Was a SWAT team really required to break up a Utah rave? Plus: Readers react to the "hellish" evacuation of Houston.

Published September 30, 2005 7:00PM (EDT)

[Read "Stark Raving Mad," by Farhad Manjoo.]

Thanks for the great article. I guess that most people would see this as a regional issue affecting a small underground group, but Salon is correct in viewing it as an ongoing war by the government against a particular youth subculture. It is simply unfathomable why the Utah county authorities would provide permits for a rave with the intent of shutting it down. This is simply malicious, particularly to the promoters.

I am not a raver, but was deeply involved in the East Coast rave scene in the early and mid-'90s (now I'm a graphic designer pushing 30). I really don't even listen to electronic music anymore. I do, however, deeply sympathize with the kids in Utah, who are already at the forefront of a bizarre culture war of sorts with the Mormon community. I remember when a busted party meant a handful of confused local cops who stumbled across your borrowed warehouse. And these were underground parties -- no permits or permissions. Still, there were no M-16s or brutality. The evening usually ended with: "What the hell are you kids doing? Everybody go home now."

-- Adam Marton

It's this kind of story that makes me get chills down my backbone at the thought of "law enforcement" in this country. The behavior of that SWAT team is outrageous. The fact that military-type commandos can sweep into a party on U.S. soil and start beating people for no reason really makes me question exactly what "family values" this country is based on. The fact that their immediate response was to shut off cameras just shows how unjust their actions are. If they're so righteous, why not let their actions be videotaped to show the whole world what a free nation we have?

I have attended the Burning Man festival the last two years, and I have to say, the Nevada authorities behave incredibly well, but every time I see a sheriff or Bureau of Land Management truck on the playa, it makes me really stop and think about the freedoms that we tend to take for granted. I think it will take a SWAT raid of a NASCAR event to really wake people up in this country to how eroded our freedoms have become and how much power we have given to a select few people.

-- Chad Berkley

Police break up a drug-fueled rave over a month ago, and Salon runs it on the front page?

I'm sympathetic to ordinary Americans who are treated as criminals because of recreational drug use, but the place to fight that is in Washington. The police were at the rave to enforce the law, which was undeniably being broken by many of the attendants. I don't see anything to report, except police doing their job.

Then Mr. Manjoo tries to pin excessive force on the police and he reports no injuries or shots fired of any kind. I expect something timely and newsworthy on Salon's front page, and this is neither.

-- Jeff Weiss

Utah County Sheriff James Tracy may say that none of the officers who broke up the rave near Salt Lake City this summer were armed with M-16s, but if he says that he's either incompetent or a liar. About three-quarters of the way through Jeff Coombs' video of the event and just before the "I think they're serious" comment, one of the officers is certainly carrying an M-16. Moreover, he's carrying two 30-round magazines clipped together on the weapon -- a configuration that doesn't make much sense unless it's capable of automatic fire.

-- Scott MacEachern

Why did this article garner your headline? It disturbs me. The article was an editorial, not objective news. Drugs are against the law. The sheriff performed his duty as an officer of the law. Do any of the ravers have relatives in law enforcement? Then they would know about tactics used to subdue a suspect. That consequence is reality when you place yourself in a compromising position (i.e., a rave/event with rampant and exotic drug use).

On a cultural level and as a mom, defending raves as a valid cultural activity concerns me. I've been to a rave in NYC; it is a drug fest. I vividly recall the sweaty, pale, altered kids; it was sad. (I abstained, by the way.) If raves are representative of young America, then our future is in jeopardy. Salon, is this what you support?

-- Jane Christensen

So the ability to score drugs is all the Utah police need to raid a legal gathering? Wow. In that case, I'd like to report that the very first time in my life that anyone tried to sell me drugs was when I was 16, right outside the Mormon Tabernacle. And the most lavish amount of drugs I've ever witnessed being consumed was in a hotel bathroom at a Jewish wedding. We're talking "Scarface" lines of coke and clouds of pot smoke worthy of a Cheech and Chong movie.

