Spanish Fork Canyon, Utah
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. -- The First Amendment, United States Bill of Rights
In the United States, we generally consider ourselves the most free country in the world. This is a sentiment that I am extremely proud of, and it is the reason I react strongly when our freedoms are threatened.
On August 20th, 2005, a promoter named Nick Mari threw an outdoor party called "Versus 2" in Spanish Fork Canyon, Utah. He went to great lengths to make sure his event was legit. He applied for and aquired permits. He made sure that there were plenty of trash cans and portajohns, as well as roping to block off areas partygoers weren't supposed to be. The event was held on the private property of Trudy and Yancy Childs. Headlining DJs included DJ Craze, 3 time world DMC champion, along with a head-to-head set by Knick of Evol Intent and DJ Syze. Security was hired for the event, along with off-duty EMT personnel to handle any possible situations. Security was tasked with searching cars as they came in, along with any suspicious people, to prevent drugs and weapons from being brought to the show. (These last two measures are required for a permit.) A two million dollar insurance policy was bought, to protect the concertgoers. An attorney was present at the event, to insure that it would 'go off without a hitch'. 3,000 people were expected to attend.
You gotta fight! For your right! To paaartay! --The Beastie Boys
At around 11:30, Knick from Evol Intent was standing on the stage talking and listening to music, when he noticed something.
"It about 11:30 or so, I was standing behind the stage talking with someone when I noticed a helicopter pulling over one of the mountain tops. I jokingly said "Oh look, here comes big brother" to the person I was with. I wasn't far off." --Knick
Seconds later, he observed someone walking past, wearing combat fatigues and kevlar, with a mask over his face. He was also toting an assault rifle. Seconds later, the stage was rushed with similiarly dressed men, screaming at the DJ to cut the sound off or "I'll take your ass straight to jail!"
Utah Police, or, more specifically, 90 of them from multiple agencies, armed with machine guns, nightsticks, tear gas, and stun guns, along with a helicopter and numerous police dogs, had raided the event.
"No one resisted. That's for sure. They had police dogs raiding the crowd of people and I saw a dog signal out a guy who obviously had some drugs on him. The soldiers attacked the guy (4 of them on 1), and kicked him a few times in the ribs and had their knees in his back and sides. As they were cuffing him, there was about 1000 kids trying to leave in the backdrop, peacefully. Next thing I know, A can of fucking TEAR GAS is launched into the crowd. People are running and screaming at this point. Girls are crying, guys are cussing... bad scene." --Knick
Due to the combat fatigues and machine guns, many of the partygoers thought they had been raided by the military. It is worth mentioning here that President Bush was scheduled to visit the state within the next couple of days. A source within the Utah government has supposedly stated that the raid was due to fear that the rave would be used to rally support for protests, but this is speculative at this point. The officers made a point to confiscate anything used to record the raid, but one amateur video made it out and was posted on the internet. The video is here. This is in .mov format - the .wmv version is here. (Download link) Please watch this now, if you are able. If not, I will attempt to describe it as best I can.
A stage - lights are flashing, and several people are standing around an ungodly pile of sound equipment. To the right, you can see people dancing. A voice screams from off-screen, "SHUT IT DOWN, NOW!!!" The DJs look over confused, and immediately turn the volume nearly all the way down. As the music fades away, they hear the sound of a chopper. They look up, obviously with no clue as to what is going on. "ALL THE WAY DOWN!" The DJs look at him, and reach for the equipment. A man in combat fatigues walks onto the stage. "Turn it all the way down, or I'm going to take your ass straight to jail!" The DJ attempts to comply, but the man slaps his hand away, and does it himself. On the other side of the decks, you see a middle finger raise in the air, then disappear. The cameraman steps off of the stage. The viewpoint spins as a helicopter drones in the background, and you see about six or seven more men, similiarly dressed, step into view. They begin to question a partygoer, who responds, "I have no idea." Someone says, "I think they're serious, they've got guns, man!" The sound of a dog snarling and barking attracts the cameraman's attention. There is a person wearing a red sweatshirt on the ground, face first, with three grown, masked men roughly holding her down while the animal snarls viciously nearby. "GET UP, NOW!" One of them appears to kick her. One of the officers raises a closed fist, and slams it down onto her head. Pan left, and there's three more men, roughly cuffing another person. One of them is brandishing a baton, and appears to be using it, despite the fact that the detainee is already prone. There is a flash - possibly a stun gun. An officer, bespectacled and masked, approaches the cameraman, instructing them to head towards their car. The cameraman says, "My car is this way, actually." He turns around, but then turns and continues recording as he walks away. The dog is still barking and snarling. Two officers turn around, and the video begins to spin crazily as the cameraman turns to move away. You hear a voice say, "Put the camera down, you're under arrest.", along with what sounds like a small scuffle, and the footage suddenly cuts out.
