::Repost from old blog::
I wrote this for the DC Indymedia
(I took the pictures, which are currently hosted on the DCIMC)
|ROAR (Ravers Organized Against the Rave Act) the National Dance & Music Rights Alliance held a demonstration at the Upper Senate Park on Saturday, September 6th 2003. Sponsored ROAR, Drug Policy Alliance, and numerous other groups, the demonstration brought over a thousand electronic dance music (EDM) lovers from around the country together to take a stand against Anti-Rave legislation. International superstar djs, local djs, and a handful of guest speakers took their message to hundreds who danced all day and into the night. The police presence was minimal and the entire event went off without a hitch to the casual observer.|
Guest speakers spoke to the audience from 5pm to 6pm midway through the event. All of their messages were relatively similar pointing to the fact that everyone needed to work together to help stop the war on drugs. They also equated that the war on electronic dance music was an extension of the drug war. A founder, producer, and dj of house music, a genre of electronic music, from Chicago named Jesse Saunders spoke to the crowd about how its about a love of music that he keeps djing. He’d remarked on the “Disco Demolition Derby” in Wrigley field in Chicago, which signified the end of the disco era. An era which had brought people together in the same way that electronic music has for this generation. He talked about how he’d also seen thousands of people laid out on drugs at large EDM events and people dying in front of him while djing. It seemed his message was not so much confused as it was poignant. His love of electronic music gives him a job, which brings people together, and sadly when people party they sometimes go overboard. One of the most interesting messages was from the respected DC DJ Sam “the man” Burns, who simply said “You need to keep your scene clean.” He asked people in the crowd to put up their hands if a friend had died from drug use. After looking at the numerous hands which had came up he said it was sad how many people lost their lives to drugs. It was a conflicting message compared to that of the other speakers who seemed to be fighting for laxer drug laws.
Yet Sam “the man” Burns decided to address 3 people talking (instead of listening to him), and he felt the need to call them drug users. I found it very crass. Representative and democrat presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) was supposed to speak at the event, but no details were given as to why he did not speak. He was the one speaker I wished to see the most.
All day the djs were on point and played nearly the entire range of EDM genres. The like Kucinich, the three time DMC world champion, DJ Craze, did not show up. Yet he was replaced with the 2003 USA DMC champion DJ Enferno, who happens to be from DC. His set at 4pm turning point in the dj sets. Since he is a turntablist (using the turntable to make new sound via scratching & beat juggling) many people moved toward the stage area.
Prior to his set nearly everyone was spread out toward the backside of the park. Following him were the speakers, which kept the crowd near the stage. Following the remarks from Jesse Saunders, who was not even scheduled to speak, was international house dj Junior Vasquez. As a headliner of the event, his set set had most of the people in attendance dancing. He was followed by DJ Pollywog from San Francisco, who was a dj in the movie GROOVE. She was dressed up as Abraham Lincoln, and in my opinion had the best outfit at the event.
She played an interesting mix of the genre breaks aka nu-skool breaks. Following her was international trance dj D:Fuse from Texas. Wearing his cowboy hat, he made remarks on removing George Bush from the White House. Following his uplifting progressive trance dj set, was drum & bass dj Reid Speed from New York. Her heavy hitting drum & bass set had the crowd moving like no other dj. Closing the evening off was Jesse Saunders who played an energetic house set. All in all, the music was great.
A friend of mine once said you cannot spell RAVE without the letter E. The cynical comment was scoffed at by the EDM purists who felt that raves were about music and not the alphabet soup of drugs that can be found at rave. Yet even at the ROAR protest rally people where still hooked on phonics.
Although not immediately apparent, as with most drug use, a few participants mentioned to me that they had taken drugs while at event. When asked why, their answers ranged from “it is a special event” to “I thought it would be fun.” However the entire point of the rally was to convince the powers that be that raves and events where electronic dance music is played are not havens of drug use. Since the vast majority of the people in attendance were completely sober, the negligence of a few people cast a large shadow of doubt that any change in the laws will actually take place.
But for some the right to dance also means the right to do drugs. Granted, I strongly believe that we should be entitled to consume what we want so long as we do not infringe on the freedoms of others, yet there is a fine line of when to be sober. At an event which is in defense of the entire rave scene because of similar drug use, why then would people be so ignorant to circumvent the meaning of the protest? Maybe those few who were on drugs were taking part in a direct action, while the rest of the sober participants were simply casual observers of the demonstration. Maybe their obscure goal was to show that the passage of the Anti-Rave legislation and its implementation will be a failure like the war on drugs. Maybe they were right, but I found their choice to use drugs simply bad taste.
Yet those ravers on drugs ruined the event for me. Granted I had a wonderful time dancing and listening to the speakers and djs, but those who participated in the silent direct action made me feel sad for the electronic dance scene which I’ve been a part of for the last 5 years. I honestly thought that ravers would refrain from using drugs at an event that is trying to put the scene in a better light. Yet its that same minority that are the ones who get events shut down and facilitate freedom stifling legislation. Maybe they’ll refrain from drug use at future events, but I think they have permanently confused & merged their right to dance and their right to do drugs.
Last year, two weeks after the first ROAR event took place, the DC area’s largest EDM event Buzz got shut down for the same reasons. Everyone likes to party, but people need to learn how to grasp the concept of “all of the party, and none of the ravE” when taking a stand for their right to dance, because for most participants at the ROAR event the right to dance comes first and the right to use drugs comes second. When these concepts are divorced maybe the legislation will be changed, however I see it unlikely.
Short History on the Anti-Rave legislation
The RAVE (Reducing Americans Vulnerability to Ecstasy) Act was passed January 24th, 2003 in an unrelated child abduction bill called the Amber Alert (S151) by a 92 to 0 vote. The RAVE Act was first introduced by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) and he was able to sneak the act into the Amber Alert bill even after two of the original sponsors withdrew their support for the bill. The RAVE Act is draconian legislation that makes venue owners and promoters of any concert, party, rave, fundraiser, or protest responsible if one of the attendees uses an illegal drug. The bill is so broadly written it can be used to intimidate business owners and promoters to not hold events because of steep fines and possible jail time. It has already been used in Montana to stop a NORML / Students for a Sensible Drug Policy rally. There is also two bills in congress: the RAVE Act 2, also known Ecstasy Awareness Act (HR 2962) and the CLEAN-UP Meth Act (HR 834) which will allow the DEA and police more power to shut down events which might potential have drug use. In section 305 of the CLEAN-UP (Clean, Learn, Educate, Abolish, Neutralize, and Undermine Production) Meth Act, it makes it a federal crime punishable for up to nine years in prison for promoting “any rave, dance, music, or other entertainment event that takes place circumstances where the promoter knows or reasonably ought to know that a controlled substance will be used of distributed” Which means if a person strip searched every person and somehow someone slips a drug into the event, the promoter will face a fine and possible jail time. In the Ecstasy Awareness Act reads very similarly, whereby a promoter can be jailed for “profiting momentarily from a rave or similar electronic dance event knowing or having reason to know that some attendees will use drugs.” While the RAVE Act was passed with broadly written terms, the CLEAN UP Meth Act & Ecstasy Awareness Acts both are written to stifle electronic dance music industry. Prior to the RAVE Act the crack house law was used to shut down an event in New Orleans. This closure fostered the creation of new legislation which targets places where electronic music is played.