If they're not willing to raid a few church services and weddings, I guess we can just conclude that Sheriff Tracy is more interested in reelection than equality under the law.

-- Kevin Andrew Murphy

Only an idiot would be surprised that cops in Utah don't like raves. It's Utah, for Christ's sake! Someone tell the fool kids from my home state of California that once they cross the Truckee River, they are in a different culture. I suppose they must realize this by now, but someone should have warned them beforehand.

-- Tom Clyatt

[Read "How Rita Drove Texas Crazy," by Katharine Mieszkowski.]

I've been reading the tales of the evacuation of Houston with some bemusement. It seems clear to me that the biggest problem was a conceptual one: that is, that the evacuation should be done by individuals in their individual cars. The result, in my opinion, is predictable. Yet all that the reviews I've seen of the evacuation problems can suggest are ways to improve the flow of those cars. Talk about a failure of imagination!

-- Dan Strickland

As a native Houstonian and no stranger to hurricanes, I watched in amazement as millions of my fellow residents fled (or tried to flee) the city ahead of Rita. This reaction, in my memory, at least, is unprecedented -- when Hurricane Carla came ashore in 1961 as a Category 4 storm, my parents and our neighbors were having a hurricane party out in the street, with paper plates and potato chips sailing out of people's hands and down the block. During Hurricane Alicia, a Category 3 storm, in 1983, most people did what they always seemed to do -- left work a half day beforehand, bought water and batteries and candles and snack foods, and went home to ride it out.

I'm not trying to say that people should be cavalier about a big storm. Certainly the residents of low-lying areas should evacuate, and those with special circumstances should do so. But it seems that a lot of people were leaving who really didn't need to -- people who lived a hundred miles from the coast, for example, and people whose only reason for evacuating was to avoid being home without air conditioning. It's hard to avoid thinking that the big evacuation was prompted more by the one-month-old memory of Katrina in New Orleans than by the actual threat posed by Rita in Houston. And if those who weren't in mandatory evacuation areas hadn't hit the road, then the people who had to get out would have been able to do so more readily. Those who want to blame the mayor might think about whether they themselves added to the problem.

-- Leslie Claire

I guess I was lucky to drive from Houston to Austin in only nine hours with my two Alzheimer's-affected parents. Still, the entire misadventure raises real questions as to what the "war on terror" hath wrought. Since any successful terror attack will involve some form of evacuation, what has the government been doing all these years, building a hidden police state? They for darn sure haven't been spending time on organizing for an emergency. I have some comments:

It doesn't matter if you have a seven-lane freeway if it all funnels down into two lanes. Those two lanes can be only a block long and still have great effects. Likewise one traffic light may block traffic literally 60 miles behind it. How difficult would it be to have one highway engineer to ensure that aprons on highways are continuous?

As we were driving toward Austin, there were actually four lanes much of the way: an inside shoulder, two traffic lanes and an outside shoulder. Both the inside and outside shoulders were not used for the evacuation. A few self-appointed enforcers would pull over and block the shoulder to cars attempting to use those lanes. In effect, 50 percent of the carrying capacity of the road was denied.

Finally, I am appalled by the lack of initiative of the average person in the face of a clear danger. Large numbers of people evacuated due to media-induced fears, not real danger. In Hurricane Katrina, the solution to all of those people being trapped on their roofs would have been to have a thousand fishermen take their bass boats to New Orleans. No one remarks on this; instead the complaints are about the lack of initiative of the feds.

We seem happy to build larger, primarily underemployed bureaucracies (who, like unoccupied children, will get into mischief) as opposed to giving careful thought as to how to organize our environs, our public and our public servants to cope with rare but statistically inevitable disasters

-- Larkin Skinner

Chicago had a successful emergency evacuation of over a million people in the early 1990s when the Chicago River broke through into the old coal tunnels. Not one person was injured in the evacuation. The damage cost was the same as from the L.A. Rodney King riots (which happened at the same time), but it barely made the news since no one was hurt and everyone ignores the Midwest. Maybe now would be a good time for a story about it?

-- Joanna Bryson

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------