From GLC Voice September 17, 1990
Federal officers lead raid on men’s festival
One accused of sex with a minor; one charged with possession of marijuanaby Rex Wockner
Federal officers lead raid on men’s festival One accused of sex with a minor; one charged with possession of marijuana by Rex Wockner Thirty police officers-local, county, state and the FBI- raided a gay campout near Boone, Iowa Aug. 25, arresting one man for possession of marijuana and another for allegedly having had sex with a minor. The 70 campers, who, according to organizers, are mostly “doctors and lawyers and other professionals,” gather yearly for the Midwest Men’s Festival (Editor’s note. The Men’s Center in Minneapolis is one of the organizers of this event and many of those attending were from the Twin Cities.) In previous years, the 10-day gathering was in Missouri. It was moved this year after Missouri state park officials cancelled the group’s reservation, claiming that last year many of the men were nude, and that at least one couple had sex, which is illegal in Missouri. The 7:00 a.m. raid lasted two hours, according to festival spokesmen. Police poked their heads into cabins and tents, inquiring if any children were present, organizers said. Photo albums, festival records, personal papers and other materials were seized. Several of the officers wore rubber gloves. Others video-taped the raid. (Editor’s note. Veteran gay rights activist Philip Willkie, of Saint Paul, told the GLC Voice he was at the conference prior to the raid but that he awakened at dawn the morning of the raid and returned to Saint Paul. Willkie is publisher of the James White Review, a gay men’s literary quarterly which covers many of the issues of the “mens movement.” Several years ago, Willkie championed the meeting rights of the North American Man Boy Love Association and hosted a visit of NAMBLA organizer David Thorstad to the Twin Cities.) Boone County Attorney Steven Oeth told the Des Moines Register that police went to the campsite, called Elk Horn Ranch, because of “concern about what was going on.” Police later said that two informants had attended the festival and that one observed Harry Hayes of Hiawatha, KS, (known as “Link” to conference attendees) have sex with a nine- year-old boy referred to as “Lightening” who was attending the conference with his step-father. Boone County Sheriff Ronald Fahr added that two cars at the campground were registered to men convicted of sex offenses with children. But Rich Eychaner, co- owner of the campground, believes the raid was the result of police homophobia. “We’ve had women’s groups, individuals who want to meditate.. .church groups,” he told reporters. “But when we had a predominately gay group, the FBI went in to raid the place.” Mark Reed, a spokesman for the festival, condemned the raid as “excessive,” but added that sex with minors is not condoned by organizers of the gathering. Eugene Meyer, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, defended the use of a large number of police officers, explaining that the encampment was spread out over 160 acres “and we had a search warrant to look for children, child pornography and drugs.” One police informant allegedly said that he saw the child and Hayes engage-“in what appeared to be [a] consensual” sex act the day before the raid. The informant also observed a photo album in the dining hall that contained pictures of nude men and children, police said. (Editor’s note. Missouri law does not recognize consensual sex with nine year olds) The other informant’s allegations are not nearly so damaging. At press time, festival spokesmen said they were gathering evidence that could contradict the reports of the informant, but they did not provide details. The Midwest Men’s Festival was started in 1982 by a group of men from Missouri most of whom are gay.