Burning Man 2015: By The Numbers Part 1

SR-71 Blackbird using Afterburner. Image: Wikimedia Commons

SR-71 Blackbird using Afterburner. Image: Wikimedia Commons

BMOrg have just released the Afterburn Report for 2015.

Some information that used to be provided, is now hidden. Here are some of the key details missing:

  • medical services visits, nature of injuries
  • arrests and citations
  • number of vehicles
  • number of aircraft at the airport
  • entry and exodus times
  • volume of ice sold
  • number of people watching live video stream

All of this was freely available in the past; it’s hard to see how BMOrg can claim to be “more transparent”, when they are sharing less information. Maybe now that they’re down one Minister of Propaganda, there will be a reduction in the Orwellian double-speak. One can only hope…

 

Here is a summary of what was released in the report.

 

POPULATION

67,564 paid participants. In 2014 this was 65,992 and in 2013 it was 69,613. The definition of “paid participant” seems to have changed between 2013 and 2014. In 2015 there were 68,000 tickets officially sold, so 436 people managed to get a ticket but didn’t show. Or, something went wrong counting them – however, the report says Ticketing and Will Call went super-smoothly last year. The Box Office line was never longer than 30 minutes.

There were 1150 placed camps, out of 1300 applications. What was wrong with those 150 camps? We’ll probably never know, which is a pity – because if we could all learn together, we could reduce the amount of mutual time wasting between camps, volunteers on the placement team, and BMOrg’s holocracy of a hundred-plus full-time busy worker bees. Assuming that some of the camps get rejected for some of the same reasons, that is.

ART

BMOrg granted $1.2 million cash to more than 100 art projects on the Playa. They also provided in-kind support in addition to this $1.2 million.
This works out to $17.76 per ticket , or about 4.5% of $390. Seems like an increase from previous years, and we should know in a year or so if it’s true – when the IRS returns for the Burning Man Project in 2015 are released.
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The Artery handled 1139 service requests on playa from art projects, a 50% increase over the previous year.
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There were 326 art pieces; 75 of them incorporated fire art. There were 210 self funded projects and 56 “walk in” projects. Presumably this means the remaining 60 were the ones BMOrg had any involvement in: 18.4% of the total.
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In 2014, The Man was 105 feet tall, and took a long time to Burn. In 2015, it was reduced to 60 feet tall.
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There were 33 regional midway projects, with participants from 16 countries.

TRANSPORTATION

The Burner express brought 3,884 people in, and took 3,334 out. 250 people camped in the Burner Express bus camp.
Screenshot 2016-02-19 11.04.38
No word yet on if there will be any price hikes on bus tickets, additional luggage fees, or bike fees for the 2016 Medici theme. But it looks like this service is bringing in close to a million bucks.
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There is also a Gerlach-Empire shuttle bus, though usage was modest. Total shuttle bus ridership increased 45%, from 85 passengers in 2014, to 123 in 2015.
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17,000 Burners flew in through Reno airport.
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88NV, the Burning Man Airport, saw a 30% increase in traffic. 2,330 Burners arrived this way – at $40 per head landing fee, that’s about a hundred grand. At its peak, the airport was handling 210 landings per day.

BIKES

Image: Phillipe Glade, burningman.org

This year there were 631 yellow bikes. Someone donated 180 huffy bikes to the total.

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527 came back like they were supposed to. 56 had been painted and 28 had been decorated. The bikes are supposed to be free for all Black Rock City citizens, not just free bikes for you to grab and claim as your own for the whole Burning Man. 20 of the bikes were stolen outright.
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There were a total of 1,625 abandoned bikes. This works out to 2.4% of the population – about the same ratio as the portapotties. For each portapotty you see, there is one Burner MOOPing their bike.
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How many of these were stolen? How many were from Burners leaving in the Burner Express, planes, or car-pools, with no room for bikes and no spare $50 for the transporation fee?
Fortunately, 200 of the retrieved bikes will be recycled back into the Yellow Bike program for next year.
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AUTHORITIES

This year there were more than 700 rangers – a veritable army battalion.
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BMOrg worked closer than ever before with the Feds, achieving “Unified Tier 1 inter agency integration”:

BRC has relationships with Federal, State and County agencies including Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Highway Patrol, NDOT, Washoe and Pershing County Sheriff’s offices, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, and Nevada State Health, amongst others.

BRC works year-round with these agencies to ensure legal compliance and public safety at the event. In 2015, BRC led joint training and table-top exercises to further align operational process and interagency communication.

Also in 2015 BRC updated the Unified Command to a Tier 1 management process, joining all the bodies (both event and agency) together, ensuring safer management in the event of unplanned incidents. This system was tested thoroughly during the repeated whiteout conditions of 2015, and proved to be highly effective for event operations emergency management.

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You may have seen the news this week about Apple fighting the Federal government over unlocking an iPhone related to the San Bernardino alleged terrorist attack – even though they were happy to hand over details at least 70 previous times. It doesn’t sound like BMOrg are going down the route of Just Saying No to the government, preferring total co-operation and integration of systems, Burner profiles, and databases.

VOLUNTEERS

The Playa Information tent had 130 volunteers, supporting 30 computer terminals.  There were 2,299 visitors to the V Spot, and 1,117 of them were connected with volunteer opportunities. 794 went to Burning Man teams, 155 to theme camps, 158 to art projects, and the rest were assigned MOOP duty.
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The total number of Greeters was 850. 325 were pre-scheduled general Greeters, 50 or so were “walk-up” volunteers. 18 theme camps greeted as a group(425 people).
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210 volunteered to be Lamplighters – 130 of them camping in the Lamp Lighter Village. They report that “the interdepartmental communication and cooperation is the best it has ever been”. There were 319 lamp spires and 917 lanterns total.
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Tips from Arctica were donated to three worthy causes: Polar Bear International, the Gerlach Senior & Community Center and the Washoe County Family Planning Clinic. No information about who got what is available.

SANITATION & INFRASTRUCTURE

50 dump trucks working 24/7 serviced 1600 porta potties. That’s one WC for every 42 people, in case you were wondering (I was!) How does that stack up against Defaultia?
Screenshot 2016-02-19 10.54.53

Source: American Restroom Association

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We’re about the same as a nightclub in Florida, and doing better than your average stadium.
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At the company ranch in Gerlach, they stored 300 containers, 120 vehicles, and 30 semi trucks. The property operates entirely off the grid.
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30 yard dumpsterThe recycling camp processed 5000 lbs of aluminum cans, 2 30-yard dumpsters’ worth. This was approximately 170,000 cans. Recycling them resulted in a $1500 donation to the local school.
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The city burned through 20,020 gallons of propane. 17,673 gallons were used for flame effects in Mutant Vehicles, theme camps, and art projects. The other 2,347 gallons were used for infrastructure, utilities, and cooking.
According to the US Department of Energy, burning a gallon of propane produces 12 lbs of CO2 emissions. So that’s 212,076 lbs, or 106 tons of greenhouse gas generated – just for the art. And that’s not even counting all the non-propane burning, especially The Man and The Temple.
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BMOrg did bring us exciting new news just over two months ago that they had listened to the community based on a petition last year to make Burning Man greener, and were starting a new chapter. This doesn’t merit a single word in the Afterburn, perhaps it is still “coming soon”. Maybe some of that $2 million a year vehicle pass windfall could be reallocated to habitat preservation or re-forestation projects.
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Read more at burningman.org

Over at the Reno Gazette-Journal, staff Burning Man reporter Jenny Kane reports that the Medici VIP tickets sold out in less than a day.
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The first 500 da Vinci tickets, a new tier of tickets that are three times the cost of the main tickets, were sold out as of Thursday morning, according to Burning Man spokeswoman Megan Miller. An additional 4,900 $990 pre-sale tickets, which were $800 last year, also were sold out by Thursday morning.
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No comments on what happened to the other 100 of the $990 pre-sale tickets.  Jenny asks the question “will any of this windfall money go to art”? The claim is made that $1.5 million was handed out in art grants in 2015, compared to $800,000 in 2014 (actually, $911,955). Corporate PR supremo Megan Miller says:
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“There’s definitely money from those revenue streams going to art grants,” she said, noting that Burning Man distributed $1.5 million in art grants last year, compared to $800,000 the year prior.

