“If you own enough pacifiers that you can match one to your outfit, you probably have a fairly strong opinion regarding Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, author of the “Anti-Raves Act of 2011.”
The San Francisco representative pulled back that legislation when it met with resistance every bit as loud as one of the aforementioned raves — and far more organized. But she promised to rejigger the bill after attending a rave to see what all the fuss is about.
Over the weekend, she did just that, dropping in on “Beyond Wonderland” in San Bernardino with 45,000 other ravers. Here’s her first impression:
In other words: “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
Actually, Ma must have been pleasantly surprised. In December, she told SF Weekly that 911 first responders she’d talked to when crafting her anti-rave bill had described “people walking around like zombies, sleeping all over, lying all over the floor, vomiting in the corners, vomiting in the bathrooms … people lying in their own urine.” (Or was that St. Patrick’s Day?).
There may yet have been vomiting, urine, and a creative combination of the two after Ma left the premises. But between 8:30 and 10:30 on Saturday night, people were keeping it together.
That’s not to say everyone was behaving particularly well. But Ma came away impressed by the event organizer’s intricate — and expensive — preparations. Wonderland was the kind of place where looking askance at the Queen of Hearts could lose you your head. A beheading wouldn’t happen at “Beyond Wonderland” — but there were still ample opportunities to get in trouble. Some 60 police and 12 undercover DEA agents were brought in by the organizers to supplement hundreds of private security personnel. Ma claims 24 drug-dealing arrests were made at the rave.
At 8:30 p.m., nearly seven hours into the event, a powwow of cops, DEA agents, security, medical personnel, and management met to assess the rave thus far. Notable events: A group had, literally, attempted to gatecrash, making an abortive assault upon a barricade. Additionally, a troupe of men wearing faux security jackets and posing as staff had been arrested.
Also praiseworthy in Ma’s eyes: free water for everyone and a no-questions-asked policy at the medical tents.
Rather than outright banning raves on state property with her forthcoming bill, Ma said she’s inclined to introduce new rules. “There are 32 state fairgrounds, but no standard guidelines,” she notes. And while Ma approved of the “Beyond Wonderland” policy of forbidding ravers from toting pacifiers and stuffed animals, it remains to be seen if that will — or can — be codified into state law.
Finally, to answer the question you’ve been wondering all along, Ma was wearing “jeans, a black shirt, and a white, sparkly baseball cap.”
And no teddy bear.
Fight over Ma rave bill turns cooperative
by Matt Baume
In the span of just a few days, a group of entertainers, event promoters, and city officials have sprung into action to address safety problems at electronic music dance parties, prompted in large part by a surprise attempt by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) to ban a broad range of music events altogether.
Ma’s proposed legislation, known as Assembly Bill 74 or the Anti-Raves Act of 2011, would have criminalized events on public property at which prerecorded music is played for longer than three and a half hours. The bill was necessary, Ma said, to address a spate of drug-related deaths and injuries at massive dance parties held at public venues such as the Cow Palace.
Critics overwhelmed Ma’s online social network sites with protest, and her office was deluged with calls. Within days, Ma announced that she would withdraw the bill and instead pursue a collaboration with stakeholders.
“The bill definitely needs more work,” admitted Nick Hardeman, Ma’s Capitol director. “The broad language in it right now impacts a broader spectrum of the nightlife community than we had intended.”
The overwhelming response was coordinated in part by Save the Rave, a brand new organization that quickly amassed thousands of Facebook fans and directed them to protest.
According to organizer Liam Shy, Save the Rave has been in the planning stages for some time as an advocacy organization for fans and producers of electronic music events. Ma’s unexpected announcement hastened the group’s formation, he said.
Shy is a local DJ whose performances have included Pride, Pink Saturday, Castro Halloween, and LovEvolution. He met with Ma this week to discuss next steps, which he said could include a task force and public hearings.
“It’s very necessary for all the different sides to have input on this process,” Shy said.
John Wood, an event manager who has helped produce Castro Halloween and Pride, agreed. “No one heard about this whatsoever prior to the introduction of this legislation,” he said. “We could have dialogued with her.”
Wood pointed out that the gay community effectively addressed a mid-1990s spike in GHB (Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid) use through outreach and education, rather than by banning events.
At a January 3 meeting of the San Francisco Youth Commission, Shy called for increased education. He acknowledged that drug abuse at raves is a problem, but argued that banning events would shift the abuse to settings that could potentially be more dangerous.
“We’d much rather have young people in permitted events. … If we don’t have them, they go underground, where there’s no protection,” Shy said. Promoters are already willing to assist with outreach, he said, whether in the form of fliers handed out with tickets, booths at events, viral videos, or partnerships with the Department of Public Health.
Several youth commissioners expressed interest in holding joint hearings with the Entertainment Commission on the topic.
“One of the things we’re battling against is this mentality that ‘rave’ is a four-letter word,” said Shy, himself a former youth commissioner. “These are the primary events for young adults, particularly the ones who can’t go into nightclubs, for having fun and celebrating and feeling connected with their peers. … We’re trying to embrace the word ‘rave’ and turn it into something positive.”
Fiona Ma’s anti-rave bill criticized as too broad
Thursday, December 23, 2010
A bill by a San Francisco assemblywoman who wants to ban raves at public venues in California is being criticized as too broad because it could forbid many other kinds of parties.
Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, said she simply wants to ban raves from publicly owned venues, such as Daly City‘s Cow Palace and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. She said the drug-fueled dance parties are typically unruly and have led to numerous deaths, overdoses and arrests.
While Ma said the measure would not apply to private events, such as weddings and birthday parties, the bill would make it a misdemeanor for anyone to conduct “a public event at night that includes prerecorded music and lasts more than three and one-half hours” – with the exception of private entities, such as bars or clubs, that have business licenses.
Violators would be fined at least $10,000.
Critics of the bill say it’s vague, could end up impacting events other than raves, and if passed, would be ripe for a court challenge.
“The expression in legal analysis is ‘overbroad,’ ” said UC Berkeley law Professor Frank Zimring. “The problem is it sweeps innocent people up with not-so-innocent people. The problem of combining prerecorded music and a time period because you are worried about teens taking drugs is that it would also apply when there are no teenagers, or apply when there are no drugs.”
Matt Kumin, a civil rights attorney in San Francisco, said the bill could violate two constitutional rights: freedom of assembly and equal protection. He said political assemblies and religious gatherings, for example, don’t have business licenses and would also be swept up under the current language.
“I applaud any effort to keep people away from tainted drugs, or drugs that were made illegally, but you can’t do it this way,” he said. “This shows a severe lack of understanding of constitutional guarantees.”
Ma said she is open to tweaking the bill and wants to hear from those in the nightlife community in the coming months. A law change is necessary, she said, because it’s been hard for local or state lawmakers to hold publicly owned venues accountable. State venues such as the Cow Palace are owned by the state but are operated by boards of directors appointed by the governor.
“There are certain events at these facilities that don’t cause this type of outcome, and there are others that do, typically where younger people gather. The drugs seem to be linked to these types of activities,” Ma said. “We will save lives and resources. Everyone knows this is happening, but nobody is doing anything.”
Two people died after overdosing on drugs at the Cow Palace in May, and a teenage girl also suffered a fatal overdose at a June event at the Coliseum.
Alix Rosenthal, a nightlife and culture advocate in San Francisco, said the bill is targeting the wrong thing.
“If the problem is tainted drugs, it seems the solution is penalizing people who distribute tainted drugs,” she said. “This is like saying, ‘A kid got hit in the head with a baseball at a birthday party, so we’re going to ban all birthday parties.’ ”
Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, has pushed for Daly City officials to have more oversight power over the Cow Palace facility. But his chief of staff, Adam Keigwin, said the senator would not support Ma’s bill as written.
“Sen. Yee doesn’t believe that the answer is banning raves; the rave is not the problem in and of itself. The problem is the activity that is happening at raves combined with lack of adequate law enforcement and health services,” he said. “Raves can be done the right way, and young people need outlets and things to go to. There’s nothing wrong with a rave – it’s a type of music, a social scene. It is illegal activity happen at raves we need to go after.”
E-mail Marisa Lagos at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page C – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Assemblywoman Ma Introduces Historic Legislation to Ban Raves in California
AB 74 introduced on the heels of recent drug-related tragedies in Los Angeles and the Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO- Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco/San Mateo County) introduced legislation today to ban raves in California. The bill was introduced after recent raves in Los Angeles and Daly City led to deaths, overdoses, and hundreds of arrests. Raves in California are notoriously associated with the use of the drug commonly known as Ecstasy. Many of the attendees are minors and the events have led to extensive pressure on law enforcement and emergency medical responders.
“Raves foster an environment that threatens the health and safety of our youth,” said Assemblywoman Ma. “The introduction of AB 74 is the first step toward eliminating these dangerous events.”
AB 74 will prohibit raves on public property and prevent raves on private property unless a business owner has a license to host such an event. “The bill is not intended to impact traditional music concerts and sporting events. AB 74 is about cracking down on raves that harbor drug use and lead to teenage deaths.”
In June of 2010, a 15-year-old girl died of a drug overdose and an estimated 120 people were sent to the hospital after a rave that was held at the publically owned Los Angeles Coliseum. In May of 2010, two people died after overdosing at a rave held at the state-owned Cow Palace in Daly City and additional 5 attendees were hospitalized in critical condition. An additional 68 adults and 5 juveniles were arrested on drug-related charges.
Attendance at raves can range from 16,000 to 185,000 people, which is simply unmanageable. “Raves are a state-wide problem and require a state-wide approach,” said Assemblywoman Ma. “It’s time that the legislature says enough is enough and provide law enforcement with the tools to shut down events that have displayed a pattern of fostering youth drug use.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), many young adults and teenagers attending raves and all-night dance parties are using so-called “club drugs.” These drugs include MDMA (Ecstasy), GHB, Rohypnol, ketamine, methamphetamine, and LSD. The NIDA and other scientific studies demonstrate that such drugs can pose serious health risks including death, coma, amnesia, addiction, physical dependency, and long term neurotoxic, behavioral, and cognitive problems.
The bill will be eligible for a hearing in Committee next month. AB 74 is the first bill introduced by Assemblywoman Ma in the 2011-2012 Legislative Session. Assemblywoman Ma, who serves as the Speaker pro Tempore of Assembly, represents Daly City where the Cow Palace is located.