First the FBI, now the DEA. It seems the federal government has a bone to pick with music festivals.
After news of the FBI having undercovers at Burning Man broke last week, news from LA Weekly confirms that the DEA is providing their own “plain clothes” officers at music events like Labor Day weekend’s Nocturnal Wonderland.
“I can confirm our Riverside DEA office indeed assist the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office with enforcement activities at the festival,” said DEA spokesman Timothy Massino.
The festival, which attracted around 85,000 attendees over the weekend, also saw a staggering number of arrests, totaling around 300 for the duration of the event, as well as 32 hospitalizations (only one remained hospitalized by the Friday after the event). Of the arrests, “37 of them were federal cases prompting arrests by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”
“There’s clearly a huge synthetic drug problem in the scene,” Massino said. “It’s rampantly distributed. Based on the increased prevalence of the stuff, I could see being asked to do this more often — to come out and assist with these operations.”
“The state and local agencies are cracking down. If they invite us, odds are we’re going to come play.”
This is not the first report of undercover agents at music festivals. Lightning In A Bottle 2013 was attended by “undercover deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Investigations Bureau” wherein “fifty-eight arrests were made.” Similarly, this year’s Electric Zoo festival was heavily criticized on social media for its police presence and suspicious of heavy undercover presence.
Again, this is not the first report of incidents like these at music festivals. However, it is troubling that state and federal entities are putting so much focus on these “high-profile” deaths – like the two women who died at HARD Summer – considering that electronic music festivals are not alone in deaths, yet seem to bear the brunt of the scrutiny. No death is an acceptable death, but work needs to be done across the board to make music festivals everywhere safer.