Part of the increase in net revenue may go toward another increase in art grant spending this year, although the organization has made no final grant decisions yet, Miller said.

Continue reading at Part 2 – Census Highlights

There’s A New Sheriff In Town [Updates]

rangers k9

Image: Frank Giustino

For the last 4 years, the departing Pershing County Sheriff Machado has tried to find retired cops to work Black Rock City. This led to an amazingly low number of arrests last year:

1 sexual assault

4 drugs

1 domestic violence

2 trespassing

Unfortunately, the new Sheriff doesn’t see that as a good thing. He wants to replace the old-timers with regular duty cops, many of whom probably hate the idea of going to Burning Man. It sounds like most of the locals are not supportive –  and before you cry “but Burning Man brings so much into the Nevada economy!”, look at a map – almost none of that money is going to Pershing County, capital Lovelock.

From the Reno Gazette-Journal:

New Sheriff To Crack Down On Burning Man Crime

Burners, beware. There’s a new sheriff in Pershing County, and he intends to crack down on crime at this year’s event in the Black Rock Desert.

Image: Jerry Allen via RGJ

Image: Jerry Allen via RGJ

“We don’t have the personnel to issue citations to 70,000 naked people on the playa, but we will be upholding the law to the best of our ability,” said Jerry Allen, a 39-year-old former deputy who replaced former Pershing County Sheriff Richard Machado in January.

“Burning Man brings nothing to Pershing County except for heartache,” Allen said.

Machado had a relatively Burner-friendly approach, according to many Burner accounts of law enforcement protocol in recent years. He hired retired officers for Burning Man patrols, according to Allen.

A U.S. Bureau of Land Management operational assessment of the 2014 event said Machado halted the prosecution of marijuana possession charges…

Allen, a 36-year resident of Pershing County, is based out of Lovelock, a town one-tenth the size of Burning Man’s temporary population that is three hours from the playa.

“They’re infamous for asking what do you do the rest of the 360 days of the year,” Allen said of Burning Man’s organizers.

The bucolic, conservative town shares its namesake with the nearby men’s medium-security prison and a World War II gunnery range, and the general population is uncomfortable with what goes on at Burning Man, especially considering children are out there, Allen said.

Allen said he will be enforcing all laws outside of restrictions on nudity while he and his deputies work at Burning Man.

“We don’t change the laws when Burning Man comes to town,” Allen said.

Burning Man organizers said they are not concerned by Allen’s staunch approach because far fewer Burners are breaking laws than Allen suspects.

We’ve been working with (Allen) since his election, and he’s been involved with all of the large coordination efforts,” said Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham. “It’s an ongoing process on education, but he hasn’t been out there for a few years, so he hasn’t seen the progress we’ve made in recent years.”

Typical BMOrg style – use the media to criticize the public officials for not knowing what they’re talking about.

A major crimes team consisting of both county-contracted officers and federal agents charged one individual with sexual assault, four with narcotic violations, one with domestic violence and two with trespassing, according to a BLM operational assessment of the 2014 event.

But the BLM’s assessment, published earlier this year, hints that Allen’s suspicions that crimes outnumber arrests are not entirely unfounded. The assessment states:

“Throughout the event, threshold levels of drug possession for adoption of a case for prosecution by PCSO (Pershing County Sheriff’s Office) were unclear and inconsistent. Early in the event, it was clearly established any cases involving the possession of marijuana would not be adopted by PCSO for prosecution. For all other controlled substances, the thresholds changed throughout the event. Conversely, threshold levels for federal prosecution were established well in advance of the event and provided in writing by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

The BLM assessment, however, praised Machado in the same section:

“The success of BLM and Pershing County integration is largely attributed to PCSO Sheriff Richard Machado’s vision and leadership. … Sheriff Machado understood the value and efficiency of law enforcement integration.”

 

…Allen, who said that the hiring of retirees likely contributed to the low number of arrests last year and in years past, said enlisting his active-duty deputies and other active-duty officers would ensure that law enforcement officers are trained and prepared to take the appropriate actions needed to make Burning Man safe and secure.

The last time he worked the event, four years ago, was the last time the playa had active-duty officers, he said, recalling about three dozen arrests that year.

He also is increasing the number of officers at the Burn this year to 31, four more than last year, he said.

31 cops from Pershing County – and he wants more than triple the number. For 8 arrests in 8 days!

Were Burning Man to provide more funding to the county, Allen would also hire more officers, 100 more to be specific.

Burning Man taxes this county. We don’t have the services to provide them. Pretty much everything they buy, they buy outside,” Allen said. “I’m not saying we need to make gobs and gobs of money. I’m glad they can bring economic interest to Nevada, but they leave Pershing County high and dry.”

The Burning Man population-based stipend that the organization grants to Pershing County each year does not cover the county’s troubles, Allen said.

Last year, Pershing County received $240,000, Burning Man officials said, of which $196,000 went toward covering the costs of the sheriff’s office’s time and resources invested in Burning Man. Burning Man will be allotting about the same amount of money this year.

Burning Man also pays for the cost of prosecuting felony crimes related to the event, said Graham, the Burning Man spokesman. Additionally, the organization provides trailers, power, water, pumping, showers, toilets, radios, meals and fuel for the sheriff’s office on the playa.

Washoe County will receive $108,000 to send eight law enforcement officers to the event, along with additional services, Graham said.

While Allen believes that the stipends are unbalanced, considering the services that Pershing County provides and Washoe County does not, Burning Man said the comparison itself was unfair.

“The deputies of each county get paid different amounts year-round due to cost of living, union rules, etc. This differential has nothing to do with Burning Man. The fact that each county pays its deputies different amounts is not a Burning Man issue,” Graham said. “Comparing the contracts is apples and oranges for other reasons also. Some officers only work for a day, others for two weeks. Some work overtime; some don’t.” 

[Source]

Be careful out there, Burners. Remember that even though medical marijuana is now recognized in Nevada and they have reciprocity laws that recognize prescriptions from other states, this event takes place on Federal land and the Bureau of Land Management Rangers, FBI, and DEA are all Federal agents.

Image: Frank Giustino

Image: Frank Giustino

Here’s some of our earlier tips for dealing with LEOs:

Prepare for the Playa Police

24 Tips From Burners On Gate Safety

More Safety Tips

Keep Calm and Know What You’re Up Against

And some general tips:

Condition Alpha – Can You Handle The Blow

Surviving The Dust At Burning Man

Surviving Burning Man: First Timer’s Guide

Relationship Survival at Burning Man: What You Need To Know

 

 

[Update 8/23/15 8:08pm]

Thanks to Belinda for sharing this. Sheriff Jerry Allen has taken to social media to clarify his position:

Before too many people get riled up about this article. Remember I can only speak for the Sheriff’s Office, and not the entire county as a whole. I appreciate ‘Burner Weber’s comments, as a firm believer in the Constitution, and welcome all responses. I will also be on the playa for the festival, and am open to conversation then as well. However, please remember, as with most articles, some statements were exaggerated and some taken out of context to make a more controversial article. I have no intention on being ‘heavy-handed’. I am only wanting to provide for the safety and security of guests to our County, while ensuring the Laws of the State and County are adhered to-the same thing I was Elected to do for the entire County. I hope every attendee has a great and Safe Burn. Sheriff Jerry Allen

“I can only speak for the Sheriff’s Office, and not the entire county”…except that he did just win an election in the entire county.

“I have no intention of being heavy handed” – right, they just need to increase the number of cops from 27 to 100, because 4 people out of 70,000 were caught with drugs and 2 people were caught sneaking in (presumably that’s the only kind of trespass that the police need to deal with in Black Rock City). In 2010, back when it was all active duty personnel, the cops were quite literally heavy handed. At the Man burn, my friend got tackled to the ground and then three cops jumped on him, knee in the back, someone else pushing his head into the ground, full police brutality. He is not a big guy and was not resisting in any way, they had to strong arm him anyway – just because they suspected he was doing drugs. He didn’t have any drugs, he didn’t get charged with anything, but he got beat up and bruised, and lost a lot of enthusiasm for Burning Man.

It is not clear if the Pershing cops will be embedded in teams with BLM agents again this year.

