Police in Utah raided a rave attended by about 400 people. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the rave was illegal and the police broke it up with little violence.
On the other hand, Daily Kos has a different story, claiming that the police used paramilitary tactics to shut down a legal concert, complete with permits and security guards. This is consistent with accounts by some people attending the party. Police say the party organizers had some permits, but not something called a “mass gathering permit.”
The Utah County Sheriff’s Office said there were guns and drugs, and they busted the security guards for drug possession. Attendees say everybody was searched when the entered, so the only weapons were those brought by the police.
The ravers are clearly a crazy bunch, and some of their stories seem pretty far-fetched. Sploid, for example, is somehow linking this mess to George Bush. I doubt the rave was as innocent, legal, and drug-free as the ravers are now saying.
On the other hand, the police side of the story sounds like all the drug war hysteria I’ve been hearing all my life. The police reports all list terrible things that have happened at previous raves, such as drug overdoses and violence. But the same things happen at football games and fraternity parties, and nobody sends armed gunmen to break them up. If somebody is beating up somebody else, the police should arrest the guilty to protect the innocent, not just drive everybody off at gunpoint.
So, who to believe? No, that’s not right. I don’t believe either side completely. A better question is, “Who are the bad guys?” How can we decide that?
Fortunately, there’s video.
And what I see in the video is a bunch of cops shutting down a party. The cops are dressed like soldiers—helmets and camouflage—rather than uniformed police officers, and they’re armed with weapons that look like assault rifles. They throw people on the ground a lot. There are dogs barking. At the end of the video, you can hear the cops yelling at the cameraman to put down his camera.
There’s also one telling detail. The cops are wearing masks.
They hide their faces and don’t want someone to take pictures of what they’re doing. They wear military outfits and have guns. These are not the peace-keepers of a free society. These are not the good guys.
Update: I forgot to mention it, but the security guards arrested for drug possession claim that the drugs had been confiscated from attendees as they passed through security checkpoints.
Utah County Sheriff James Tracy responds:
“[Security guards] have no legal statutory authority to take and hold controlled substances. It’s against the law for them to have them,” Tracy said.
I’m sure that he is technically correct, but is this really a good way to use police resources? I mean, here are some guys preventing kids from doing drugs, and the police response is to arrest them for it? (If the guards are lying, the police should say so, not stand on the legalism.)
By the way, I’ll bet the same legal logic prohibits parents from taking drugs from their own children.