Over the weekend, promoter Brandon Fullmer threw a party in Spanish Fork Canyon, Utah. Called Versus II, the "rave" brought anywhere from 500-1000 partygoers to the area, all intent upon shaking their asses until the wee hours of the morning. However, around 11:30pm, their booty-shaking plans were brought to a premature halt when a police helicopter came flying overtop the canyon, shining it's spotlight on the mass of dancing bodies. At the same time, up to NINETY police officers from S.W.A.T. and other divisions, dressed in full camouflage and carrying machine guns, raided the party. Using excessive force (according to just about every non-law enforcement agent at the scene) and barking profanity-strewn orders, the cops rounded up and arrested about 60 partygoers on a variety of charges, including possession of illegal narcotics, weapons violations, DUI, illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, etc.
"The cops just came in wearing full Army [camouflage]. It was basically brute force," partygoer Scott Benton told the Salt Lake Tribune. "I had a gun put in my face and was told to get out of there." Another party attendee, Alisha Matagi, says she was thrown to the ground, punched, kicked and handcuffed by police before being arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest and failing to obey an officer. The entire crowd was rounded up and dispersed in less than half an hour.
Utah County Sheriff James Tracy stands by the work of his officers, refuting the accounts of excessive force by countless partygoers. "It's all a lie and we refute every word of it." However, a video tape taken of the beginning of the raid paints a different picture. It shows multiple officers brandishing their weapons, throwing individual kids to the ground, and barking profanity-laden orders at the crowd.
The police say that the organizers did not have a permit to hold the party. This also is being refuted. Organizer Brandon Fullmer contests that he did, in fact, purchase a mass gathering permit through the Utah County Health Department, a statement later confirmed by County Heath employee Jay Stone. Questions have arisen whether an additional permit was required, but a quick heads up by authorities prior to the party kick-off in regards to this permit might have saved a bunch of kids a lot of trouble, not to mention the thousands of taxpayer dollars that were gobbled up by the police to carry out this raid.
Clearly, the police used this party to set an example. Calling them breeding grounds for drugs, sexual abuse and under-age drinking, officers and city officials are obviously opposed to these gatherings, whether they're legal or not. They even arrested the security guards who were hired by party organizers for drug possession. The security guards had been confiscating drugs and other illegal material from those trying to gain entry to the party with such items. Police said they had no right to hold these items.
To read first hand accounts of the events, click here.
To check the video, click here.
Without having been there, I obviously don't know exactly how everything went down, but from the video tape, the first-hand accounts, and knowing that testosterone-filled cops in full army fatigues with machine guns can sometimes get a bit out of control, I'd have to say that more than anything, this event scares me. Yes, where there are raves, there are drugs and booze. But I'd like to see 100 cops descend on a tail-gating party at an NFL game, or a Jimmy Buffett concert, or a Nascar race and see if they don't find drugs, under-age drinking, and a few impaired drivers.
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