Opposition to the RAVE Act moved from the halls of Congress to the Capitol grounds September 6, as an estimated 600-800 people danced and politicked against the proposed legislation. Organizers reported that sister events held in New York and Los Angeles the same day drew similar numbers, while no reports were available from San Francisco and Seattle.
The RAVE Act, or S. 2633 would make venue owners and event promoters criminally responsible for drug use occurring at their events. Although the language of the bill specifically targets raves, the bill is so broadly written that it could apply to hemp fests, smoke-ins and other forms of political activity, as well as to commercial activities well beyond the rave scene. While congressional sponsors of the bill, including Sens. Joe Biden (D-DE) and Pat Leahy (D-VT), may have believed they had a "no brainer" measure that no one would oppose, the rave protests last Friday are only the most public manifestation of increasing opposition to the bill.
"The protests went really well," said the Drug Policy Alliance's (http://www.drugpolicy.org) Bill Piper, who is coordinating DPA's campaign from their Washington, DC, office. "Here in Washington we had hundreds of people fill out postcards to Congress, telling them in their own words why the bill must be defeated," he told DRCNet.
"It was great, really impressive," said DJ Chi, who emceed the event as well as performing himself. "The crowd loved it, the audience was captivated, very attentive and open to our message," he told DRCNet. "There were families, there were some older heads, grandparents, and even some tourists stopped by to see what was going on."
Speakers at the Washington rave included Students for Sensible Drug Policy head Sean Heller; Amanda Huie of Buzzlife Productions, one of the District's biggest electronic music promoters; and legendary DC disc-spinner Sam "The Man" Burns. Performers included DJ Simon, DJ Sun, MC Lady J, MC Bushito, Dieselboy, and Switchstance, DJ Chi said.
"Now we need to galvanize the community and take our collective energy and effort to the next level," said DJ Chi, who is involved with Ravers Organized Against the RAVE Act (http://www.rpmonline.org/roar/), one of a number of local groups around the country working to kill the bill. "And the community is very much responding. And it's not just the kids -- a lot of the smaller clubs are really worried -- and people are beginning to understand that this is all intertwined," said DJ Chi. "If clubs start to shut down because of this bill, then everybody loses. Music retailers can't move their equipment, liquor wholesalers can't sell their liquor, promoters are threatened with the loss of their livelihood."
While the DC community gears up to fight the RAVE Act, similar moves are afoot in other cities around the country. "Here in Los Angeles, we had about 600 people turn up for the rave on the front lawn of the Westwood federal building," said Susan Mainzer of the Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund (http://www.emdef.org), a DPA spin-off designed to thwart attacks on the electronic music scene and the rave culture. "We had great music and great speakers, incuding Urb magazine publisher Raymond Roker and independent mayoral candidate Francis Dela Veccia, who has always supported the electronic music community," Mainzer told DRCNet. "We probably got about 330 postcards sent to Congress that day," she added.
Opposition to the RAVE Act is embracing both the kids who want to dance and music industry professionals, said Mainzer, although the movement has yet to attract more than nice words from the mainstream music community. "That's dangerous," she said. "They don't understand that they can be targeted, too."
Back on the East Coast, DJ Chi was sounding a similar theme. "I told the crowd that we are the opposition and the only reason this bill has gotten so far is because the opposition is not united," he said. "We are trying to expand our coalition here; we need a reggae band, a rock band. This bill is aimed at the entire music industry."
If the music industry has been largely deaf to the RAVE Act threat, drug reformers and ravers have not -- and they are not limiting their protests to the streets. "We have met with some of the bill's sponsors already and are scheduling meetings with all the cosponsors next week," said DPA's Piper. "We are still lobbying to improve the bill if we can't kill it, and it looks like if the bill is going to move this year, it will happen before the fall recess in late October. Time is running out."
(See http://www.drcnet.org/wol/252.html#raveact for previous DRCNet coverage of the RAVE Act.)