It feels like we have come a long way since Burning Man settled their lawsuit with Pershing County, so we would encourage the new Sheriff Jerry Allen and his team to have a light touch with the hippies. SWAT team gear is not required. If you don’t want the event in your County, don’t punish the Burners for that – take it up with management.

 

[Update 8/23/15 8:28pm]

News for Nevada has a story from May 2015 that reveals many more details of what Sheriff Allen thinks of BMOrg. One interesting detail is that the single sexual assault charge was for a worker contracted to the event, who was still in the county jail 9 months after Burning Man ended.

Pershing County sheriff slams Burning Man settlement agreement

Allen says law enforcement restrictions illegal, funding inadequate

 

Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen has publicly slammed big corporations before and last week added Black Rock City LLC, the organization behind Burning Man, to his list. He believes a 2013 agreement between BRC and the county improperly restricts his law enforcement authority at the massive festival.

“I’m concerned that we’re being bullied by Burning Man into being subservient to them and subservient to the BLM,” he said of the settlement agreement. “I’ve been assured by our legal counsel and (BRC’s) legal counsel that’s not what it is but the text of the settlement agreement would dictate otherwise.”

Allen said the agreement’s budget allowance for county law enforcement, based on peak population, means he will be shorthanded and law enforcement will be inadequate at the festival. He believes that he, rather than event organizers, should determine county law enforcement costs to be paid by BRC.

“It’s my belief that the whole settlement agreement is unconstitutional,” Allen said. “The county commissioners can’t sign an agreement that binds me to do anything. The only thing I’m subservient to the county commissioners for is budgetary constraints. Unfortunately, the budget we’re allowed to have (by the agreement) is going to be one of the limiting factors for this and every year’s event.”

Due to the county’s limited law enforcement personnel, Allen must recruit active-duty law enforcement officers from other county agencies to assist with this year’s Burning Man. Another agency has already turned down his request for help due to officer safety concerns, he said.

“I’ve had at least one county deny me patrolmen based on the fact that we will not have adequate personnel from the sheriff’s office out there and at this point we don’t know if we’ll have adequate medical coverage if an officer gets hurt,” Allen said.

Allen said he is particularly displeased with apparent restrictions in the 2013 settlement agreement on the county’s enforcement of certain state laws at Burning Man. A passage in the agreement appears to eliminate the county sheriff’s authority over alcohol use and the control of minors attending the event.

“County agrees that for the duration of this agreement, it shall not attempt to separately regulate any matters addressed by the BLM permit including without limitation the use of alcohol and presence of children at the event,” the agreement reads.

The agreement also limits the county’s law enforcement budget for Burning Man according to the event’s “peak population.” However, Allen said he and his deputies must deal with more than just the “burners” who purchase tickets, including thousands of BRC volunteers, contractors and children at the event. A worker charged with sexual assault at the 2014 event remains in custody at the county jail.

“The paid participants are the vast majority, but at a 70,000-person event, probably roughly 10,000 are not paid participants,” Allen said. “We are only budgeted according to what they say are paid participants. We don’t get any funding for those 20 percent extra people but we still deal with them. We still have a person in our jail on a charge of sexual assault who was a contractor at the event.”

BRC’s 2014 Site Occupancy Report lists daily numbers of paid participants plus daily totals of BRC staff, crew and workers at the event. The event peak totals were listed for Aug. 29, 2014, at 65,922 participants and 9,312 workers for a “total bodies on site” of 75,234 that day, according to BRC.

For a peak population of 70,000 to 79,000 at the event, the settlement agreement specifies a payment to the county of $275,000 for integrated law enforcement or $475,000 for separate law enforcement.

Allen is less than pleased with other parts of the settlement agreement, including BRC’s requirements for a press release from the sheriff within three days of the event and an After Action Report to BRC from the sheriff’s office within 14 days of the event. Burning Man is again being extended by two days in an attempt to reduce highway traffic before and after the event, but the settlement agreement describes the festival as an eight-day event. In addition, other assemblies on the playa sponsored by BRC during any two week period between June 1 and Labor Day are defined as Burning Man events.

Nudity is considered self-expression at the event, but Allen questioned why Burning Man participants should be exempted from state laws that are applied to all other visitors and residents of the county.

Allen said he won’t have enough deputies or jail cells to arrest and house thousands of violators but his deputies will respond to complaints of inappropriate behavior and/or obscenity involving minors.

“We will never have enough personnel to effectively police the nudity (at Burning Man),” he said. “However, taking a hands-off approach is not fair to the rest of the citizens of Pershing County. You can’t walk around nude anywhere else in this county without somebody contacting law enforcement. It’s not allowed here, it shouldn’t be allowed there. The rules are the same for everybody.

Undersheriff Tom Bjerke pointed out that exposing children to nudity is strictly prohibited in Nevada and those who violate state laws will be prosecuted. BRC now promotes the festival as family friendly, although in previous years organizers had discouraged attendance by minors, Bjerke said.

If Burning Man would make it an 18-years and over event, that would solve many issues out there,” Allen said. “So many law enforcement issues would go away. There would still be issues because their motto is ‘radical free expression’ and people interpret that to mean they can do whatever they want.”

In 2009, the FBI reported an average of 1.7 law enforcement officers per 1,000 residents patrol cities in the West. By that standard, Allen said he needs 136 deputies to adequately patrol a total of 80,000 or more participants, staff and contractors expected at Burning Man’s Black Rock City north of Gerlach.

[Note: this is an apples and oranges comparison, because there are also 150 BLM agents and 8 Washoe cops, bringing the total to at least 189. -Ed.]

Last year, the county sheriff had a staff of 24 deputies at the event, according to Allen.

“There’s enforcement issues and a huge limiting factor is the budget they (BRC) proposed with no justification for where that budget came from,” Allen said after last week’s meeting in Lovelock with BRC and the BLM. The next meeting between stakeholders was scheduled for this Tuesday in Reno.

Allen said partial law enforcement integration with the BLM is acceptable but only at his discretion on a case-by-case basis. If a major incident occurs, his deputies and the federal agents will back each other up but otherwise the two agencies have separate law enforcement objectives and procedures, he said.

“I’ve told BLM we will for the most part be partially integrated,” Allen said. “There are events out there that I can see partial integration would be a benefit but I can see other cases where being tied to the BLM would be a bad thing for the sheriff and the state. As the sheriff of Pershing County, I have to make sure I’m not setting bad precedents for the other sheriffs in the state.”

Allen said he would prefer no settlement agreement or cost negotiations with BRC regarding county law enforcement budgets and procedures. He cited a Washoe County law enforcement contract that dictates costs and policies at the event and believes that’s why Burning Man isn’t held in that county.

“Pershing County has set a terrible precedent for the state where Burning Man is concerned and it continues to get worse every year,” Allen said. “No other private entity that comes to the county gets to dictate terms on how county services will be provided or how money will change hands.”

By challenging BRC, Allen knows he’s up against powerful political clout and deep pockets. After previous settlement agreements with Pershing County were knocked down by former District Court Judge Richard Wagner in 2012, BRC sued the county then successfully lobbied state lawmakers for legislation (AB 374) giving county officials the option to exempt permitted public land events from county licensing fees and ordinances. Pershing County officials agreed to exempt Burning Man and the settlement agreement was signed in 2013, but BRC’s federal litigation against the county continues.

“Burning Man’s main hold over the county is they can out-money us in court.” Allen said. “The county festival ordinance was based on state law and when the county realized we have to abide by state law like any other county, Burning Man took exception to that and took us to federal court.”

Under the current settlement agreement with BRC, Allen said his law enforcement resources will be far below what he considers the minimum required to ensure public safety at the counterculture festival.

“I’m willing to make this statement on the record,” he said last week. “The way it stands now, I cannot adequately provide for the safety of participants at Burning Man because of the limitations of the settlement agreement, the limitations of our county’s resources and the fact that, at any given time, if we don’t abide by those terms, Burning Man is willing to take us back to federal court.”

Requests for comment from the BLM were not returned as of press time Wednesday morning.

 [Update 8/23/14 11:52pm]

Kudos to A Balanced Perspective for contributing this detailed update to the history, with information from Burning Man’s Afterburn reports.


 

Who Watches the Watchmen?

The links, and statements, are from the 2009, and 2010, Burning Man Afterburn Reports, within the Internet Archives.

The new Sheriff Allen laboured at Burning Man for the most horrible prior Sheriff Ron Skinner, in 2009, and 2010, but, he did not labour at Burning Man for the prior Sheriff Machado, in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, whom was more professional in his actions.

The new Sheriff Allen of Pershing County, in replacement of the prior Sheriff Machado, desires to behave in a most unprofessional manner, similar of the prior Sheriff Ron Skinner, hiring his mates to abuse hippies, in regards of ‘The PCSO LEO team arrived on playa with what appeared to be a rather specific agenda. This agenda seemed to be fueled by their sense of morality and personal values, and they seemed intent upon imposing that set of values and moral judgments on the Burning Man community and the citizens of Black Rock City.’ in addendum of ‘The problem that had existed before, such as inadequate training, lack of experience of the sub-contracted individual LEOs’…

2009 Sheriff Ron Skinner, mate of the new Sheriff Jerry Allen

‘Pershing County Sheriff Office (PCSO) — State Law Enforcement’

‘Pershing County is a rural Nevada county, has a small population, and has a total law enforcement force that is much smaller than the contingent of law enforcement that the PCSO seems compelled to have in Black Rock City. For the last several years, this problem has been addressed by having Washoe County off-duty LEOs working under contract for PCSO on playa. The state law enforcement Officer in Charge has, for all of these years, been a WCSO sergeant or lieutenant. Quoting from the 2008 LEAL Afterburn: “These relationships (with state law enforcement) are characterized by professionalism, timely and appropriate response and active and open communications.” The same cannot be said for Burning Man 2009..

PCSO decided this year to not contract with any WCSO LEOs. This created several significant problems. PCSO contracted with 40 to 50 different individual LEOs, who came mostly from other rural jurisdictions within the state of Nevada. These contract LEOs were bereft of experience in working the very unique environment of Black Rock City, they had no event-specific training before they arrived on playa, they received almost no event-specific training when they arrived on playa, and they usually only worked a day or two before being replaced by another inexperienced LEO. As might be expected, numerous problems arose in regards to understanding the dynamic aspects of the Burning Man event, communicating with Black Rock City citizens, and utilizing (or not utilizing) the extensive Burning Man infrastructure elements in place to assist law enforcement such as the Black Rock Rangers, the LEAL Team, the Emergency Services Department, the Burning Man dispatch and communications systems, etc. However, that was not the worst of it.

The PCSO LEO team arrived on playa with what appeared to be a rather specific agenda. This agenda seemed to be fueled by their sense of morality and personal values, and they seemed intent upon imposing that set of values and moral judgments on the Burning Man community and the citizens of Black Rock City. The specific incidences and issues will not be listed here, but it can be reported that the moral code they chose to impose was characterized by behaviors that could be described as consistent and by an attitude that could be characterized as fervent and zealous.’

2010

‘Pershing County Sheriff Office (PCSO) — State Law Enforcement’

‘This paragraph is copied from the 2009 LEAL Afterburn: “Pershing County is a rural Nevada county, has a small population, and has a total law enforcement force that is much smaller than the contingent of law enforcement that the PCSO seems compelled to have in Black Rock City. For the last several years, this problem has been addressed by having Washoe County off-duty LEOs working under contract for PCSO on playa. The state law enforcement Officer in Charge has, for all of these years, been a WCSO sergeant or lieutenant. Quoting from the 2008 LEAL Afterburn— “These relationships (with state law enforcement) are characterized by professionalism, timely and appropriate response and active and open communications.” The same cannot be said in this 2009 Afterburn Report for Burning Man 2009.”

2010 was the second year that Pershing County, under Sheriff Ron Skinner, has chosen to attempt to manage the Burning Man event without outside counsel or assistance. The result continued to produce unsatisfactory results. The problem that had existed before, such as inadequate training, lack of experience of the sub-contracted individual LEOs, and lack of understanding of the Burning Man infrastructure (e.g., the Black Rock Rangers), as well as to how to utilize that infrastructure, continued.

It all began with a scheme by the PCSO to utilize horseback mounted patrols in Black Rock City. Their basic rationale was to be able to “move a crowd” during a riot. The fact that there has been nothing even resembling the smell of a riot in the 25-year history of Burning Man did not deter them from this position. A very strong set of objections then arose from Burning Man as well as other cooperating agencies such as the Nevada State Department of Health. Issues were horse poop on the playa, participant safety issues, and even safety issues for the horses themselves.

Because of these pressures, PCSO withdrew their intent to “test drive” the concept in Black Rock City early in the week, still insisting that they would keep the horses in reserve (they had already delivered them to a small farm close to the event). Then, evidently angered or embarrassed by this episode, PCSO, for the rest of the week, refused to attend the 3:15 Daily Cooperators Meeting attended by all of the agencies and law enforcement groups working the event. This created considerable communication and coordination problems. However, in fairness to the PCSO contingent, the Burning Man LEAL Team Manager was able to communicate with PCSO by journeying to the Law Enforcement compound and finding the PCSO personnel on duty.’

2011 Sheriff Richard Machado, with whom the new Sheriff Jerry Allen did not desire to labour at Burning Man

‘Pershing County Sheriff Office (PCSO) — State Law Enforcement’
‘1) A new Sheriff, Rich Machado, was elected in Pershing County.
2) Pershing County’s new Sheriff created perhaps the best community-based policing effort ever seen at our event.
3) Pershing County law enforcement officers were competent, professional, acted as positive collaborators, exercised open communication and tact in their relationships, and, in general, behaved in the best interests of the citizens of Black Rock City. In addition, while they did all of that, they helped to keep the city safe as they made it secure.’

2012 Sheriff Machado
‘Pershing County Sheriff Office (PCSO) — State Law Enforcement’

‘1) Pershing County’s Sheriff created perhaps the best community-based policing effort ever seen at our event.’

2013 and 2014 Sheriff Machado.
The BMOrg jumped the shark, thus, they did not report on the most unprofessional police behaviour at Burning Man of 2013, or on the police behaviour at Burning Man of 2014, within their Afterburn Reports.
.
[Update 8/25/15 1pm]

The Sheriff has told a local news station that he doesn’t have the manpower for a crackdown, and once again the media has sensationalized a Burning Man story. YMMV

He’s going to cite people for smoking weed and bust them if they are naked and there is a child around.

BLM to Review Chocotacos, if BM Lifts Their Safety Game [Updates]

marty-two-bulls-pow-wow-eagle

Yesterday Burning Man bigwigs and BLM bigwigs got together to discuss Chocotacogate. According to the information leaked (by BMOrg?) to Jenny Kane at the RGJ: the BLM wanted $1 million+ in extra funding to build them the Blue Pit, an off-site VIP compound with 8 double rooms for visiting dignitaries; and this is all coming from one person, BLM special agent Dan Love.

Image: Burn.Life

Image: Burn.Life

This information – blasted widely around the world – was later quietly corrected by Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham in a radio interview on NPR, who said that actually, the BLM were just asking to increase the Infrastructure part of the budget from $600,000 to $1 million. This includes walkie talkies and other safety equipment. Part of this increase was to pay for expanded medical facilities, and only some was to provide VIP accommodation. The VIP component was coming from the highest levels of the Department of Interior, who naturally wanted to visit the event after all the media and lobbying campaigns by BMOrg. The request for food was the same as last year’s, which was met without complaint by BMOrg.

Still, the global media ran with the RGJ story, putting egg on the faces of the BLM. Some politicians were stirred to pile onto the story, including Harry Reid and Mark Amodei.

Yesterday, on the day of the meeting BLM’s Nevada Director Neil Kornze wrote a column for the RGJ, saying:

Many have read stories in recent days about a proposed lavish encampment for Bureau of Land Management employees working at the Burning Man festival that is held annually on public lands in the Nevada desert. These reports painted a troubling portrait of government employees seeking VIP accommodations and outlandish provisions. Like you, I was surprised and upset by much of what I read.

