Rave fans across nation, online weigh in on Racine crackdown
Published by JS Online – Monday 9th December 2002
Copyright: JS Online
Police citations written to 441 people for attending a rave? What! From Washington state to Washington, D.C., you can almost hear the e-mails and newsgroup postings whizzing by.
“When there’s word of something like this, it spreads pretty quick,” Madison, Ill., rave promoter Jeff Lofink said in an interview Monday. He’d seen postings about the Racine rave bust on http://www.stlouisraver.com/, http://www.hallucination.com/ and in various Internet newsgroups.
“Usually, you have to be doing something wrong to get a ticket,” Lofink said, explaining why some people are upset.
His impression of Racine?
A place “where the police don’t follow the laws too much, where they feel they can overstep their bounds.”
The Police Department certainly has come under fire, albeit mostly from teenagers and young adults who attend rave parties, where “electronic music” has found a home. The national criticism, some officials say, may be unfair.
When the Racine County Sheriff’s Department raided a rave in Yorkville, it did what many law enforcement agencies have done: break up the party and write citations to the party organizers.
That’s a far cry from the 441 citations – at $968 apiece – that Racine police wrote to everyone attending a Nov. 2 rave near downtown.
But the Yorkville rave was six or seven years ago, Sheriff William McReynolds said, before local authorities had any indication that rave parties were virtually synonymous with the illegal use of drugs, usually Ecstasy.
“I think the Police Department was looking at a whole different situation,” the sheriff said.
Journal Sentinel reporters attended a rave in late April at the Alliant Energy Center of Madison and found much the same thing. Ecstasy seemed to be the main attraction that night among the crowd of 3,000. About two-thirds of the young people who were asked acknowledged using the drug, and some said they bought it there.
The use of Ecstasy is skyrocketing nationwide. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Justice indicated that emergency room personnel had seen a 500% increase in patients on the drug in the six years ending in 1999. It is now considered the fastest-growing drug problem in Wisconsin.
However, rave fans on the Internet think it was outrageous that merely attending the Racine party resulted in getting a citation for being an “inmate of a disorderly house/controlled substances.”
Pointing out that only three people at the party were arrested on drug charges, they said in interviews that they’re spreading word about the Racine bust, in part, to be prepared if the tactic is used elsewhere.
“There’s just this misconception that we’re the only ones doing (drugs),” said Mike Phillips, 26, of suburban Washington, D.C. “I go because I like the music. You can’t punish the people that are going for the right reasons because of the ones that are going (for drugs).”
Phillips and others who discuss the Racine bust and other rave issues over the Internet said they had never heard of police writing citations to party-goers. They said Racine police probably cracked down hard so that no raves would be held in the city in the future – and that the technique probably was effective.
City officials have acknowledged that they want to deter future parties, even as the city attorney’s office has made plea bargains. Last week, those cited who pleaded no contest to the “inmate/controlled substances” citation were fined only $100. And on Monday, when the second wave of ravers made their initial court appearance, those who pleaded no contest received the lower fine and had their citation changed to disorderly conduct, with no reference to controlled substances.
But the city still faces the potentially costly prospect of having to hire a special prosecutor and pay police overtime for hundreds of trials. In numbers similar to last week, 94 of the 139 who appeared in court Monday pleaded not guilty, 28 did not appear and only 17 took the plea bargain.
Police in Racine were suckered by the “corporate sensational media,” which make it seem that every rave is rife with illegal drug use, said Jon Gibson, 23, of Vancouver, Wash. The crackdown will only create more danger, he said, because rather than being held in bars, raves will go back to being held underground.
That would be a shame, said Dave Meeker of Chicago, director of The Selekta, an organization that supports electronic music deejays, promoters and producers. As rave parties have become more public, they have increased security and searches at the door, he said.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve seen drug dealers pushed out the door and their drugs flushed down the toilet” without police needing to intervene, Meeker said.
Others who have gotten involved in the Racine bust aren’t fighting for the right to party, necessarily, but to preserve civil liberties.
Amy Tyler, host of a daily talk show on KTBB-AM in Houston, said she had discussed the Racine case several times last week because she and her listeners view the raid as a misuse of police power.
“Government has just gotten away with too much for too long, and it’s time we started fighting back,” Tyler said.