Last Updated: Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Rave Disaster Is Bigger Than Oakland; But The Scandal That IS EDM Could End There
Updated: Saturday, December 03, 2016

Oakland's "Ghost Ship" warehouse. One couldn't build a better fire trap than this. Yet, fire inspectors and police officers didn't shut it down. Photo:

A horrific fire and crowd disaster at an illegal rave concert party yesterday in Oakland, California, raises yet again unsettling questions about the protection of young people at live entertainment events.

Legal and illegal raves have been the current killing fields for young people attending live entertainment events for some time. The cause is most often illegal drugs sold and consumed, but not always fires combined with crowd calamities play a part.

Across the U.S., elected officials and public safety officials more often than not, look the other way when these events come to town. Not so long ago, communities would have banned such events to protect young people from predatory drug dealers, unscrupulous promoters, make-a-buck venue operators and indifferent artists.

That was then. This is now. Saving the dollars raves bring into a community has become more important than saving lives. That’s a harsh statement. But, the facts bear it out. Since 2006, the Crowdsafe® Database can document more than 100 deaths at worldwide raves, 36 in the U.S. While many hundreds of people have been rushed to hospital emergency rooms. But, these statistics do not include the Oakland calamity and do not attempt to tell the whole sordid story. The database findings are incomplete. Along with the Crowdsafe® Database, a separate 2016 investigation earlier this year by the Los Angeles Times put rave deaths in California at 26. That number has now more than doubled.

Yesterday’s Electronic Dance Music party (a euphemism for a rave) at a dilapidated warehouse dubbed the Ghost Ship Oakland is just the latest tragedy. More are to come if things stay as they are.

The Oakland rave was headlined by Wisconsin-based DJ Golden Donna (Joel Shanahan; 100 Percent Silk management company). It was not sanctioned by city agencies and was held in what eyewitnesses called, basically, a fire trap at the end of a maze. The warehouse where the rave occurred, included an illegal living quarters for at least one family and was not a place of public assembly in Oakland. It was a storage facilities stuffed with flammable items according to a number of eyewitnesses. Everybody apparently knew that, including the property owner, residents and management of the facility-----even Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo says he knew the place was a nuisance. He lived nearby. The promoter and warehouse resident Jon Hrabkod and artists would have knew as well. It only took open eyes and ears.

As of this writing the death toll stands at 30, at the moment, but local safety officials expect the number of victims to rise, possibly double. No one is certain how many people were at the rave at the time of the fire and crowd calamity. The Oakland tragedy has already surpassed Chicago’s 21 fatalities at the E2 nightclub in 2003 and The Who concert’s 11 dead in 1979. No one went to prison for those two man-made disasters. There are many questions that survivors, loved ones of those who perished and local citizens must raise. In the larger picture, politicians and public safety agencies around the nation and around the world must once again decide if they have the moral fortitude to solve this problem plaguing young people. Until the Oakland community sees local leaders make substantive changes in the way illegal and legal events are managed, the surviving victims and the loved ones left behind by those who needlessly died, it would be wise to keep their distance from political crocodile tears and photo ops.

In Oakland, there are many questions that need to be urgently addressed. Here are eleven from Crowd Management Strategies to start the search for the truth:

1. If the venue, a warehouse, was known to be a public safety hazard and the occupants a nuisance, how is it city officials---including the local councilmember who lived nearby---did not condemn the building or order its evacuation of residents?
2. How were raves---considering the crowds they attract, the all night and early morning partying they produce, and the noise they make---allowed to be held at the warehouse without drawing the attending and wrath of city officials?
3. What relationship does the property owner have to elected city and state officials that might have allowed him to skirt public safety violations?
4. Was pressure placed on public safety officials by City Hall to keep hands off the property?
5. Why have no criminal charges been filed against the property owner, promoter, record company and artists performing at the rave?
6. When will Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf establish an independent investigating body (not composed of political allies)?
7. Did the promoter/event organizer hire train crowd managers?
8. What type of fire suppression equipment was in the club?
9. How many official exits exited for ravers?
10. Were any exits locked or blocked?
11. What did the property owner (under a trust established by Mr. Chor N. Ng)know about how the warehouse was used?

Updated: December 4, 2016

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