I have directed my team to take a top-to-bottom look at exactly what is needed to properly support BLM employees that have oversight responsibility for this enormous public event in a remote corner of Nevada. Our revised proposal will include only what is essential for our core operational needs for providing appropriate health, safety, and environmental safeguards on the playa. That is our commitment.

And while we undertake that review, we are also working to address critical safety and health issues at Burning Man. Over the past five years, the Burning Man event has nearly doubled in size. What was once a loosely organized gathering of a few thousand like-minded individuals is now an instant metropolis hosting 75,000 attendees, volunteers, and staff in one of the most remote corners of the American west. At its peak, Burning Man is the sixth largest city in Nevada, complete with a busy airport. Attendees come to the playa from around the world with their own ideas of what Burning Man is and ought to be.

This rapid evolution has dramatically increased the complexity of the BLM’s and Black Rock City LLC’s management responsibilities, and in recent years a series of incidents have made it clear that improvements need to be made. Last year, a total of 2,880 patients were treated for medical issues, including 71 drug overdoses, 67 trauma incidents, and 30 cases of alcohol poisoning. Tragically, a woman was killed last year when she was run over by an art car. Incidents of burglary, battery, and sexual assault have risen as the event has grown, and the BLM has also responded to flooding, aviation accidents, and out-of-control fires in recent years.

In March, the BLM raised twenty critical health, safety, and environmental issues with event organizers, including ensuring that on-site medical services are adequate to serve the vast population of Black Rock City. To date, Black Rock City LLC has only acknowledged seven of these important issues and has provided adequate plans and updates for just two.

In the coming days, the BLM will make an important course correction regarding what is needed to support our teams that are on the ground during the Burning Man event. It will also be necessary for the organizers of Burning Man to come to the table as serious partners in addressing the concerns that were identified for them months ago. We look forward to further dialogue on these issues. Our priority is to make sure that all burners come home safe and healthy.

[Source: RGJ]

Yesterday’s meeting was the first time BMOrg had met with BLM’s acting State Director John Ruhs.

From the Reno Gazette Journal:

Present at the meeting Wednesday from Burning Man were founder Larry Harvey; Marnee Benson, political affairs manager; Rosalie Barnes, agency relations and regulatory affairs manager; Ray Allen, attorney; and Goodell…For BLM, Ruhs was present along with Winnemucca district manager Gene Seidlitz, Nevada-Utah special agent in charge Dan Love and acting assistant state director Ann DeBlasi from Washington, D.C.

…the meeting centered on safety and security concerns, which have been repeatedly brought up in BLM statements to media. 

Rather than review the points of contention in documents obtained by the Reno Gazette-Journal in June, Burning Man and BLM officials discussed some of the failures and successes of working together in years past.

It sounds like the meeting ended on a positive note, but didn’t go quite the way BMorg were expecting.

“There’s a lot of heat on everyone at the moment,” Goodell said after the 90-minute meeting. “The intention of the meeting probably changed in the past 24 hours.”

“We agreed to collaborate on what we can accomplish this year, and we looked back. We looked at the present and the past,” Goodell said. “We pointed out that there’s been a 40 percent increase in the event population and a 244 percent increase in cost for the permit,”

“This was a good meeting and an opportunity to discuss our mutual interests in coming up with a plan to support Burning Man, which is a truly unique cultural event on Public Lands. We are working to come up with a plan that is cost efficient and ensures public health and safety,” Ruhs said. “We are going to do all we can to make this year’s event a success. I am confident that BLM and BRC will be able to work together to address safety and environmental concerns.”

[Source: RGJ]

The meeting discussed 20 medical and safety issues. Only 2 have been resolved, and only 7 have even been acknowledged by BMOrg. The gates open in 50 days.

From the Las Vegas Review Journal‘s Washington DC bureau:

WASHINGTON – A month and a half before the scheduled start of this year’s desert festival, organizers of the annual Burning Man in Northern Nevada have yet to resolve more than 15 health and safety issues stemming from last year’s event, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

Officials from the BLM and the Burning Man organization were meeting Wednesday in Reno to discuss outstanding issues in advance of the Aug. 30-Sept. 7 festival in the Black Rock Desert.

The federal agency has yet to issue a permit for the event. John Ruhs, the BLM acting Nevada state director, said all conditions raised in a post-event review last year must be addressed for the BLM to allow this year’s event to proceed.

Ruhs stopped short of saying the BLM might shut down Burning Man, expressing confidence an agreement could be worked out.

“We have a long ways to go yet but I’m pretty confident we will as always be able to address issues together and get to a good place with them,” Ruhs said in an interview.

But the agency took the unusual step of making public a letter listing the outstanding health and safety issues. Of 20 compiled following the 2014 festival, the BLM said 18 remain to be resolved including improvements to its medical program, transportation management and security surrounding the festival’s signature burn events.

“Last year, a total of 2,880 patients were treated for medical issues, including 71 drug overdoses, 67 trauma incidents and 30 cases of alcohol poisoning,” Ruhs said in the letter to the government affairs director of Black Rock City, LLC, the nonprofit that runs the festival. In addition, a woman from Wyoming was killed when she fell beneath a moving bus…

BLM officials on Wednesday denied they were in a tit-for-tat with Burning Man. The agency’s letter though makes a connection…

“We are now taking a top to bottom look at exactly what is needed,” Ruhs said, adding “While the BLM revises its statement of work, dialogue must also continue on a wide array of health, safety and environmental concerns raised by the BLM earlier this year.”

[Source: Las Vegas Review Journal]

Read the original letter from the BLM to BMOrg, outlining the concerns after last year’s event.

The 20 Safety, Health and Security Issues and Concerns are:

  1. BRC Medical Program
  2. BRC Fire, Rescue, Hazmat Programs
  3. Fatality Medical Response and On-Scene Management
  4. Transportation Management
  5. Art Project Management
  6. Security and Safety Plan for Scheduled Burn Events
  7. Sanitation Management
  8. Early Arrival Program
  9. D-Lot Design and Management
  10. Fuel Storage Management
  11. Deployment of Medical Resources
  12. Placement of Emergency Vehicles at the Airport
  13. Highway 34 Road Conditions
  14. Population Tracking and Reporting Program
  15. BRC Event Table of Organization
  16. BRC Event Management Program Description
  17. Participant Evacuation Contingency Plan
  18. Significant Incident Reporting
  19. Art Car operations
  20. Illicit narcotics

Time precludes me from going into much detail on this letter now, it warrants a post in itself as it reveals interesting details on a number of events last year, such as the art car fatality and Embrace burn. One thing in particular really jumped out:

Screenshot 2015-07-09 11.58.38

The letter makes frequent references to the 2014 HGH After Action Report (AAR). If anyone has a copy of that report, please send it in. It seems that HGH raised some concerns, these concerns went to the BLM who then raised them with BMOrg – who then fired HGH.

Did BMOrg try to scapegoat HGH here? Did they think that just ditching HGH would resolve the issues, since HGH are mentioned in many of them? Perhaps they didn’t like HGH giving the Feds a list of headaches problems to fix.

The number of patients being thrown around, 2,880, is very different from what has been reported in previous years. BMOrg’s own 2014 Afterburn report said there were 6,100 medical patients last year – more than double the number the government are using. The difference may be in this magic word “treated” – this year, there will be much less treatment provided on-site by CrowdRX.

This morning I have received an Anonymous tip-off, from someone with inside information about the medical discussions. Treat this as an unconfirmed rumor, but I trust the source.

It seems that, as usual, there is much more to the story than what we’re being told.

To recap, BMOrg ditched local providers Humboldt General, who have supported the event for the last 5 years; they replaced them with festival specialist CrowdRX, who have never done a remote location event except for one Phish concert in the 90’s. The official unofficial message seems to be “nothing will change, CrowdRX will just hire all the same people as last year”.

One thing the source revealed is that BMOrg have recently filed a public information request for Pat Songer’s records of HGH’s care at the previous years Burns. It doesn’t look like there’s going to be much continuity between medical services at Burning Man between 2014 and 2015, it’s a brave new world now.

The bombshell revelation from this source is to do with off-Playa medical treatment.

In previous years, your Burning Man ticket purchased you Medical Insurance at the event. If anything happened to you at Burning Man, even if you didn’t have insurance yourself, theirs would take care of your treatment.