According to message board posts, the camera was thrown as the video cut out, where it was picked up by someone who managed to escape with it. Out of the numerous video cameras there, only this one is known to have made it out. Please remember our poor friends on the ground in this video - we will be revisiting them shortly. The cameraman, Jeffery Coombs, was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, along with, strangely enough, a seat belt violation, despite his being on a dancefloor in the middle of nowhere. None of this conduct, of course, appears on the video.
One of the cops saw me walking that direction and ran up and grabbed me by the neck and threw me to the ground. Another guy ran up and pointed a very large, scary looking gun inches away from my head as the other cop searched my record bag.
As this was going on, I watched my friend filming people getting the shit beat out of them as he walked towards the parking lot (this is the footage that was shown on all the news stations). Two cops then proceeded to knock his camera to the ground and literally body slammed him into the dirt. All for doing nothing but filming as he was walking away. I watched in awe as I saw bewildered kids getting pushed around and huge guys with guns running around tackling people. I couldn't fucking believe it. --(Name illegible), DJ and attendee
Parents need to be aware of the type of illegal activities that occurs at these type of gathering. (sic) --Utah County Sheriff's Press Release
"I saw about 7 people attacked (before being forced to leave). I saw two of them right in front of me. One was a guy who was walking around with a camcorder stunned at what was happening. A soldier told him to give him the camera now. The raver said no it is my camera. The soldier then proceeded to grab the camera, throw it to the ground and then began beating the kid. In the end they threw him to the ground violently an put their knee into his back while handcuffing him. All for wanting to keep his property. When I last saw him he was knocked out and unmoving.
Another girl next to me said to one of the soldiers that she didn't know how to get home as they had just arrested her friend. The soldier told her to walk home. My friend tried to grab her to bring her with us, but the soldier began yelling that she had touched him (which she hadn't). WIthin seconds, five soldiers had jumped on her and were literally beating the crap out of this innocent women. She was punched in the face, thrown to the ground, and kicked while down. All for worrying how to get home safely. She is now suing.
The soldiers proceeded to attack anyone with cameras or camcorders, obviously wanting to restrict the film that got out about it. This was not a legal attack, it was a blatant violation on our rights as American citizens. And the swat, police, politicians who authorized this, and the national guard knew this. That is why they were removing potential evidence.
We were treated as terrorists, innocent kids without weapons or even violent thoughts in their minds were manhandled, treated like terrorists, and forced to stop doing what we were by constitutional rights allowed to be doing. Our rights were completely removed from us. It was if we had visited the 1960s or communist China." --Rodan, attendee.
"They first made their way onto the stage, grabbing people and forcing them onto the ground to handcuff them. I saw at least two people being beaten on the ground while barking, snarling dogs are held just a few feet from them. Weapons were being pointed at unarmed, peaceful civilians. A friend of mine was forced at gunpoint to put his hands on his head and turn around, because he asked if he could get his things from the tent. Tents were ripped open indiscriminately, and all belongings and bags were recklessly searched. I've heard accounts of people taking pictures, and when they refused to hand over the camera to the authorities, beaten or tasered. One sheriff said that "many people at the party had guns" and that there were "children in danger". The only guns I saw were the rifles held by soldiers, and the only children in danger were the people being wrongfully attacked by them." --Colby, attendee.
"One of the promoters friends (a very small female) was attacked by one of the police dogs. As she struggled to get away from it, the police tackled her. 3 grown men proceeded to KICK HER IN THE STOMACH." --Knick, DJ
"At Around 11:39 p.m. I noticed a bright light in the sky to the North East, which I quickly realized was a Helicopter Search light, and I saw it circling over head. I assumed that the Helicopter was only there to scout us, make sure we weren't doing anything wrong, so I quickly dismissed it. However, it made 2 more passes and got substantially lower to the ground each time. At this time I heard a Woman next to me say "The Police Are Here, Everyone Has to Leave" Lots of people were disappointed, but noone was: rioting, fighting, or being insubordinate. People merely began to file towards their cars. At this time I actually got a look at my surroundings. Dozens of Men in Full Camo, Kevlar Vests, Gas Masks MP5 Navy's AUG's and many other fire-arms. Attack Dogs, were barking somewhere ahead of me. Suddenly I saw the sight that disgusted me. A person whom I had met before was on the ground face first, 4 Reservists had their guns pointed to his head, and were handcuffing him. Their attack dog was mauling his: Shoulder, Neck and Torso areas. I was quickly shuffled along but was very disgusted. I had attempted to record the man on the ground with my Camera-Phone, but a soldier approached me and took my phone and said "move Along" I still have not recovered it.
I also was witness to the blunt beatings using shoulder rests of weapons. My friend Katie Mercer was hit in the side of the head with an MP5 because a soldier took her camera, and she was trying to recover it from him. I was witness to numerous people being held at gunpoint, people being handcuffed, Attack Dogs, Guns, Malice, Hatred." --ZeroBrett, Attendee
"It was 1145... i had 30 min before my set, so i was running around lookin at the mountains and the people dancing, laughing , the crazy visiuls they even had prjecting on the mountains. i will share photos once i can see them. All of the sudden a helicopter comes in with massive spot lights .. all on the people circling everyone ... and within minutes like out of some fuckin movie , soldiers with guns (fucking rifles )come in out of the grass, like some vietnam shit. The police in full riot gear come in, big trucks ... next thing you know they are throwing tear gas at people, setting dogs on people, arresting kids. 4 big guys on one dnb fan kicking him down tieing his hands .... making kids sit in the dirt with their hands tied all in a line, now you must remember in this whole time NO ONE was resisting arrest or making a big deal, everyone peaceful started to walk out... but yet they were throwin tear gas..." --DJ Syze
This next account is from Alaisha. Remember the first person in the video that's on the ground? The one in the red sweatshirt? This is her.
"Around 11:30pm or so i noticed a helicopter flying above the main stage of the event. At this point i am confused. The chopper began to come in closer to the stage with a search light focused on the crowd. I got nervous and still very confused and walked over to find my two friends I had arrived with earlier. Just as soon as i did that I looked over at my friend and asked "whats going on". That is when I was greeted by a man in full army attire, gas mask and all. He said to leave. I said what whats going on, at which point i was brutally attacked. Thrown to the ground and in the scuffle punched in the face by swat. That was not it either. I suppose i posed some a threat as another swat member rushed over to subdue me to the ground puting his knee in my back and arresting me. At that point I am screaming to a patron "whats going on?" He is just as confused as I am. At that point another swat member came over and kicked me in the leg. Let me tell you that I also only weigh 130 pounds. I had three grown men attack and beat me and throw me to ground for absolutely no reason at all. Not to mention being dragged to a van and violently being tossed in and taken to jail. Fined for resisting arrest and another outrageous charge. I do need to mention also that while this is all happening to me at the same time my two friends, a boy and girl were trying to reach out and stop them, at that point they were attacked and arrested as well."--Alaisha, attendee
Take special note that the person next to her in the video was a friend of hers, Paul Maka, who tried to stop the police from hurting her. Her mugshot and arrest info can be found here.
"In more words or less, I made it apparent that I was on my way out, I would passivly comply with whatever was needed to make this go easy, but I wanted to know under which grounds I was being evicted from my peacefull, private gathering. Usually when you show a voice of reason and zero threat of violence, you can at least talk with an officer for a bit. I was only able to ask my first question in a series that I had carefully planned, but the response I recieved was a curled lip, even more violent shouting, a gun pointed at me, and the threat that if I asked a single other question I would be detained or disabled my any means necessary. This is when I saw the dogs attacking people, and other kids being tackled by 3-4 of these "civil servents" at a time. I felt violated. I had done nothing to deserve that kind of treatment, but I felt I had to do what I could to try help other kids not get themselves in trouble. I told people to put there cameras away, I quelled a fair share of the anti-police sentiment amoungst the groups around me. Our small protest, albeit nonviolent, was better saved for another time."--Dylan, attendee
"Swat was surrounding the event with guns drawn and in an attack position. With in moments of seeing the first gun, swat jumped onto the main stage, guns pointed, and started screaming at the dj's. At this point I make my way to an officer to inquire about their reasoning for breaking up the event. Upon asking the officer their reasoning for entering the premises the officer raised the barrel of his gun and placed it no more that a foot away from my face and said , "Get the F*ck out of here!" At this point I turned around to witness an officer trying to grab a female in a red sweater. This female is screaming at the officer to not touch her. After about a minute of yelling and the girl continuously backing up, the officer took her to the ground in brute force!!! They were assaulting her. Her boyfriend stepped in and tried to pull the officer off of her. At this point I saw an attack dog released upon the male who was trying to pull the officer off the female. Then 4 more officers ran in and started attacking the male and a 2nd female."--Scott, attendee
"What's going on?" --Alaisha, during her arrest.
25-30 people were arrested during the raid, on charges ranging from driving with a suspended license, to disorderly conduct, to DUI, to possession of methamphetamine, mushrooms, and ecstacy, to resisting arrest, to assault on a police officer. Included among the arrests were the owners of the private land the event was being held on. Most of the drugs found were those confiscated from concertgoers by the hired security guards, who were also arrested.
Utah Police issued a statement listing reasons for the raid, including that the party, while having a health department permit, did not have a county mass gathering permit required to operate. However, the statute reads like so:
No person shall permit, maintain, promote, conduct, advertise, act as entrepreneur, undertake, organize, manage, or sell or give tickets to an actual or reasonably anticipated assembly of two hundred fifty or more people which continues or can reasonably be expected to continue for twelve (12) or more consecutive hours, whether on public or private property unless a license to hold the assembly has first been issued by the County Commissioners.
Unfortunately, to get the license, one must first contract Porta-potties, dumpsters, medical professionals, etc. All of which comes under "promote, conduct, advertise, act as entrepreneur, undertake, organize, manage." clause. So in order to get a permit under the ordinance, you must first violate the ordinance. Also of note here is that in order to satisfy the need for this permit, the event must have more than 250 people AND continue for more than 12 consecutive hours, meaning that said permit would not be required if the number of people dropped to below 250 by 10AM Sunday morning. Again, the raid occurred at 11:30 PM Saturday. - more than 10 hours before the deadline. Also of note is that this is obviously an anti-rave law.
The promoters deny the allegation that they didn't have the mass gathering permit, however, and have even provided a permit number: #2005-11. Jay Stone, who handles mass gathering permits for the Utah County Health Department’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services, has confirmed that the permit was applied for and granted for the party.
My group arrived roughly around 7pm to assist with the O2 bar set up and handling of the vending that night. Upon arriving I talked to the promoter and we discussed the mass gathering permit and he showed it to me and my brother. I'd done a show myself in utah county about 5 years ago, thus bring up the topic of this conversation and seeing the "Utah County mass gathering permit". In order to obtain one of these, there is a check list you must complete. I must say that this show was in order and put together very well. --Nick Bliss, attendee
The officers also stated that undercover agents present during the event noted drug use and underage drinking, and that they had reports of a sexual assault and a 'near fatal shooting' at prior events in Utah. While this does somewhat explain the need to shut down the event, it does not explain the need for 90 men in camo gear, with machine guns, tear gas, tasers, dogs and a helicopter. Speculation is that the cops attempted to shut down a party earlier that year, but felt that they didn't bring enough people for effective crowd control, hence the reason for the excessive use of force. The police have stated that excessive force was not used. The police have also stated that any injuries from the party were caused by a mosh pit. Drum and bass parties, such as this one, do not generally feature a mosh pit - in fact, cultural etiquette at these types of events dictate that if you touch someone while dancing, that you immediately apologize. The infrared video from the police helicopter does not show a mosh pit. Sheriff Jim Tracy, the officer who organized the raid, has stated that the allegations of police violence are "lies and gross exaggerations". It is worth noting that, when his department was sued because the same SWAT team raided the wrong house, roughing up the homeowners, his response was that "we dispute the accuracy of their version of events." This is a mantra that seems hauntingly familiar.
"It's like sending in fully armed storm troopers to break up a teddy bear riot." --DJ Rama, seattlednb.com
Strangely enough, the local news story that aired on the raid included no mention of people being attacked, or of the fact that the raid was done by men in camoflauge that ushered people along at the point of automatic weapons. They only mentioned that a 'drug party' was busted, and that the promoter had 'even hired security so that people couldn't bring their own drugs', obliquely implying that the promoter had staged the event to sell drugs himself. They also failed to mention that the security guards were required in order to obtain a permit. They also exaggerated the number of arrests, stating 60 arrests, instead of the 20-25 arrests which were listed on the Utah County Jail website. Calls to the sheriff's office return an answer of 30 arrests. It is likely the figure was given to the media by police.
Outrage at the video and accounts of attendees of the show are widespread - people from as far away as Finland and Thailand have shown up on the Utah Rave message boards to express their condolences and well wishes, along with their shock that something like this could happen in the United States of America. The person from Thailand in particular noted that while parties in Thailand were commonly (and probably unfairly) broken up, the police got partygoers attention by blowing whistles, and then peacefully showed them to their cars. Local ravers are already beginning plans for a "Rave for your Rights" event, to be held on public property, along with a benefit CD by artists from the raided party for legal fundraising. "Versus2.Org", a website devoted entirely to the incident, should be live some time tomorrow. Due to pressure from numerous callers, the KUTV news will be airing a follow up story tonight at 6:30.
The mission statement of the police is 'to protect and to serve' - neither of these things were happening on this night. Proper police procedures dictates that police should avoid conflict wherever possible. This is not done by running in and sticking guns in people's faces. This is not done by setting dogs on innocent dancers. This is not done by brandishing nightsticks and automatic weapons to disperse a peaceful gathering. Numerous lawsuits have been brought against the State of Utah, along with the sheriff's department, including allegations of sexual abuse. (Two written statements by eyewitnesses state that they saw two of the camouflaged men take a young, intoxicated girl into a portajohn while another stood outside guarding the door.) The ACLU is involved, along with several electronic dance music groups. Hopefully this travesty will not go unanswered.
(On a slightly lighter note, is already a drum and bass track available on the internet featuring samples from the video. It's called "Residual Burn", and it's by an artist named "Edgey".)
THIS WRITEUP MAY BE FREELY COPIED AND DISTRIBUTED SO LONG AS IT IS CREDITED WITHIN THE COPY TO THE AUTHOR AND EVERYTHING2.COM. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE USED FOR PROFIT.
Email exchange between Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy, who organized the raid, and a concerned citizen.
To: Jim Tracy mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Complaint regarding recent police action
To Whom it may Concern,
My name is (edit: i didn't want my name here). I am a New York resident actively involved in the 'rave' and club scene throughout the north-east and other parts of the country.
It was brought to my attention even across the country, the events that took place this past weekend in the shutting down of the event known as Versus II in Utah County.
I am writing to express my utter disgust at the way the situation was handled by the members of your department, as well as any other agencies involved. I have viewed available video footage and photographs, and it is obvious to me, as it should be to any rational human being, that you stepped far beyond your boundaries in handling this situation.
Despite any permit issues there may have been, which I do not believe there were, attendees to events are not responsible for ensuring that these things are in order. For a full scale S.W.A.T. type raid to take place at a concert is ludicrous and uncalled for. To see and hear K9 units attacking people, people being tazed and beaten should make any human being involved sick and ashamed.
I have written letters to all the available state representatves, the Utah ACLU, and other agencies that I have had access to, and sincerely hope that you have to suffer consequences for your obviously negligent actions.
Your obvious abuse of innocent women and others should not only be accounted for civily but criminally, and I hope to hear of great changes in your agencies.
On the other hand, I hope that this will cause you to look differently at how you handle similar situations in the future, and that you will learn that peaceful gatherings such as this do not require full-scale military type action to be controlled.
(edit: again.. removing my real name)
New York, NY
Jim Tracy mailto:email@example.com
Sent: Tuesday, August 23, 2005 1:53 PM
To: Linda Taylor
Subject: RE: Complaint regarding recent police action
Thank you for your concern, all of your facts are incorrect and the gross exaggerations on the internet are just that, exaggerations and lies. Please view the "video" frame by frame, it shows two people, the two who assaulted our deputies, being taken to the ground and handcuffed, not assaulted. There were two people that were dealt with in a physical manner after kicking and assaulting the Deputy. No gas, no dogs, no tasers, and no military or guns were pointed into any ones face or were used. This gathering was illegal and a venue for rampant use of illegal drugs.
I am "the establishment" and you will choose to call me a liar and I will not waste any more of my time arguing with those that have political agendas that include allowing or promoting the breaking of law.
The two people in the video, Alaisha Matagi and Paul Maka, have both been charged with failure to obey a police officer and resisting arrest. Paul Maka is charged with interfering with police as well. Neither have been charged with assaulting a police officer, contrary to the claim in this email. It is also left to the imagination why a 130-pound female would assault a 180-pound fully armed police officer with 89 of his buddies at his back along with a helicopter and several attack dogs. It also seems strangely unlikely that the only two people who were "dealt with in a physical manner" just happened to be the only two people who were caught on video tape being dealt with in a physical manner. Very, very unlikely.
"Officers make 60 arrests at rave near Spanish Fork" KUTV Headline News.
CBS. KUTV, Utah.
August 22nd, 2005.
"Read this fucked up bullshit". URL. 404 Audio. 08/22/2005.
"VERSUS 2.0::SATURDAY, AUGUST 20TH, 2005::". URL. Salt Lake City Drum and Bass. 08/22/2005.
"The Bill of Rights". URL. US State Department. 08/22/2005.
"Official Statements of Verses" (sic). URL. Utah Raves. 08/22/2005.
"Utah County Inmate Detail, Matagi, Alaisha M." URL. Utah County Jail. 08/22/2005.