A recently enacted federal law, known as the RAVE Act, has sparked a grassroots rebellion as young voters, musicians, and business owners launch a nationwide campaign to get Congress to reexamine the law. Thousands of angry voters will gather in cities across the country on May 31st to protest the law, which makes it easier for the federal government to fine and jail business owners for the drug crimes of their customers. The protests are just the beginning of what opponents say will be a very aggressive campaign to repeal the law.
"At any large gathering there is likely to be at least one person using an illegal substance," said Bill Piper Associate Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "This law is an open invitation for the government to shut down any venue that they don't like for political reasons. The hip hop and rave communities will fight to make sure the enforcement of this law will not be abused."
Now, these constituencies are getting organized like never before and politicians that support this law will face opposition from young voters, civil libertarians, and business owners at every turn."
Sponsored by Senator Biden (D-DE), the RAVE Act (also known as the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act) was first introduced last year. It proved so controversial that two of its original co-sponsors withdrew their support because they feared it would send innocent business owners to jail. Business owners collected over 20,000 signatures in opposition to the bill. Protests were held around the country and tens of thousands of voters urged their elected official to oppose it. Controversy over the bill stalled it last year.
Undeterred by nationwide opposition to his bill, Senator Biden reintroduced it this year and attached it to an unrelated bill without public debate or a vote of Congress. That unrelated bill, the so-called "Amber Alert" bill, intended to help prevent child abductions, was then sent to every Member of Congress for a final straight-up or straight-down vote. Even those that opposed Senator Biden's anti-business provisions had to vote for the final "Amber" bill because they wanted to enact the provisions preventing child abductions.
The RAVE Act expands federal law to make it easier to jail and imprison event organizers and property owners that fail to stop drug offenses from occurring on their property -- even in cases when they take serious steps to reduce drug offenses. Legal experts say that federal prosecutors could use the law to shut down not just raves and electronic music, but also Hip Hop, rock, and country music concerts, sporting events and any other event prosecutors don't like. It also applies to hotel and motel owners, cruise ship operators, stadium owners, landlords, and homeowners.
Health advocates fear that the RAVE Act will endanger lives by driving raves and other musical events further underground and away from emergency care and hospitals. By insinuating that selling bottled water, offering air-conditioned "cool off" rooms and having ambulances present is proof that owners and promoters know that drug use is occurring at their events, federal prosecutors may make business owners too afraid to implement the kind of safety measures that save lives.
"Implementing public safety measures like freely available water, air-conditioned rooms, and on-call paramedics is common sense when dealing with any large gathering of people, " said Bill Piper. "Unfortunately, the RAVE Act may make business owners too afraid to implement such safety measures, and it could cost lives."
The May 31st protests are just the first step in the battle to repeal the RAVE Act. Coalitions of local groups across the country are coming together to form a national coalition to protect their interests. A large protest against the bill is planned for September 6th across from the U.S. Capitol.
National Legislative Strategy
Bill Piper, Drug Policy Alliance
September Protest in Front of Congress
Legba Carrefour, ROAR!: The National Dance and Music Rights Alliance
Los Angeles May 31st Protest
Susan Mainzer, Dance And Nightlife Coalition of Electronic Music (DANCEmusic)
New York May 31st Protest
Jason Fitzsimmons, Culture Defense Project