In the past with HGH, all care was covered, on-Playa and transport off. If anything happened to you at Burning Man and you needed to be taken to a hospital, an HGH ambulance would take you to the nearest hospital (Reno). Humboldt’s plan was to treat everything they possibly could on-site at Black Rock City.

Image: American Med Flight

Image: American Med Flight

Now, if anything happens, you’ll have to be taken outside the event to a Default world hospital – most likely, still Reno/Sparks. By air. There will be no medical ground transportation for medical emergencies, the plan is air transport only. Fixed wing, no helicopters.

The price for an airlift with American Med Flight is $30,000.

The rumor is that certain members of the Org are getting a better rate if they become injured and need transport. This seems to approach the idea of “kickbacks”. There may also be issues of local county permitting, in relation to this business.

Screenshot 2015-07-09 12.24.26

This comment is from Anonymous Burner. We have no specific information on this arrangement.

Of course none of this should be a problem, since Obamacare means every person in the United States now has medical insurance. Someone else will pay! Oh, but what about the 20% of Burners from other countries? Hopefully they got travel insurance.

American Med Flight are offering a Burning Man insurance package. For only $25, if you do need their services, you won’t pay more than $7,500.

Towards the end of 2013, a former DPW manager blew the whistle on safety issues, then BMOrg lost their respected Emergency Services Director, Joseph Pred. Chaos seems to have ensued, with 18 major issues unresolved less than 2 months before the gates open. Let’s hope BMOrg can sort this out – in the circumstances, perhaps sticking with their existing partner HGH should be re-considered.


 

[Update 7/9/15 1:25pm]

Thanks to A Balanced Perspective for alerting us to the latest RGJ story, in which BMOrg say they have already responded to many of the BLMs concerns and there are a lot of falsehoods in the report. Keep reading for my comments.

[Update 7/9/15 4:47pm]

Someone Who Knows has given us this update:

HGH transported to Reno, just like REMSA did, not to Winnemucca. Careflight has been offering low cost membership that helps cover the whirly bird ride for years. That being said, fixed wing is actually a safer, more reliable option than helicopter in the black rock playa conditions and I highly doubt CrowdRX will not have ambulances

They sound like they do know. And I agree – surely there will be ambulances. Surely there will be helicopters. Coming soon.

[Update 7/9/15 5:30pm]

Francisco Ceballos from Humboldt General Hospital created a pro-active presentation last year, on what could be done to prevent injuries at Burning Man. One of their suggestions was to communicate with Burners via Burners.Me! Perhaps that may have led to their downfall…

Screenshot 2015-07-09 17.29.35

Francisco was right: we would be happy to share any information that could improve the safety and wellbeing of Burners.

[Update 7/9/15 6:30pm]

BMOrg have claimed that they sent a response to BLM addressing all 20 concerns in April. We call on them to share their documentation with all Burners, not just chosen journalists at the RGJ. Why are the “After Action Reports” not part of the “After Burn Reports”?

In April, Burning Man submitted a 40-page working document that addressed “every single point” that the BLM made, according to Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell…

Burning Man’s own assessment, which is put together in collaboration with various county, state and federal agencies, including the BLM, contradicts many of the BLM’s findings. According to the Burning Man’s series of “after action reports,” the BLM’s assessment has a number of inaccuracies, including:

All appropriate HAZMAT procedures were followed during the handling of bodily fluids following the fatal accident.

Emergency medical services vehicles were available at all times during the event, though Humboldt General Hospital did report a sustained 11 minutes during which time five of eight vehicles were dispatched and three were “idle.” Burning Man organizers are uncertain as to why the idle vehicles were not available for use during those 11 minutes.

Vehicles were not stranded during the delay, but instead were parked on the side of the road. Burning Man organizers at the time told participants that they had the option of going home, though most decided to wait until the weather and conditions improved.

Pyrotechnic effects, which usually include fireworks or explosive displays, are not allowed on art cars, though Burning Man does allow flame effects, which are automated fire features.

Burning Man also took issue with Kornze’s statement Wednesday that the San Francisco-based nonprofit had not addressed enough of the agency’s concerns, saying Burning Man staff have been working with a number of agencies to improve its operations.

Burning Man created a new emergency operations chief position, according to Graham, and hired a new medical services management provider, replacing Humboldt General Hospital.

[Source: RGJ]

Here’s what Acting Nevada State Director John Ruhs told them:

Screenshot 2015-07-09 18.28.12
13 items are still open. Item #20 is quite probably irresolvable, the BLM might as well drop it. BMOrg should cave to everything else, if they can sell 10,000 more tickets.
The BLM note in their letter that 13,545 people entered the event before it started with Early Access passes. Before the event opened, there were many people bicycling around sight-seeing and partying. Tut-tut!

 

DanceSafe, Bunk Police Shut Down in Attack on Raver Safety [Updates]

A raver surveys the MOOP left over after Electric Forest 2015. Image: MILive

A raver surveys the MOOP left over after Electric Forest 2015. Image: MILive

Strange things have been happening in the EDM Festival world over the last couple of weeks, with two different volunteer crews providing drug safety information – DanceSafe and Bunk Police – both getting shut down at two different festivals – Electric Forest and Bonnaroo.

DanceSafe are a non-profit organization who provide a booth at festivals, staffed by volunteers, offering education and information to promote safer raving. Depending on the festival, they provide drug-testing services and sell kits. You can get them from their web site. This year they also offered “snorting straws”. Ever heard the story that 99% of banknotes have cocaine on them? That means the note has been up at least one person’s nose. Maybe thousands of peoples’. Money is dirty, and can spread Hepatitis C and other things that you and your friends don’t want. Snorting straws only seems like a good thing for society, in my opinion. If you don’t like the snorting, fight the noses, not the straws.

DanceSafe have done this at Electric Forest in Rothbury, Michigan for the last 4 years. This time, the promoters turned on them, without explanation.

First, the Crime Scorecard for Electric Forest 2015:

ROTHBURY, MI – The Michigan State Police has released its report on police activity at the 2015 Electric Forest Festival.

Festival promoters contracted with the state police to provide on-site law enforcement services, as they have in previous years.

This is the roundup of the five-day event:

  • Troopers investigated 50 original complaints.
  • Eight people were lodged in the Oceana County Jail.
  • Twenty people are pending arrest after a review by the Oceana County Prosecutor’s Office.

These are the charges that were investigated:

  • 23 felony drug charges
  • Three misdemeanor assault charges
  • Five misdemeanor drug chargesTroopers also responded to or assisted emergency medical service or festival security personnel on numerous medical calls.According to promoters, approximately 40,000 tickets were sold for this year’s Electric Forest Festival.

[Source: MILive]

28 drug charges out of 40,000 tickets. That seems pretty good, right? A nice, clean, safe event. So why the sudden turn against DanceSafe, for doing the same thing they’ve been doing for years?

Read the full account at DanceSafe. Here are some excerpts:

Electric Forest Shuts Down DanceSafe– But We Have A Bigger Problem To Tackle

June 30, 2015
By- Mitchell Gomez, DanceSafe National Outreach Director


…Electric Forest has ended, and as those of us who were onsite know, this year the event producers ordered DanceSafe to shut down the booth early on Friday. Although we are still unclear on why this occurred, we feel it’s important for the community to hear about our experiences…

The DanceSafe booth at TomorrowWorld, where we provide information but no on site testing or kits for sale.

The DanceSafe booth at TomorrowWorld, where we provide information but no on site testing or kits for sale.

DanceSafe is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public health organization with a mission to promote health and safety within in the nightlife and electronic music communities. Using harm reduction and peer-based education as our guiding principles, we provide a range of free information and services including safe spaces to take breaks and engage in conversations about health, drug use, and personal safety; water and electrolytes [to prevent dehydration and heatstroke]; earplugs [to prevent hearing loss], safe sex tools [to avoid unwanted pregnancies and spread of STI’s]; honest, fact-based, unbiased information on drug effects and potential harms [to empower people to make informed decisions]; and provide drug checking [to avoid overdose or death].

