Rave Attendees Claim Rights Violations

Affiliate: ACLU of Missouri
July 17, 2001 12:00 am

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ST. LOUIS — Organizers of a weekend rave near Potosi, Missouri that was shut down by police have contacted the local American Civil Liberties Union about alleged civil rights violations and are encouraging those who attended the party to file complaints against the law enforcement agencies involved, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Arthur Cook, director of the St. Louis chapter of DanceSafe, said partygoers were held against their will for several hours Saturday night as they were searched one by one for illegal drugs.

Cook said he believes the police obtained a search warrant based on false information and overstepped the bounds of the warrant by detaining about 150 people and searching them and their cars without permission.

Denise Lieberman, an attorney with the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, who was contacted by Cook, said she hadn’t yet seen the warrant, but she believes the rights of partygoers might have been violated.

“I do have some concerns about how police handled the situation,” Lieberman said. “If after holding 150 people they only had a few arrests, it doesn’t seem like the information they had was correct.”

Three people were arrested on misdemeanor drug charges and one was arrested on a warrant for a traffic violation, according to Washington County Sheriff Gary Yount. He said officers worked within the law.

Organizers of the event said police overreacted based on bad information and stereotypes about raves — parties that feature long hours of dancing, electronic music and sometimes illegal drugs such as Ecstasy.

“They came in and thought they were going to arrest hundreds of people,” Cook said. “They took away every right we have as Americans.”

Police said they began investigating the rave after the owner of the facility, River of Life Campground, complained, and later obtained a search warrant. Organizers said they spoke with the owner, Ronnie McRaven, who told them he never complained to police. McRaven was unavailable for comment Monday.

The event was hosted by St. Louis-based DVine Productions and was billed as a benefit for the St. Louis chapter of DanceSafe, a national organization that educates young people about how to minimize danger if they choose to use Ecstasy.

Cook said he has a list of most of those who were detained by police. He said he will contact them and ask them to file complaints against the police if they felt their rights were violated.

The ACLU recently came to the defense of New Orleans rave promoters and organizers who were prosecuted under a federal “crack house” law in a government attempt to shut down the rave scene.

“Holding club owners and promoters of raves criminally liable for what some people may do at these events is no different from arresting the stadium owners and promoters of a Rolling Stones concert or a rap show because some concertgoers may be smoking or selling marijuana,” said Graham Boyd, Director of the ACLU’s Drug Policy Litigation Project.

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