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Bernard Parks Defends Against Rick Caruso's Criticism Of Raves At Public Venues

Paresh Dave |
February 2, 2011 | 5:48 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

Patrick Lynch, general manager of the Coliseum and Sports Arena. (Creative Commons)
Patrick Lynch, general manager of the Coliseum and Sports Arena. (Creative Commons)

Should a public venue host events where dozens of people are arrested for possessing illegal drugs or are hospitalized for drug overdoses?

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission answered the question affirmatively on Wednesday, continuing to move forward with plans to host another electronic music concert at the Coliseum in June.

The commission has been facing the issue of making raves safer or abandoning the events altogether for the past seven months since a 15-year-old girl died after the Electric Daisy Carnival at the Coliseum. The clash of cultural preferences, First Amendment rights and money has rippled throughout the state and left a couple of appointed officials debating whether the great lengths taken to make the events safe is worth the revenues brought to an agency $1 million in the red.

Under plans unveiled Wednesday, this year's version of Electric Daisy Carnival would see as many as 150,000 people attend during the course of two days in late June. The commission must still approve the contract for the event, which it will likely consider at its March meeting.

Support for holding the events appears to be waning. Commissioner Rick Caruso has been the most vocal critic of raves, but commissioner W. Jerome Stanley said Wednesday that his support for holding raves at the complex was weak as it has ever been.

“The amount of preparation that has gone into making this safe is impressive, but it's also creepy,” Stanley said. “It's almost counter-intuitive.”

With the three L.A. county supervisors on the nine-member commission absent, event promoter Insomniac joined city public safety and county public health officials in framing the plans for this year's event as being much safer than last year's. Commissioner Fabian Wesson was also out sick. A day after the meeting, she refused to comment on any of the issues facing the commission, referring all press inquiries to commissioner Barry Sanders. He also refused to comment after the meeting Wednesday.

A L.A. Fire Department representative said fire officials were comfortable with Insomniac's plan to boost the amount of first aid stations, security personnel, fencing and anti-Ecstasy public service announcements.

The June 24-25 event would be capped at 75,000 attendees each day and run from 2 p.m to 2 a.m. Last year's event saw 185,000 attend during the span of two days.

Insomniac said the event drives $30 million in economic activity to the region, according to a study the company commissioned. Caruso walked out from the meeting in the middle of a video produced by Insomniac, showing highlights of last year's event, including time-lapse crowd shots, peformers bouncing around stages and a woman dressed in very little clothing twirling around a pole.

Part of Insomniac's presentation noted that the amount of medical treatments that occur during other temporary mass gatherings, such as marathons and ceremonies involving the pope, are not out of line with large raves.

“How many people use drugs during the pope's visit?” Caruso questioned. “I have never walked into an event with the pope where this warning was given to me.”

All of the EDC entrants would receive a postcard-sized handout, warning about the dangers of Ecstasy use. Insomniac says they will run public service announcements featuring major electronic music artists such as Kaskade and Steve Aoki that remind attendees to “Play together. Stay safe together.” Insomniac's draft plans only had the messages in English, but commissioner David Israel urged the company to consider printing and recording messages in more languages.

Insomniac said it would have police officers arrest any people who try to enter with fake identification cards. The number of entrances in use would be doubled to speed up entry. Long lines drew several complaints from attendees of a New Year's Eve electronic music event at the complex. Officials would monitor social networks such as Twitter and Facebook to catch illegal activity at the event.

The Coliseum-Sports Arena complex—jointly owned by the City of L.A., County of L.A and the state—derives nearly a third of its revenue from just from four electronic music events.

“These events are dynamic and inherently high-risk, and that's why the commission and county board of supervisors put these regulations in place,” a fire department official said.

Caruso struck back, noting that USC President C.L. Max Nikias had to recently “come out against” raves.

“I applaud everyone's efforts to make these events safer, but these events are not safe,” Caruso said. “There's an underlying fallacy in this whole thing, and it's partly profit-driven, which I'm normally okay with, but not now.”

He criticized the idea of shifting city fire and police resources from normal community response to care for a group of individuals who gather with the idea of using illegal drugs and consuming alcohol.

“If they weren't doing these things at the events, we wouldn't need all this planning,” Caruso said.

The L.A. Police Department plans to deploy 100 officers in the Coliseum, which are paid for by Insomniac. But 300 officers planted outside and in the surrounding community during EDC would come at the cost of about $200,000 to the city.

Insomniac sought $1 million in damages last year when the L.A. Convention Center cancelled an electronic music concert featuring Tiesto. The lawsuit was settled out of court.

L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks cautioned that city resources are regularly diverted for major events such as Los Angeles Lakers championship games, political conventions and even the 1984 Olympics held in L.A.

“These things are common and part of society, so we should put forth efforts to make them safe,” Parks said. “It's unfortunate that we have tagged the label 'rave' onto these events. These are legitimate, revenue-producing events that are mainstream.”

For our previous coverage of raves, click here.

Reach executive producer Paresh Dave here. Follow him on Twitter: @peard33.



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