Is Slab City, California the Last Free Place in America?

Dwellers of the Desert Community—Both Exiles and Refugees—Are Staging an Experiment in 'Adaptation and Resistance'

When the alert pinged on my phone, I thought of Austin and his house of wooden pallets. A “wall of dust” roiled toward Slab City and other “impacted locations” in California’s Imperial County, and the National Weather Service warned: “avoid outdoor exposure.” It was an official weather bulletin for an unofficial place. An advisory with no remedy, because with pallets for walls there is no inside.

Now in its seventh decade, Slab City is a longstanding but chronically impermanent settlement built on Camp Dunlap, a decommissioned World War II training camp. …