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From the Dancesafe e-mail newsletter

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES ANTI-RAVE OFFENSIVE

In New Orleans this week, a well-known rave promoter, James "Donnie" Estopinal, 32, of New Orleans club owner Robert J. Brunet, 37, of Metairie, and his brother Brian Brunet, 33, of Tampa, Fla. will turn themselves in to a federal court after having been indicted under a 1986 federal "anti-crack house" law. The indictments represent the beginning of what federal authorities have indicated will be a nationwide effort to shut down the rave scene in an effort to reduce drug use among young people. By equating raves with crackhouses, the government is asserting that drug use is the primary purpose for holding the events, and, in fact, is the central focus of the rave culture itself. If they are successful, it will be de facto illegal to hold or promote an electronic music event anywhere in America.

The defendants, who are not accused of any direct involvement with illicit drugs, are nevertheless facing 20 years in prison and $500,000 fines simply for throwing raves.

The case has received widespread media coverage since the indictments were announced last week, as, for the first time in a generation, government forces have essentially declared war on an entire youth culture. The outcome of this case carries serious implications, not only for the rave community, but for young people everywhere. Eddie Jordan, the federal prosecutor who brought the case, told ABC News that he has already heard from US Attorneys around the country who are hoping to use this same strategy to arrest rave promoters in their own districts.

You can read the local New Orleans coverage of the case at:
http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n076/a07.html?7132
http://www.nola.com/news/todaysnews.ssf?/t-p/frontpage/348032548-0113national0

As shocking as they seem, however, the arrests in New Orleans do not come as a complete surprise. Nearly one year ago, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) launched an intensive anti-rave media campaign, which has resulted in enormous coverage of raves and ecstasy by the national media. Six months ago, the DEA held a conference on "raves and club drugs" in Washington DC, during which numerous speakers claimed that raves were "nothing more than crack houses." The seeds for this crackdown, then, have been sown for some time.

You can read a report on the DEA Ecstasy Conference at: http://www.cognitiveliberty.org/reports/DEAconf.htm

The final justification, it seems, for this offensive came less than one month ago when the results of the latest National Household Survey on Drug Abuse showed that ecstasy use among young people had skyrocketed. Availability of the drug was also shown to have risen sharply. Thus, armed with enough statistics and rhetoric to frighten American parents, and enough media hype to push politicians to feed their budgets, the federal drug war bureaucracy swung into action.

But the chosen strategy - trying to equate raves with crackhouses - presents significant hurdles for the DEA. According to the 1986 law against crack house operators, a "crack house" is a place "created or maintained for the purpose of" conducting illegal drug activity. This may be difficult for federal prosecutors to show in any case. In New Orleans, it seems that the promoter and club in question took standard measures to prevent drug use from occurring. All patrons were searched upon entering, and those found with illegal drugs inside the club, or even suspected of having illegal drugs on them, were either ejected or arrested by the club's security. These are standard practices within the music industry, and hardly the actions of someone whose purpose was to provide a venue for people to use illegal drugs.

In singling out the electronic music events from other music events where drug use takes place, this indictment constitutes a serious violation of the First Amendment rights of a community's free expression and right to assemble. Music is a constitutionally protected form of free speech, and banning or"cracking down" upon the gatherings of one form of music culture is something that can and must be opposed.

Banning raves is unlikely to prevent youth drug use, but such a move is likely to increase the risks of the use that does occur. In Florida, for example, six young people died last Spring when a batch of fake ecstasy tablets containing PMA passed through the state. None of these individuals who died purchased their pills at raves. In fact, the deaths occurred in the wake of "Operation Heat Rave," a concerted effort by Florida law enforcement and the state's drug czar's office to close down the rave scene there.

Perhaps if the rave scene had been allowed to continue, and the State of Florida worked with the industry to implement safe settings protocols and harm reduction measures, one or more of these young people who died would have come across a DanceSafe booth and learned to identify and avoid the deadly PMA Mitsubishi tablets going around.

Banning raves will not stop drug use, nor will it prevent deaths from misuse and abuse, but it will make it much harder for public health organizations who do outreach to drug users to get potentially life-saving information into the hands of those who need it.

Check the DanceSafe website very soon for more information.

DanceSafe, in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union and a number of promoters around the country, have been working intensely during the last week to put together a plan of action, which we will be launching shortly.

What can you do to help?

1. Sign up to DanceSafe's email list (if you haven't already.)

2. Forward this story to friends and tell them to sign up. We will need to have as many people as possible informed and ready to act if we are to effectively combat this strategy of oppression.

3. Donate to DanceSafe, either by credit card on our secure site at http://dancesafe.org/support.html or by sending a check to DanceSafe at: 1714 Franklin Street #100-333 Oakland, CA 94712 (NOTE: This is NOT the address for the lab. DO NOT send pills to this address)

It will cost money to create and implement a legal, political and PR strategy to fight back, and even small donations will help. Note that small donations are used for our lobbying efforts and are not tax deductible. If you'd like to make a tax deductible donation, please contact us at donations@dancesafe.org.

4. Follow this story and the emerging efforts to fight back via DanceSafe E-News and on our site. Stay informed! Get involved! Stand up for your community and your culture!

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