We were founded in 1998 in the Bay Area, and since have grown to over a dozen chapters, with hundreds of volunteers worldwide. We are primarily known for being the first entity to bring free reagent testing to nightlife settings in the United States, 17 years ago. Reagent testing is a method of drug checking used to identify drug contents. It’s limited in that the chemical analysis is only able to identify what chemical is mostly present, not purity, potency or all cutting agents present. Although this is the service that we’re most widely known for, in recent years we’ve worked with many event producers who are uncomfortable with providing this service onsite, and in cases where we’ve been asked not to, we never test onsite, sell kits, or provide any other service that is not wanted.

For instance, at festivals such as TomorrowWorld, Imagine Festival, Mysteryland, and Lightning in a Bottle, we’ve had an official presence onsite to provide our other services listed above, but do not sell kits or provide free drug checking services. Even in cases where producers re-evaluate what services they want provided after DanceSafe is already set up onsite, if asked to stop or change anything, we always immediately comply. We also generally have items in the booth for sale. The only products we sell in our booth are either those directly related to harm reduction (such as high-quality earplugs or re-usable water-bottles), or items for patrons to wear in order to show their support for our cause (such as T-Shirts, our Grassroots Hat, Pins, etc…). All sales and donations during events go back into the organization and are used to support further outreach.

Since 2011, Electric Forest has provided DanceSafe with booth space, but classed as vendors, placed in one of the vendor areas, provided us with vendor wristbands, and generally treated as vendors in every way.

The DanceSafe Team, 2015

Thus, this was DanceSafe’s fourth year onsite, and it was our third year in the ‘Craft Vending’ village…Each year we’ve been in the Forest, we’ve provided our full range of services, and we’ve always had a fantastic working relationship with the event producers and staff…Excitingly, while testing onsite last year, some individual law enforcement officers were (quietly) supportive of our presence onsite, coming by to thank us for being there and picking up some of our literature. The support we received from the festival was simply amazing! Sadly, the story was very, very different this year…

The DanceSafe booth pre-shut down at Electric Forest 2015

On Thursday morning, after operating as normal for a few hours, we began to receive a series of complaints from the Craft Vending Coordinator, asking us to change certain services. Even though she wasn’t able to tell me who was ordering these changes or why, we complied immediately. At first we were just asked to stop doing free onsite testing and selling kits, which we did.

Less than an hour later we were visited again, this time in regards to a different service we provide. Although it isn’t well known, sharing a snorting apparatus like a bill or straw is a vector for spreading Hepatitis C. In order to mitigate this risk for people who are already using substances this way, we provide clean, safer snorting straws. At least we do if we are allowed to, and after mid-Friday, we weren’t allowed to anymore. At this point, I was finally able to speak to the person who was making these decisions, a very high level representative from Madison House Presents: the production company who makes Electric Forest possible.

During this meeting, the representative bizarrely insisted that DanceSafe had never been allowed to test onsite or sell kits, despite the fact that we have been doing so for several years and drug checking has been included in every proposal we have sent them to date. She also told me that I had to stop giving out the informational card we have on Heroin, as it was ‘too promotional’. Although I deeply disagree with ever censoring information, once again we immediately complied.

At every stage, no matter what the request was from the festival, DanceSafe staff and volunteers complied immediately…By Friday, it had become abundantly clear that something larger was going on, and that the festival was determined to shut us down.

Because of this, I was entirely unsurprised by a visit from a group of three individuals late on Friday: the Madison House representative I had been speaking with, another top-level producer of the festival, and a gentleman who I believe they stated was their head of security.  They asked me to ‘step away from the booth to talk’…we were being ordered to immediately shut down the booth…I was told by the security guard that I had “till the end of String Cheese” to close my booth, and that if I had not done so by that time, it would be done “his way.” I was deeply upset by this unnecessary threat, as we had been 100% compliant during every one of their requests. At no time during this interaction or any other interaction was the merchandise we sell in the booth (to fund outreach) mentioned to us, although that is now what the festival claims was the cause of us being shut down.

The booth after being shut down

The booth after being shut down

It was at this point that the incident occurred which precipitated my writing of this blog. I asked the representative from Madison House why we were being shut down, as we had been complying with all of their requests. In one of the strangest encounters of my life, the representative refused to answer me. I was told that we could “discuss it later.” I pleaded for some small explanation to give to my boss for this turn of events, and was told that it was not going to be discussed, and that I was being ordered to close my booth immediately.

So I did.

…The flat refusal on the part of the event producers to discuss it was strange, and the fact that I still have not received any explanation is problematic, but not nearly as problematic as other things I saw onsite this year. I think it is important that we, as a community, discuss these problems, and I think it is pertinent we do it NOW.

This year at The Electric Forest, I saw up to four hour lines to get from GA camping into the venue, with no free water, shade or medics in the area. This year at The Electric Forest, I saw a population grow by nearly 10,000, with no noticeable increase in the amount of water refill stations, resulting in nearly two hour lines just to refill a bottle of water. This year at The Electric Forest, I saw a festival shut down a group of volunteers dedicated to providing health and safety information and resources to the community without a single valid explanation. And I, for one, would like to know why I saw these things…

Under our present laws, a venue or company faces some very real risks if the government decides that their event is “maintaining a drug-involved premise.” But– to the best of my knowledge, the presence of harm reduction services has never been used as a part of any RAVE Act prosecution (although the law should still be changed). The fear that these services would be grounds for a RAVE Act prosecution are theoretical, and the result of a prosecution on such a shaky basis is far from clear, but the injuries and deaths caused by these fears are not theoretical. These injuries and deaths are real, and they are happening far too often.

The bold truth, that we must all speak loudly, is that in a world where correctional officers cannot keep drugs out of prisons, there is simply no way for a promoter to stop incidental, but inevitable use at their events. No matter how sincere the promoters effort, no matter how zealous and abundant the security and police, no matter how hard we try, those who wish to consume mind altering substances will always find a way to do so. However you may feel about this truth, it is reckless to deny. Once we accept that some use is unstoppable, it is our moral obligation to do everything within our power to reduce the risk of harm to those who do choose to use.

Frankly, the solutions to many of these problems are not difficult. Make it easy for people to find out what they are actually consuming by allowing onsite testing and allowing people to have drug checking kits of their own. Make sure that people have access to accurate, unbiased information about all drugs. Make it easy for people to stay cool when they are dancing by having chill-out areas that are physically separated from the dance floor so they don’t become overrun. Make sure that people both in the venue and in line to get in have access to shade, adequate and easily identifiable water, and medical services if they are needed…

It is far past time for us, as a community, to demand that all the health and safety of all participants are taken seriously and is prioritized. It is not an option for us to ignore these problems anymore.

[Source: DanceSafe]

I agree. Harm reduction, like safety, can often be a simple matter of education. If people are prepared to volunteer the time to provide this information for free, promoters and LEOs should encourage that. Kids are dying out there, and a lot of it is because they are not consuming what they think they’re buying. Reagent testing can save lives, and DanceSafe have an excellent track record of operations in this scene over 3 decades.

This situation is bizarre – and very disappointing. It comes on the back of Bonnaroo kicking out Bunk Police for selling drug testing kits.

From YourEDM:

We typically hear about how music festivals should be proactive in dealing with the drug overdoses and drug-related deaths at their events. Although not every attendee can be monitored at these events, there are plenty of options to prevent unnecessary casualties. From publicizing strict regulations against bringing controlled substances into the venues to enforcing those rules with security staff or the police, it would appear that in this day and age their best efforts can still be helped with alternative options.

However, one such option was shut down at Bonnaroo this past weekend. According to a post on the Bonnaroo sub Reddit, Adam Auctor issued a long statement about his business that sells Substance Test Kits and how the prominent music festival stopped his organization and treated him and his team like criminals.

Adam Auctor is the CEO of Bunk Police which has developed Substance Test Kits designed to test for different drugs and different chemicals and compounds within the tested samples. From spotting what’s in MDMA, LSD, Cocaine, DMT, Ketamine, and more, the test kits can be used to keep people who willingly want to take drugs to pursue that option in a cautious matter even if what they’re consuming is contraband. In other words, even if the drugs that some festival attendee has is illegal, at least they can test his or her drugs before ingesting it and harming themselves or worse.

