panic) ritual abuse case in the 1990s, and an occult shop there was harassed back in 2007, but this seems a bit different. Why the turn-around? If the ranger was a Pagan-hater I doubt he would have given them a pass the first time around.
For the answer, we need to do some digging into the group holding the ritual as to why things got so heated. But before we begin, I need to stress that this shouldn’t change the outcome of any potential legal case whatsoever. This group has as much a right to use public property as any other group, I’m simply trying go deeper than the rather sparse ABC affiliate news report. What the report doesn’t tell you is that this group is a conservative “folkish” Odinist group. Considering the fact that many Odinists re-appropriate symbols tainted by the Nazis, (like the Black Sun, which the group posts on its web page) perhaps the first ranger was mis-informed by the other rangers after his initial encounter that this was actually a Nazi group. Certainly it couldn’t have helped when a neighbor told rangers that “(they were) saluting Hitler with their war bird flag.” That still doesn’t justify their expulsion, but it may explain the strange change of heart that led to their eviction.
In any case, according to Raven’s Folk Kindred, a complaint is now pending, and we’ll see if this leads to litigation.
“There was a Formal Complaint made to Zach Miller of the NOR. The complaint was faxed to him the day after the call was made to the director of NOR. If NOR decides not to keep us up to date on the actions they are taking to correct the situation we are prepared to move forward with a civil suit.”
We’ll keep you posted regarding any updates.