ACLU Sues To Help Ravers Get Their Glow Sticks Back

Civil-rights organization fighting ban on rave accessories in New Orleans.

Clayton Smith is no longer on the Air Force Sabre Drill Team, but he still enjoys creating new drills involving dance and acrobatic moves, and he likes to test out his routines at raves — leaving his sword at home, of course.

Now he's being told to leave his glow sticks and pacifier there too, thanks to what the American Civil Liberties Union is calling the government's "culture war against raves."

So Smith, fellow rave-goer Michael Behan and the ACLU have asked a federal court to help ravers in New Orleans get their glow sticks back. Their suit, filed Tuesday, also seeks to stop the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency from banning pacifiers, masks and chill rooms at a rave scheduled for Friday.

"The government's ban on cultural symbols does nothing to prevent drug use, while striking at the heart of First Amendment freedoms. ... Dancing and music are protected by the Constitution," Graham Boyd, director of the ACLU's Drug Policy Litigation Project, said in a statement.

"It is time the American public realized that raves are not the havens for rampant drug use that the government has led them to believe and are in fact an established form of youth culture," the statement said.

The events leading up to the lawsuit go back to January, when the DEA sued the State Palace Theater's promoters under the federal "crack house" law for holding raves at which Ecstasy allegedly was consumed.

In May, the promoters, Rich and Brian Brunet, entered into a plea bargain, paying $100,000 in fines and agreeing to ban glow sticks, pacifiers, masks, personal massagers and chill rooms from any future events, according to the lawsuit.

On August 4, theater security confiscated glow sticks and a pacifier from Smith and a hand-held massager from Behan, an insurance agent who attends raves in a "Mr. Bunny" costume and passes out candy.

Another plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, performance artist Steven McClure, has been warned by the theater that his group cannot wear glow necklaces at a planned March concert, the lawsuit says.

According to the suit, the banned items were categorized as drug paraphernalia. "It is nonsensical to think that glow sticks and masks can be used to ingest drugs," Boyd said in his statement.

The ACLU is asking the court to issue an injunction that would prevent the State Palace Theater from having to honor the plea agreement during a rave scheduled for Friday.

A spokesperson for the DEA could not be reached for comment.

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