OREM Organizers of a music and dance party in Spanish Fork Canyon that was raided by police late Saturday say officers used unnecessary force with the crowd when they shut down the event.
"We've had shows get shut down, but . . . (police) don't need to come in and beat people up," said Brandon Fullmer, manager of Uprok Records, the music store in Salt Lake City that sponsored the CD-release party. "What they did was wrong."
Fullmer said he is mulling a lawsuit against the officers.
After monitoring the party for a few hours, some 90 officers from the Utah County Metro and Provo SWAT teams, Department of Public Safety and Utah Department of Corrections decided to raid the event at 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
Officers, who called the party a rave, said they saw drug usage, drug sales and other illegal activities. Drugs and drug paraphernalia were also found littering the ground after partygoers left.
Police said they were only doing their jobs to help prevent future problems and protect those who were there.
"I don't believe it was too much force," said Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon. "We try in what we do to only escalate to the level necessary to gain control of the situation or the people causing a problem."
Sixty people were arrested for investigation of drug possession, illegal underage consumption of alcohol, distribution, assault on a police officer, as well as disorderly conduct.
"We went in because it was an illegal gathering," Cannon said. "They need a permit for 250-plus people they didn't have that permit. Illegal drug activity was discovered secondary to closing down the large gathering."
However, whatever the reason, Fullmer says officers broke up the party with far too much force.
"Permit or not, the way they handled it was unjustifiable," he said. "There was no reason for this. People should not have been hurt. They could have come in and been civil with us. We're a business, we're not out there to do anything illegal."
Such a permit should have been obtained through the Utah County Commission. County code says applicants should submit a request along with a $100 fee to the commission 30 days prior to the event, said Utah County Commissioner Jerry Grover.
The commission reviews the application and can issue a "large gathering license." Groups must also get another mass-gathering permit through the county health department, which outlines specifics about portable bathrooms, water and trash facilities. Although Uprok had a health department permit and emergency medical personnel, Grover said they never came to the commission for a license.
"The problem is, no one is going to come in and permit it as a rave," Grover said. "So we have to handle everyone equally under the law. If they came in, we'd look at their application, we have criteria it doesn't mean we condone selling drugs. There's a lot of problems they could face if they are selling drugs."
But Fullmer insists his event was not a front for the illegal sale of drugs. He said he hired a licensed security guard who hired 11 others responsible to search individuals and their cars for illegal substances before they entered the park.
The guards gathered drugs and were holding them to turn in to law enforcement at the end of the night, Fullmer said. However, when police broke up the party, those security guards who had confiscated drugs were arrested for investigation of possession of the controlled substances.
"Once they get the materials, beyond holding it while they wait for law enforcement to come . . . the scope of their ability to be within the bounds of the law is pretty much expired," Cannon said.
If they had called police immediately, he said, there wouldn't have been a problem.
This is the second time landowner Trudy Childs has had to deal with a party fiasco. During a concert in July, Childs said police came in, broke up a concert and roughed up some of the partygoers.
Childs leased out part of her 350 acres for this weekend's party but didn't attend. She was hunting on another part of her land but went to the site when she saw there was a problem. That's when she was cuffed and taken to jail for allegedly contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
The land has been in Childs' family for almost 80 years, and she said she is continuing her plans for an outdoor amphitheater, for future concerts and shows.
The large gathering was the summer's third party of "extraordinary size," said Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Darren Gilbert.Comment on this story
"It's not just a mass gathering, there's illicit use of drugs, distribution of drugs," Gilbert said. "There was a lot of criminal activity just going on at the party itself."
Two county-labeled rave parties were both on Childs' land in Spanish Fork Canyon, and both drew more than 300 people. The second party was on the west side of Utah Lake in an area called Little Moab and grew to almost 3,000 people.Officials didn't have sufficient manpower to break-up that party, officials said, and wanted to be sure that didn't happen again Saturday night.