Report calling for moratorium on raves draws comparison with “Footloose”

EDMONTON — Critics of a city report in Edmonton that recommends a moratorium on raves are comparing the idea to a well-known 1980s movie where a town bans dancing.

The report that’s on the agenda for this week’s meeting of Edmonton’s community and public services committee notes that electronic music parties are linked with “widespread consumption of drugs” and “drug-facilitated sexual assaults” that tie up emergency services.

It says a civic working group is meeting to address the concerns, but that police in the city have proposed a moratorium on raves be implemented in the meantime.

Tweets suggest the move would be similar to the plot of “Footloose,” which starred Kevin Bacon as a teen who battles a small-town ban on dancing and rock music.

Coun. Scott McKeen, who sits on the committee that will discuss the report on Wednesday, told local media last week that public safety has to be considered, even though he doesn’t want Edmonton to look like the council in the fictional town of Bomont.

But Andrew Williams, a director and co-founder of the Alberta Electronic Music Conference, says his group wasn’t consulted about the idea, and a moratorium could drive drug use further underground.

“By driving them underground, you’re just going to be driving people into their homes, maybe into locations that are not nearly as secure or safe,” said Williams, who is an electronic music DJ.

“They’re worried about not coming across like ‘Footloose,’ but they’re still acting like ‘Footloose.’”

The city staff report notes a recent electronic music event in Edmonton saw 18 patients treated on the scene for drug-related illnesses, and 11 transported to hospital emergency rooms.

As a consequence, it states, police officers and paramedics were tied up at hospitals for several hours, and EMS service to the rest of the city was significantly reduced.

“When compared to other major events at venues such as Commonwealth Stadium and Rogers Place, with at least three times the attendees, it is evident that raves consume much more EMS and police resources per attendee,” the report states.

A Drake concert at Rogers Place in Edmonton in 2016 had just one hospital transport and 23 ejections, the report notes, while the nine sold-out shows by Garth Brooks in 2017 saw just two hospital transfers and an average of five ejections per night.

Williams doesn’t think it’s fair to compare events like arena shows with raves because they draw different audiences. He noted the proposed moratorium is too broad and could target anything from club shows and parties up to large festivals.

He said he believes fentanyl is part of the recent problems, and that the city and police should work with event promoters on a strategy to combat the deadly opioid.

“Prohibition does not stop any type of illicit action,” he said.

Edmonton isn’t the first Alberta community to be compared to the small town in Footloose.

In 2015, a group attempted to launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to bring Bacon himself to a dance party outside Taber, Alta. The stunt was intended to protest a bylaw targeting bad behaviour, including spitting, swearing, yelling and too much noise from bars.

Rob Drinkwater, The Canadian Press

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