Government's War on Raves Went Too Far, Louisiana Court Rules

August 24, 2001 12:00 am

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NEW ORLEANS–The American Civil Liberties Union scored a victory today when U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous ruled that prosecutors cannot force the organizers of a rave dance party to ban pacifiers or glow sticks.

According to the ACLU complaint, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has banned symbols of rave culture such as masks, glow sticks and pacifiers from a prominent New Orleans dance venue, saying that these items constitute “drug paraphernalia.” But since the law defines paraphernalia as “”items that can be used to ingest drugs,”” the ACLU called the DEA’s efforts unconstitutional. Porteous apparently agreed.

“”We are gratified that the court has brought back a measure of common sense and a respect for basic constitutional rights that has been largely missing from the war on drugs,”” said Graham Boyd, Director of the ACLU’s Drug Policy Litigation Project, who argued the case before Judge Porteous earlier this week.

The ACLU brought the case on behalf of local rave enthusiasts including a former military man and an insurance agent whose masks and glow sticks were confiscated at an August 4 rave, and an internationally renowned performance group that faced cancellation of an act incorporating glow sticks.

“”We’re going to glow like we’ve never glowed before,”” said Clayton Smith, 23, a former senior airman with the U.S. Air Force and a plaintiff in the case. “”I can’t believe in an effort to stop drugs, the government decided to take away the way we dance and the way we dress.””

Federal prosecutors said they would decide whether to appeal after discussing the matter with Attorney General John Ashcroft’s office, according to news reports.

A previous ACLU news release on the case, including links to court papers, is online at

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