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The music scene I participate in is looked down upon by the police of most major cities, especially in the bible belt. That whole "right of the people to peaceably assemble" part of the bill of rights was appearantly lost on all of them. At any rate, I have been face to face with these cities' cops, and have some idea -- albeit a very case-specific one -- of the way they treat crowds. I'll share my experiences here for the benefit of others who might find themselves in the same circumstances, in the same cities.

These are ordered from most to least first-hand experience:

Kansas City, MO:
The police here are usually pretty calm and businesslike. Generally, when breaking up a party, they simply enter the premises in a group of four or five, and have the promoters tell everybody to leave. Exit searches are rare, but do occur after about one party a year. Busts almost always happen between the hours of 11 pm and about 1 am; if a party makes it to 1:30 am, it's almost guaranteed to go all night. It is noteworthy that KC police do not (that I know of) engage in beatings, fire hoses, or tear gas -- they're pretty well mannered in their harassment.

Every two years or so they do a big televised "bust," where they come in in full riot gear with big plastic shields, and push every everybody around. In the latest of these, they made everybody leaving the party form a single file line to exit. As the people left, the undercovers pointed to this one or that one, and they were pulled out of line and detained. Funny thing is, they didn't just pull out the drug dealers, but the promoters and some DJs, too. One promoter even got to spend the night in jail before bail could be arranged.

Topeka, KS:
Pretty much like Kansas City cops, only with wicked helicopter presence. Last time I left a busted party in Topeka there were two police helicopters lighting up the building and area with spotlights, and one news chopper getting footage from a reasonable distance. I was cool with this (waved to my mom at the news helicopter, even), but most of the kids were completely spooked by all the noise and light. A friend of mine described it as a scene from Police State 2: Raver Judgment Day.

Omaha, NE:
Now this was some fun stuff. The venue was cleared for the night and there wouldn't have been any problems, but at 2 am a poorly erected lighting truss fell on some poor girl's head. Police and support arrived en masse to help the girl and shut down the party. But it wasn't just any 800 person party, the building was at capacity with more than 5200 people!

I guess by Omaha law, when dealing with that many people they have to send out the entire force or something. It was easily the most police I've seen in one place before: twelve or so cars, three big personnel transport vans, an ambulance, a fire engine, etc. The crowd was having none of it though, they were all standing around the street (which was six lanes wide, and we took up all of it) trying to find friends, or yelling at the cops, or looking for the afterparty, or vainly hoping they would be let back in.

The police, of course, didn't like this. They showed their distaste with pepper gas.

It was no fun at all, and is not recommended. I've heard that this is common in Omaha, but that any party that doesn't get busted really goes off. Good luck, if you accept the risk.

St. Louis, MO:
Okay, finally a place where the cops are friendly and respectful. Here's the extent of a conversation my friend had about his backpack with one of a policeman doing searches at the door:
Friend: Here you go (lays bag on table and unzips).
Officer: (looks over at bag from seated position) What you got in there, a bunch of toys and candy and shit?
Friend: Yeah, and a pair of fuzzy slippers.
Officer: Go on in and have a good time.

Cool as hell, no? Over the course of the night I saw at least two police officers wearing candy, and one bumping her hips to the beat. These were real cops too -- as opposed to rent-a-cops -- they had the "St. Louis Police Department" badges to prove it.

Chicago, IL:
No first-hand experience here, so take this with the requisite NaCl. I have two friends who have personally (yes, I saw the scabs and black eyes) been beaten by Chicago pigs. Tear gas, shields, and clubs are routine, and fire hosing is not unheard of. You would do well to keep away, no matter how fun the party sounds. During the fall of 2000, Chicago passed an anti-rave ordinance, and now around two thirds of the parties that are planned there are busted mercilessly. Avoid Chicago!

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