We are now being asked to believe that the people who set up secret security cameras at the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival meant well.
If you attended June's festival, then you should've smiled, because you were on camera. Maybe it was when you stiffed the woman at the beer tent, or when you accepted a hit off a doobie from a smiling hippie, or when you fell down drunk while peeing in the woods with your pants around your ankles.
Welcome to Kansas! Big Brethren's watching you.
Lawrence freaked out on Friday, September 15, when the Journal-World reported that night-vision cameras covering 85 percent of the Wakarusa festival grounds helped police catch people doing things they weren't supposed to be doing. Police arrested more than 80 people, mostly minors who were charged with possession of alcohol.
The news didn't just upset locals. In its three years, Wakarusa had established itself as a summer music festival headed toward Bonnaroo status. People from all over the country came and representatives from 28 of our fine states were arrested. Even before the latest news hit, everyone had heard tales about cops hassling people at the festival. I remember TV news footage from opening day, showing state troopers stopping cars as they entered the festival and seizing enough liquor to get the entire Arabian peninsula drunk. Same with drugs. The clampdown continued inside the gates.
My friend Ryan's sister was approached by undercover cops, who questioned her when they saw her take some Tylenol.
The day I spent there, I smelled plenty of pot smoke but never saw anyone get arrested or hassled. People seemed to be showing their true colors most everywhere. It sucks that cameras were spying on them the whole time. But it's not surprising.
According to the September 15 article, the night-vision cameras cost around $250,000. A California security company that wanted to pimp its wares supplied the equipment free of charge to Clinton Lake State Park officials; overall, the festival was patrolled by a law-enforcement supergroup that included the Kansas Highway Patrol, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and Lawrence police. Park manager Jerry Schecher told the Journal-World that he'd informed Wakarusa organizers a month before the festival. But in a September 21 article, Schecher backpedaled, saying he'd told a partner of Wakarusa boss Brett Mosiman about the plan. Mosiman's camp demurred.
Mosiman claims he didn't know about the cameras before the festival. In fact, he says, he didn't know until he read the Journal-World article. The secret surveillance was, he tells me, "an outrageous violation of trust and rights."
Now, Mosiman and his crew must rebuild that trust. He says that if local law enforcers seek to impose that level of security at next year's festival, there will be no Wakarusa 2007. According to the Journal-World, neither the sheriff's office nor the park plans to purchase the demonstration equipment or anything similarly high-tech.
Mosiman says that he and his partners had no control over local law enforcement at the event. "They're on their own missions and agenda," he says.
Why don't we go ahead and rename Kansas the Plymouth Colony? That way, when we go to a concert there, we'll know ahead of time that if we do anything dangerous to the moral fiber of society, we'll be rightly placed in the stocks on the public square so that the townsfolk may rid the village of sin by flinging rotten cabbages and eggs at us.