Raving Mad

Washington County sheriff's deputies descend on a campground full of electronic-dance enthusiasts, who say their civil rights were trampled

The ACLU is looking into legal action against Washington County authorities. "We received a copy of the warrant, and we are very concerned about the reports and allegations of police conduct on Saturday night," says Denise Lieberman, legal director for the Eastern Missouri branch of the ACLU. "We have concerns that police may have overstepped their authority in executing the warrant in this case. We're concerned that attendees' rights may have been violated.

"The other reason we're concerned about this, and the reason our national office is so concerned, is that it's indicative of a pattern of police activity nationwide against so-called rave parties that is based more on stereotypes about people who listen to a certain type of music than it's based on actual probable cause," Lieberman continues. "The report of this incident on Saturday night is a perfect example of that, where you have only a few arrests. It's dangerous to allow stereotypes that link music that people like with certain activities to be used as probable cause; it's just another form of profiling."

On careful consideration of the facts, the shakedown in Potosi suggests that law-enforcement officials are as ignorant of the law as they are of the dance-music scene. No doubt fueled by half-truths perpetuated by the hysterical, sensation-mongering media, the sheriff's department apparently believes that the end (breaking up a "Rave Party") justifies the means (cavalierly disregarding the constitutional rights of some 150 people). No one is arguing that the electronic-dance community is drug-free, of course. Radar Station has personally witnessed drug use at so-called raves. We've also seen drug use at wedding receptions, rock concerts, business meetings, cocktail parties, float trips, foreign-film festivals and monster-truck rallies. Detain and search 150 people at the ballgame, and you're likely to make a few minor drug arrests. Maybe you'd get infinitesimally closer to winning the unwinnable war on drugs, but you'd also be living in a police state.

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