“Iraq in Utah” 

What is it about young people having a good time that riles officers over at the Utah County Sheriff’s Office so?

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Worried about young people dancing to electronic music on private property in Spanish Fork Canyon, the Sheriff’s Office enlisted the Utah County Metro SWAT, the Utah Department of Corrections out of Salt Lake and Gunnison, the Department of Public Safety and its helicopter, as well as Provo SWAT. Except for those in undercover surveillance, this force of 90 was uniformed and ready to go.

nn

“Uniformed” is putting it mildly. Decked in camouflage and helmets, they came with assault rifles and attack dogs. Revelers at Child’s ranch in Spanish Fork Canyon, more than two hours into their Aug. 20 rave, were ordered to turn off the music. Event organizers had the blessing of the property owner, a health department permit, and emergency medical personnel and security officers to check for alcohol and illegal drugs. What they didn’t have was the permission of the Utah County Commission. Such an egregious crime, you know.

nn

Law-enforcement officers'so often overworked, underpaid and underappreciated'deserve the respect of citizenry. But based on personal accounts and digital-camera footage of that evening that have flooded the Internet since, even the most die-hard supporter of the local constabulary would feel remiss not asking questions. The event’s 250 attendees, who paid $20 per ticket to ensure that the evening’s event would be legitimate, secure, and offer outdoor toilets, allege the Utah County Sheriff’s Office unleashed what one observer described as “Iraq in Utah.” They allege petite women were kicked to the ground, rifles were pointed straight at people’s heads and faces, dogs were unleashed and tear gas dispensed. “We were treated as terrorists,” wrote one attendee. “They wanted to bust, hurt, and arrest us,” wrote another.

nn

Utah County sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Gilbert denies anyone was beaten, bitten or treated unfairly. “I’m not going to speculate what would have happened if we went in without dogs or fewer officers. We were there to disband an illegal gathering where distribution of narcotics was going on.” Gilbert also said not a single soul has filed a complaint with his office alleging abuse that night. Any takers out there?

nn

Gilbert said his men found a wealth of drugs on the ground, including drugs confiscated from two security officers hired by event organizers for the purpose of … confiscating drugs. A Sheriff’s Office press release touts that raves such as these are rife with sexual assault, weapons and drugs, drugs, drugs. Perhaps, but if these events are so unsafe why on earth do so many attend? Sexual assaults, drugs and weapons aren’t entirely unknown at nightclubs, frat houses and private parties, either. Let Utah County denizens decide if their tax dollars wouldn’t be better spent busting meth houses instead.

nn

There’s something telling, too, about the fact that the Sheriff’s Office learned at noon that day where the rave would commence, but waited more than two hours into the music'until 11:30 p.m.'to make 60 arrests and demand the area be cleared. Much was made of one young raver who “overdosed on ecstasy,” and then was released to her parents. If disaster was so imminent, and warranted 90 men in uniform, why wasn’t the rave politely stopped before it started? Perhaps because the spectacle of an outdoor event, like a rave itself, is a lot more fun than sitting at home.

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