After having his tent shut down from participating as a vendor at Bonnaroo and having 500 of his 2,000 substance test kits confiscated, Adam Auctor has made it loud and clear that although 2016 will not see the Bunk Police at Bonnaroo, they will return with a new plan in order to spread their message, ensuring that the people are informed and safe when it comes to controlled substances.

[Source: YourEDM]

An excerpt from Bunk Police CEO Adam Auctor’s statement on Reddit:

Before I get to the official reaction, let me tell you a little bit about a few local police officers and their reaction to us at the event. We were stopped by the police twice (while on foot) and were given the opportunity to explain ourselves. After elaborating on the harm reduction initiative, the issues with adulterated substances, etc. They kindly let us continue. Thanks for getting it, rogue officers.

Now on to the official reaction: We set up our tent, as usual, and within an hour our two – four individuals from the Mounted Patrol came by and treated us very differently. They detaining us like criminals and forced most of us to sit encircled by their horses. Shortly thereafter, an ATV with two representatives from the Bonnaroo security force showed up to assess the situation. We were made to bring everything out of our tent and our possessions were thoroughly searched. One of our “agents” walked up during this event and was also involved in the search. Unfortunately, so were two patrons that were completely unrelated to our operation – they were not even in the tent – they just happened to be walking by at the time. After nearly half an hour of extremely polite interaction, an explanation of our intentions, and pleading on our part – we were given two options 1) All of our wristbands would be cut and we would all be thrown out of the event (including the un-involved patrons.) They stated that if we chose this option, our supplies would be returned to us outside of the event as soon as we were removed. 2) Our supplies would be confiscated, but returned to us at the end of the event. We would be allowed to stay at Bonnaroo under the agreement that we would no longer operate or advertise in any way. We chose the second option.

They gave two main reasons for shutting us down: That we were “stealing from vendors who had paid to be there” and that “if someone uses our kit (to make sure their substances are safe?) and overdoses, Bonnaroo would be liable.”

It should be noted that Bonnaroo has never answered a single one of our dozens of emails requesting a vending permit or permission to operate.

At the conclusion of the event (where we still continued to operate tent-to-tent as they had only confiscated 500 of our 2,000 kits) I personally went to collect our supplies. As it turns out, Bonnaroo had not kept their word. In fact, they had given everything to the Sheriff’s Department. I was told that, in order to pick them up, I would have to personally go to the police station and show identification. This was not an option as it sounded like a great way to get arrested for illegal vending – among other unknowns – as the new Coffee County D.A. has made it a point to use the law in its full extent to charge Bonnaroo patrons[5] . I decided not to chance it, fearing that I could possibly be made into an “example” somehow and forfeited nearly 500 kits ( or5,000 individual tests) that could have been distributed and used at another event, along with radios, flyers, stickers, and a few (legal) personal items – a huge loss.

At around the same time, another one of our “agents” was stopped by a “safety team” from Bonnaroo. They were very interested in what he was doing, but not in anything beyond the cash he had on him at the time. They confiscated the remainder of his kits along with all of the cash he had on his person – including everything from his wallet. The kits were actually returned to him on Sunday by the Wormtown Trading Company booth (for some reason) but the cash came up missing. It seems that these “safety officers” had failed to log it and had kept the cash for themselves.

[Source: Reddit]

Interestingly, he ends his statement with this:

See you at Electric Forest – where the grass is greener and we have been allowed to freely reduce harm for five years.

Bunk Police tent at Electric Forest 2015. Image: Bunk Police/Facebook

Bunk Police tent at Electric Forest 2015. Image: Bunk Police/Facebook

Did Bunk Police complain to Electric Forest about DanceSafe for selling testing kits, and get them shut down? Or were both organizations victims of The Man, cracking down on We The Ravers?

Check out the What’s In My Baggie documentary, much of which was filmed at Bonnaroo.


[Update 7/1/15 6:46pm PST]

Brian has updated us with further details about what happened between DanceSafe and Madison House, the promoters of Electric Forest.

Dance safe obtained their booth for free by signing up as a non profit booth. Part of the contract with Madison house for non profit booths is that they do not sell anything. Also in the state of Michigan, anything that is for the use of testing illegal substances or use of illegal substances, is classified as paraphernalia. Since they were selling the test kits labeled as drug test kits and came with the color guide, at that point they not only broke their contract with Madison house as non profit booth but they broke Michigan state law. It’s a shame that a booth like dance safe was shut down as they have a great message, and they do great work, but if they were allow the booth to stay they could be held accountable of drug related offences due to the rave act. The focus of this should not be to point a finger at Madison house but rather at the skewed laws that create situations like this.


[Update 7/1/15 8:03pm PST]

DanceSafe’s Mitchell Gomez has made a statement, of sorts, on our Facebook page:

mitchell electric forest

walgreens drug kit

Screenshot 2015-07-01 20.04.27

Radio Interview With BMOrg’s Jim Graham on ChocoTacoGate [Update]

choco_taco

KPNR has an interview with Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham about the latest controversy in the Burnerverse.

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The Twitter-verse was abuzz over the weekend in Nevada over Burning Man.

You all know Burning Man as the Labor Day week no-holds-barred celebration in the Black Rock Desert in the far reaches of northern Nevada.

The buzz was over the perks that the Bureau of Land Management is seeking from Burning Man organizers. The federal agency oversees the week-long event.

The agency’s list of desires reads like something a celebrity might request backstage, including soft-serve ice cream 24 hours a day, seven days a week; steaks, hamburgers, the ice cream treat choco-tacos, and a list of condiments and items that number well more than 100.

Not only that, but the Bureau wants VIP quarters, flush toilets and more.

We requested an interview with Bureau of Land Management officials but received no answer.

[Source: KPNR]

Jim revealed some hard numbers for 2014 costs.

BLM Fees were:

$2.75m cost recovery

$700,000 commercial use fees – BMOrg see this as a tax on top of the ticket price. If this is 3% of the gate then ticket sales were $23.3 million.

$600,000 infrastructure

Total $4.05 million

2011 BLM fees $1.4 million, population 54,000

2015 BLM fees $4.9 million , population 70,000

Jim said that this is a substantial increase in fees, for only 16,000 more population

Of course, the 16,000 extra population is worth $6,544,000 in bonus ticket revenue to BMOrg (at $409 a ticket).

Expected population this year is now officially 70,000 – so there could be an extra 2,000 tickets floating around, to be added to STEP or OMG. This weekend I heard a rumor of 25 tickets being available for $1500 each, but you had to buy the whole 25. Not quite sure how something like that comes about…

Jim said that the $1 million cost figure being bandied around is not just for the Blue Pit Compound. The million dollars is the sum total of all of the requests for infrastructure this year: radios, catering, flush toilets. He said their catering requests were not that unusual…“We feed more than 50,000 meals during the week – our staff and volunteers.” So it looks like the BLM are asking for an increase in the infrastructure budget from $600k to $1 million.

Burning Man are not sure who the VIPs are for the 8 designated containers in the Blue Pit.

Jim said “We house all the BLM agents in the town of Gerlach, we rent out the hotels. Vast majority of them stay there, 14 mile drive from the town out to the site – we feel that’s pretty reasonable…We don’t begrudge anybody how they’re going to live when they’re out there. ”


[Update 6/30/15 1:45pm PST]

Did I say 2,000 extra tickets? How about 12,000?

At The Hill, the Deputy Director of the BLM seems to be giving a green light to 80,000 people this year. An extra 10,000 tickets to sell will certainly pay for a lot of chocotacos.

On Monday, BLM Deputy Director Steve Ellis said the agency should “take a fresh look” at the requests. 

“I am concerned about the reported costs associated with supporting the Burning Man festival. I have directed that BLM staff take a fresh look at the initial proposals for food and facilities at the event,” Ellis said in a statement.

“Our priority is to provide for participant and employee health and safety, sanitation, and environmental compliance at this unique event that is attended by up to 80,000 people in a remote part of the Nevada Desert. I have full confidence in BLM staff and their ability to develop a plan that is cost efficient and ensures public health and safety.”

That sure would be a win/win/win compromise for everybody. Burners would win 12,000 more tickets. BMOrg would win another $5 million revenues. BLM could get a nice VIP compound and increase the infrastructure budget $400k. Looks like a pretty good deal all around, let’s hope it works out that way.