This summer has seen quite a few outdoor renegade parties. Everything from the large Full Moon Raves every month to the smaller parties such as Xochipili and Harmony and the Mother Earth Sound System gigs showed that people in this scene understand and appreciate the incredibly liberating feel of dancing to music outdoors, where many people feel it belongs, despite what law enforcement and the predominant government policies towards "public land" may dictate.
However, many of these parties have been busted, sometimes after a few hours, sometimes in the morning, sometimes even before the sound got going. There were also cases where the people who came to celebrate the beauties of the earth left a very distinct scar where the dance floor was.
It doesn't have to be like this. There is a LOT that you, as an attendee of renegades, can do to help ensure that the party goes on without a hitch. What I am about to present here is a checklist, if you will, of actions/thoughts/memes you should consider next time you head out for that outdoor party. These rules are primarily designed for the people attending renegades, though if you're throwing them you should probably read these too.
There's a LOT of strategy involved in deciding on a site for the party. I'll save that for a later communikation; the advice I'll give here presumes the organizers have done as much as they can to make it as remote as possible. But no place is gonna be 100% silent. so...
When driving to the site, do NOT blast techno out of your car windows. You want to make the people living on the route to the site as ignorant of your presence as possible; which means make SURE you know your way there (a Thomas Bros. map is essential), have a full tank of gas, and bring all the water and food and such you'll need with you. Don't presume there'll be a 7-11 nearby; the quickest thing to alert the locals is 40 ravers hanging out at 7-11 at 2am in the morning. Try not to drive in big caravans, either, coz nothing will turn heads like 20 cars following nose-to-tail down a deserted road.
Upon arriving at the site, there is a lot you can do to help ensure that if/when police show up, they have as little to gripe about as possible. When you arrive, park as closely together with other cars as you can, so that as many cars as possible can fit in the (probably small) parking area. If there is someone coordinating parking, listen to what they have to say and don't try to find a closer space. If there's no one coordinating parking then use a bit of intelligence in parking by avoiding obvious places and parking under NO PARKING signs and such. Sometimes you can't avoid the NO PARKING signs, so consider any parking ticket you might get as payment to the local authorities to allow the party to go on - they usually won't ticket if they demand that you leave, and they'll only tow the people parked in really stupid places, like where the shoulder of the road is only 2 feet wide or something. Besides, a $20 parking ticket gets stretched pretty thinly between passengers if you carpool, which you should do as much as possible anyway.
The best thing you can do now, if the music hasn't started, is leave your car and go to where the actual site will be - or offer to help carry equipment. Basically, do ANYthing except be next to your car--you wanna stay out of the parking lot. I have seen more than a few renegades busted because the music hadn't started yet and everyone was around their cars, blaring music out of the speakers, drinking 40's, setting off firecrackers, etc, and the cops could see it was just a bad scene - had all these people been down on the beach or on the grass waiting for the sound system to start, it would have been completely different. Head straight for the site. If there are residences nearby, be as QUIET as possible when walking. The last party at Berkeley Marina was busted because people staying in the nearby hotel heard the people slamming their cars doors, not because of the giant sound system on the other side of the hill.
Now, it's time for the three NO-NO's of outdoor events - the three things which should not be present in any significant amount. They are serious VibeKillers, and even though separately they may be enjoyable they really have a negative impact almost every time I've seen them at parties.
Okay, *phew* sorry about all that vitriol. Now to more positive things.
One goal of outdoor parties should always be to leave the place cleaner than we found it. However, even if we take out all our trash the mark we leave can be totally obvious. There are things you can do to minimize your impact:
Why is this important to the non-bust-ness of a party? If a ranger comes and sees that people are keeping to themselves and not harming the land, which is what he's worried about, then he may be persuaded to simply let us go. But the other extreme is the Palo Alto Estuary ranger after the FMR in May, who was so enraged with the treatment the wetlands got that there is now a cop sitting in the parking lot every night. "Don't ever come back!" he reportedly said to the last car of ravers out of there.
I have been to very few parties where the police do not arrive. And actually, to be honest, I feel better if the police arrive, talk to people, and leave, than if they never know about it at all. There is nothing inherently immoral in gathering outdoors to dance to music - we may be violating specific laws regarding sound permits and "park closing hours" (why should public parks have closing hours??), but the right to assembly is guaranteed by the constitution.
So, when the police do arrive, the handling of the situation needs to be very careful. There are two main scenarios I've seen:
It is important to remember what you are doing is NOT illegal. It's simply unpopular with the powers that be. You wanna change that? You can, by sending letters to your city council, the mayor, to anyone you feel has a direct influence upon policy. Or, make an attempt to get a site legally - it can be done, it just takes a bit of legwork and cash. Register to vote, register your friends, and make them know that you wanna be HEARD. Your rights are only yours if you choose to defend them.
If the party was successful, even if only for a few hours, be sure and help out with donations so that the organizers will know their effort was appreciated and so they can give some to the DJ's and sound guys and whatnot. You don't have to give a lot - $5 is a good figure to go by--but even beyond its monetary worth is the message "I believe in you".
We as a community also need to learn how to police ourselves; if you see someone pulling down a live tree for firewood, don't just stand there and say, "Gee, that's awful. I wish someone would tell them to stop" - tell them yourself, and get your friends to help too. If we don't do this then the "outside world" can't help but see us as something to be discouraged. We're better than that.
There is a lot more to say on outdoor parties, but I think this will be enough for now. Look for future communikations on other topics.... If you have email you can send me feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you outdoors!Brian