WWII military base has become lawless sanctuary for anarchists in the United States


In a dry and remote patch of California’s Sonoran Desert lies something of a real-life anarchist’s paradise- a village comprised of drifters, snowbirds, transients hippies, and weirdos.

Like a rusted-out, leather-skinned version of Burning Man, the residents of this community have no facilities to speak of, no jobs and no real future. If this place were a person, it would view the world through dry, hollow eyes, mouth agape as the hot desert sun gleamed off its tinfoil hat and sun-weathered skin.

Welcome to Slab City.

Also known as “the slabs,” slab city is home to around 150 permanent residents and varying numbers of transients. Completely off the grid, running water, trash service and electricity are unheard of here.

In the middle of summer, temperatures can soar up to a sweltering 120 °F, though the majority of transients come during the cooler winter months. Be it welfare checks, dwindling retirement funds or bartering, people somehow manage to make it out here.

Slab City wasn’t always a place of chaos. In fact, it was once a place of order and structure.

During World War II, the concrete slabs that give the city its name were foundations for the structures that made up US Marine Corps Camp Dunlap, named after the “Father of Marine Artillery,” Brigadier General Robert H. Dunlap.

This sandy landscape once echoed with the sound of guns large and small as Marines of the Fleet Marine Force trained for the hellish war in the Pacific.

By war’s end, the installation -like countless camps set up all over the United States in World War II- was little more than a series of near-vacant buildings manned by a skeleton crew of bored servicemen. Within a decade or so, the entire camp -all but the concrete slabs, anyway- were dismantled and the installation was turned over to the State of California.

In the 1960s, the camp took new shape. From camper trailers to cardboard houses, people took to the slabs with new life in a way that only the weirdness of the 60’s and 70’s could truly embrace. From giant art displays to sculptures made of garbage and an open-air nightclub, the slabs have become something of a cultural icon for all things weird, unconventional and downright anarchic.

The slabs take all kinds- homeless, drug addicts, hippies, retirees and even veterans. Some are permanent residents. Others, not so much.

Featured in films, music videos and even serving as inspiration for the well-known Fallout video game franchise, the slabs have a little something for everyone to take away- that is, if you dare to visit it.

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