The next installment of my Shadow History of Burners series with Jan Irvin is now out.
Previous episodes under Shadow History
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:
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.
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.
This year there were 631 yellow bikes. Someone donated 180 huffy bikes to the total.
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.
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.
“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.
Earlier in the year, VICE news published a story When the DEA Went to Burning Man, Shit Got Redacted about the DEA’s activities at Burning Man, based on a heavily redacted FOIA response.
When we discussed the story in April, we also published the results of a FOIA request made by “Inkoo Kang” in 2012 (responded to after much chasing in Feb 2013). This provided documented proof that the FBI have been active at Burning Man.
For some reason, this story has hit the mainstream media this week. Here’s some of the coverage:
The FBI are far from the only agency operating there.
Not to mention Google’s prototyping of new technologies, such as Google Earth. Another technology prototyped at Burning Man, Firechat, played a big role in the Hong Kong protests a month after its Playa debut.
The festival takes place on a former military site that is still used for space launches. It is very close to Naval Air Station Fallon, and every year there are fly-overs. There are also all kinds of elite military personnel at the festival, plugged directly into reconnaissance satellites.
Military aircraft that have been spotted at Burning Man include:
Recently Alex Jones’ show InfoWars.com did a special on Burning Man’s bugs, asking if they also could be tied to government agency activities.
In Operation Chaos and COINTELPRO the FBI and CIA infiltrated the counter-culture of the 1960’s. History is repeating itself…perhaps by accident, or perhaps by design.
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.
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.
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.”
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:
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:
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.
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.
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…
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.
Here’s what Acting Nevada State Director John Ruhs told them:
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:
These are the charges that were investigated:
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:
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . 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.
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.
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: