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The global war on music festivals

While many festivals promote peace, love, unity and respect, it’s no secret they have been met with criticism ever since the wild days of Woodstock 1969. In the last decade, festivals have grown in popularity, but are now also under stricter control from authorities around the world.

In Hungary, at Ozora Festival in 2012, more than 500 uniformed police entered the festival grounds unexpectedly, arresting several dealers and dampening the moods of tens of thousands of attendees.

In Germany, the iconic Fusion Festival, was in danger this year of being cancelled due to a dispute between festival organisers and police, who urge for a stronger police presence on festival grounds. The festival started a petition and received more than 55 0000 signatures in support.

In a recent report assessing Burning Man’s environmental impact, the BLM capped the festival population at 80,000, citing an abundance of trash generated by the thousands of revelers and a host of safety concerns for event-goers as well as for the federally protected land.

The BLM (Bureau of Land Management), has also suggested that it was going to hire a private security firm to screen all vehicles, participants, vendors, contractors, staff and volunteers upon entry into the event.

In Australia, police presence has increased at festivals due to a number of drug related deaths in recent years. Strip searching for drugs on entry is allowed, which raises concern as attendees consume everything in one go.

In Israel, a number of festivals have been cancelled just prior to opening, citing “widespread drug use.” This led to a protest by more than 50,000 Israelis in the hopes of changing the authorities minds. In the month prior, 15 people were arrested protesting the cancellations. Some popular festivals that have been cancelled include Doof Festival, Unity Festival, Midburn (regional Burning Man event), Rabbits in the Sand, Sunbeat and Indinegev.

In Iran, night clubs, alcohol, dancing, spreading propaganda, illegal audio-visual activities and distributing underground music are banned, which could lead to prison sentences, lashings and even the death penalty.

Still, there are promoters who are willing to risk their love for dance by hosting underground parties in secret locations with anywhere from 20 – 150 people, without any social media promotion and pushed purely through word of mouth. Due to the risk, many music lovers attend parties in Armenia, Turkey and India.

In Vietnam, thousands were blocked from entering Quest Festival grounds due to political and police actions, which has ultimately jeopardized the festival’s future. The Vietnamese festival industry has also been hampered by police corruption, censorship, and crime.

In Taiwan, in 2015, authorities banned 2F: White Party music festival after an explosion at a water park in New Taipei City killed 15 people and injured hundreds. The music event had been running smoothly since 2007 but had been criticized as a haven for drugs and even firearms.

In [Kuala Lumpur] Malaysia, Future Music Festival Asia, was canceled on its third day after 19 festival-goers were arrested on suspicion of drug possession and six others died.

Dance has formed a fundamental role in many cultures around the world. While the criticism from authorities regarding festivals is reasonable, methods of implementation need to be re-considered. Better communication with organizers is required and more information should be provided to attendees. Outright banning of festivals and a heavy police presence is not the solution. This will lead to creative methods of avoiding authorities and encourage a “black market” for smaller underground parties that still take place.

If your right to party was taken away, what would you be willing to do?

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