It seems far enough beyond this past weekend’s Electric Zoo festival to say, “thank goodness.”
No one died and there were no major hospitalizations. Unfortunately, you can be sure that promoters and city officials alike will attribute this to their “airport security in a war zone” security and policing tactics.
Like most other attendees, as I walked in on Friday and Saturday I had to pass two drug sniffing dogs, take off and shake out my shoes at the security point and allow my bag a thorough search. I saw uniformed cops strolling around inside more than once over the two days.
And while I didn’t spot the overhead cameras keeping an eye on the crowd (I suppose that’s the point?) as described in a pre-event Wall Street Journal article, the sense of being closely watched was palpable.
I know I’m not the only one noticing these changes. New York DJ Tommie Sunshine made waves when he tweeted on Friday about Electric Zoo being “a police state experiment of lasting proportions.”
He’s not far wrong – again, with no deaths or major hospitalizations reported from this year’s event so far, promoters, city officials and cops have no reason not to believe their reliance on heavy surveillance and enforcement measures wasn’t the reason for that, and to continue with similar strategies at other festivals.
In fact, come to think of it, haven’t we already experienced a version of this story earlier in the summer at another music festival that was also rained out on the third day – the Hudson Music Project? Security and enforcement was aggressive there as well, resulting in 151 arrests.
I haven’t seen the arrest numbers yet for Electric Zoo 2014, but is this really what we want? A certain percentage of attendees to be arrested for behavior that many others engage in without consequence, just so we can maybe save a life by scaring people with cops and dogs?
Some people will say that in order to save a life we must do anything we can, even if that means sacrificing some young people to the untender mercies of our criminal justice system, and tolerating invasive searches and surveillance we would (rightly) protest even at airports.
Those people are wrong.
And especially so since there’s another strategy that would make an impact and hasn’t yet been tried: open, honest dialogue about drug use and safety.
Let me be specific since it’s clear some promoters think they’ve already gone down that path (looking at you, EZoo PSA). Young people, especially at festivals like EZoo, need to hear about molly, what it is – and isn’t, what exactly it does, and why people might use it – or not use it.
For the ones that are determined to make it part of their experience, they need to be equipped with real safer use strategies, not just “hydrate.” Hydrating is great until it isn’t – how many young people know that it’s possible to drink too much water, and potentially die, if using molly? Not enough.
So I implore you: if you attended Electric Zoo 2014, please don’t be complacent about their choice to add more cops and dogs instead of real, honest drug education. Organizations like mine, the Drug Policy Alliance, and also DanceSafe and others, are actively working to try and convince EZoo promoters and others to work with us to take this alternate path.
If you’re with us, please show your support.
Stefanie Jones is the nightlife community engagement manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.
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Author: Stefanie Jones
Date Published: September 5, 2014
Published by Drug Policy Alliance