Worldwide rave powerhouse Insomniac Events celebrated another successful Nocturnal Wonderland festival this past weekend in the outskirts of Los Angeles. Almost 70,000 ravers poured through the gates of the San Manuel Ampitheater in Devore for the event, which featured massive names in EDM, house, techno, and bass music.
The only black mark on proceedings was the 428 arrests made by local law enforcement over the course of the weekend. The vast majority of arrests were made for posession of drugs and trespassing, although there were a handful of assaults, one in particular towards a police officer and another instance in which an intoxicated festival-goer crashed his car into an officer's motorbike. 5 individuals were sent to the hospital, but there are no reports as yet of any deaths related to the event.
Arrest numbers are up from last year, where approximately 200 partiers were handcuffed and detained during the first two days of the festival. The alarmingly high number of arrests made at dance festival in Southern California is a result of the contentious relationship between the County of Los Angeles and rave culture, one that dates back over a decade.
Above, a hardened criminal gets justice delivered.
Tensions and public scrutiny towards dance festivals remain high after three deaths occured at HARD Summer festival in Fontana earlier in the Summer, an event that was noted by many sources as being flagrantly ill-equipped in terms of medical end emergency facilities for the amount of people in attendance. Though it should be celebrated that Nocturnal Wonderland was a safe event and that Insomniac maintain industry-leading practices on harm reduction both as an organization and on the ground at the festival, the sheer volume of arrests is a sad indictment of the current state of policing drugs in California.
As the United States' War on Drugs has been deemed a complete and abject failure, so will Los Angeles' War on Raves. Law enforcement have been reduced to haranguing teenage girls in tutus rather than doing actual police work, and their involvement serves to be entirely counter-productive and humiliating for all involved.
Further, the reticence of governmental bodies to engage in common-sense application of harm reduction policies, preferring a Draconian, near-fascist mass-arrest policy, is stoking an unhealthy environment. Elected officials consider promoting drug-testing booths and harm reduction education to be an implicit acknowledgment of drug culture, something that will lose them the votes from the crusty geriatrics who make it out to the polls for city elections, so instead of enacting progressive policy that will both save lives and promote culture, they prefer to make meaningless arrests in big statements that actually serve no purpose other than performing the charade of action.
Like it or not, drugs, in rave culture and far, far, far beyond, are not going to disappear. To continually and ham-handedly attack the symptoms instead of address the root causes will get nobody anywhere. After relaunching the 'LA Rave Task Force' last year, the only suggestions the organization has come up with is that events should provide 'more water, policing, and the installation of amnesty boxes.'
If amnesty boxes are the brightest idea that the City Council can come up with, for now, all we can say is that you should probably be sticking your drugs further up your keester next time you hit the boonies for a big one.
Jemayel Khawaja is on Twitter.