Despite all the pot and LSD consumed at their concerts, no one ever tried to ban the Grateful Dead. But that's what the city of Chicago would like to do to raves, those all-night dance parties featuring electronic music, flashing lights, and silly hats.
The Chicago Tribune anxiously describes raves as "one-night-only parties…often held in warehouses or secret locations where people pay to dance, do drugs, play loud music, and engage in random sex acts." Taking a dim view of such goings-on, the Chicago City Council recently approved an ordinance that threatens building owners and managers who knowingly allow raves on their property with jail terms of up to six months. "They are after all our children," Mayor Richard Daley declared. "Parents should be outraged."
State legislators agree. The Illinois House of Representatives is considering a bill that would make it a crime to promote a rave where illegal activity takes place. According to the Tribune, the bill's supporters are "fine-tuning" their definition of a "criminal rave" so the legislation can "withstand a court challenge."
In New Orleans, meanwhile, the U.S. government is prosecuting a rave promoter and a concert hall manager under a federal law aimed at shutting down crack houses. Facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted, the defendants argue that the prosecution is a form of censorship.
"Holding club owners and promoters of raves criminally liable for what some people may do at these events is no different from arresting the stadium owners and promoters of a Rolling Stones concert or a rap show because some concert goers may be smoking or selling marijuana," says Graham Boyd, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Policy Litigation Project. "If the government is successful in shutting down raves, what's to stop them from applying this tactic to other music genres…where drug use is known to exist?"
Mayor Daley is reportedly fond of jazz. Fortunately, that genre has never been associated with drugs.