By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
Meanwhile, word of the location had spread and thousands of Rainbow Family members began to descend on the area. The rapid increase in numbers made any enforcement of the water rights increasingly problematic.
On June 17, it appeared the Rainbows had agreed to hire tankers to truck in water. However, on June 21, when Peters went up to check the level of the lake, she found two bigger diversion pipes had been installed. The Rainbows told her that the Forest Service had said the city had cut a deal allowing use. There were then 3,000 people camping at the site.
Several days later, someone called "Sug" Peters at home and left a death threat.
"They said, 'Water Bitch, we're going to kill you,'" Peters says.
"We were all very aware that there would be bloodshed now if we tried to enforce this. None of the water owners were willing to sacrifice our local law enforcement or anybody else over this issue. Had someone acted assertively at the beginning, it could have been controlled."
The Town of Springerville, Peters and Baker wrote a letter to the Rainbows stating for the record that none of them had consented to give away the water. But they decided not to demand that law enforcement stop the water diversions.
The Apache County Sheriff's Office says it was prepared to protect the property--if someone had filed a formal complaint. Even though property owners had complained, they weren't willing to turn it into a police matter. The county also was authorized to request the National Guard if needed, a contingency that was discussed.
"We were prepared to do what we had to do to protect their rights and property there," says Jim Morris, spokesman for the Apache County Sheriff's Office. "While they're not happy about this, they aren't prepared to force us to take drastic action that might endanger the lives of either the Rainbows or law enforcement personnel."
Peters says, "We made the decision not to request a complaint and the National Guard because we knew what would happen at that point, simply because we don't want the violence. After the threat that was made against me, it made it a much clearer issue to us.
"I never had any idea that this would evolve as it has, but I still would have defended my rights," Peters says. "I do not believe that anarchy should ever be allowed to rule in this country, when sheer numbers just go in and say we're going to disregard every law there is, and that's what's happening here."
For now, the sheriff's office and the state Department of Public Safety have increased patrols around the Peters' ranch where she and her husband run about 150 head of cattle. Her husband wants her to start carrying a gun, which she refuses to do.
Then she laughs and says, "After this is over, I don't want to see anybody for a long time. I'm gonna go hug my cows.