Author: Magnus Linton Pubdate: nr 9 March 1998 Source: Arbetaren (Sweden) Contact: 46 08 673 03 45 Website: http://home3.swipnet.se/~w-31871/Arb2.htm Original Title: Ravekommissionen - Vastvarldens enda kulturpolis Text (Swedish): http://www.psykedelbok.se/ravekommissionen_sv.html Translator: Olafur Brentmar Translator's note: This is a "raw" translation from Swedish to, since it's not very proper English, let's call it, Swenglish. If the translation is understandable maybe the plight, of Jan, Oscar and others on the "wrong" side in Sweden, is better understood outside of its borders than at home. I will continue to translate Swedish articles if there is an interest out there. If there is anybody with professional skills in the art of translation, that wants to help with this effort, please let me know. - Olafur Brentmar, Editor, DrugSense/MAP News Service THE RAVE COMMISSION - THE ONLY CULTURE POLICE IN THE WESTERN WORLD (There is one strange country on our planet. A country whose government likes to exercise control. Since 1993 the legislature has given its police force the right to control its citizens even under the skin, to check if everything is OK with their internal fluids. A country where the government does not only have the right to do so, but is actually doing it. That country is Sweden.) Sweden has a very special police force, there is nothing quite like it in the rest of the world: The Rave Commission. A group of 18 young motivated police officers whose duty is not to fight crime but a culture - the rave culture - a youth movement that is ever more marginalized. This story is about the only culture police in the western world. An unique phenomena. The mission of the Rave Commission is to reduce the wide spread use of drugs among youth in the Stockholm area. The commission began its work in November of 1996, however, there is nothing that indicates that use the of drugs has dropped. On the contrary, young people continue to consume more of everything, both alcohol and narcotics. At a drug treatment center for youth, Maria Ungdom, in Stockholm 1500 youths were admitted during 1997, which is 300 more than 1996. Critics of the commission are saying that the young police force does some good but much damage, that the integrity transgressing controls and systematic supervision of every rave happening has a devastating effect on the positive values within the rave culture and in effect is a sharp oppression of young people that have chosen an alternative life style. Social workers are now warning that if the rave commission is not scrapped or does not change its methods of operation we will soon see masses of youth filled with hatred walking in the foot steps of the 1996 Olympic bomber. "It's boiling hot among the youth," says social worker Jan Quarfordt who has worked with the rave youth more than six years. "Now it has gone too far. Before the Rave Commission existed youth used to talk about music, dance, girls, guys, clothes, and to some degree about drugs, but since the rave commission got started the only topic of conversation is cops and the Commission. The Commission is killing a culture that has many very positive traits which would be in the interest of society to adopt instead of choking." Broke Up Parties The Rave Commission was created as a direct result of the problem police had in handling the well covered parties at the dance palace Docklands in Stockholm during the middle of the 90's, where at several occasions they raided, broke up the parties and found that "narcotics were in wide spread use in rave and youth circles to a degree that is alarming". The Commission had earlier gotten its mandate extended six months at a time, but recently this mandate was granted through the 1st of February 1999 and after that the Rave Commission is probably a permanent feature of the police force in Stockholm. The fundamental idea is to "discover abuse early", in order to quickly make parents and the social department aware of the problems. This means that the application of a rare method to focus on users as well as dealers, and many of the youth that are apprehended are those who tried drugs for the first time and never before has had any contact with the police. The Commission is mapping out all the rave concerts in Stockholm, the undercover agents are present at all larger dances, and the methods are to pick up youth and bring them to a police station to check their blood and urine. The operations of the Commission, according to Arbetaren's research, has nothing corresponding to it in the western world and is made possible through the repressive Swedish drug policy. The method - that a police, without the suspect having caused anyone else harm, allowing penetration of the skin on a person to check up on the condition of the internal substances - was made possible after a legislative maneuver by the conservative government in 1993. No other comparable democratic countries are practicing anything similar. In some other western countries the use of narcotics is criminalized, but no other democratic country is actively checking up on its citizens in this fashion During 1997 the Rave Commission apprehended 1214 youths, and of those 837 was taken to a police station for checkup. In order for the Rave Commission to arrest people there needs to be "reasonable grounds to suspect narcotics violations". But many youths are now criticizing the Commission for arbitrary selections of victims. The 27th of December Tomas Lilius was arrested at the large rave party Mindscape in Stockholm when he was on the toilet to take his asthma medication. "Two police officers from the Rave Commission came in and asked what I was doing. 'I am taking my medication'" I answered. "'What kind of medicines and what do you need them for', they said. Then they took me outside for a body search and brought me to Vastberga police station for drug testing. They then confiscated my medicines and I was held on 'reasonable suspicion of narcotics violations.'" Later during the night Lilius got an asthma attack, but he did get medical help by the police doctor. He claims that he has been arrested four times by the Rave Commission on suspicions of being under the influence of narcotics. Each time he was tested and never was anything found in his possession or in his body fluids. After the raid at Mindscape - where police arrested 66 persons - he was released after a few hours and was left to find his way back to the party. When the test results were forthcoming they indicated that he was not under the influence. "In their report they wrote that I was 'obviously under the influence of narcotics'. So one wonders naturally: How in hell can I be under the influence of narcotics when there's nothing in my body?" Not To Be Said In Sweden Jan Quartfordt is detested by the Rave Commission. He has at several occasions sharply criticized the Commission in the media and points out that their operations are totally counter-productive, that the Commission is destroying a generally very good - although different - youth culture while the abuse of drugs continues just as before, but at home in peoples apartments. The Rave Commission is killing the parties and instead generates "drug bins" says Jan Quarfordt. The police accuse Quarfordt of being "unclear", which according to police and Swedish political consensus is the same as being a drug liberal, a point of view that is unacceptable in Swedish bureaucracy. Something that Jan Quarfordt is well aware of and therefore points out repeatedly that he is not speaking for anybody but himself. "I am not an extreme drug liberal. These drugs they are experimenting with sometimes are extremely strong and can make serious problems in peoples lives. So certainly we have a problem. But I don't believe the best way to deal with it is to grab people in the ear and scream as loud as possible: 'Quit doing this!' I just do not believe it's the best method. "I think that many legislators are aware that it is not a very good way of dealing with the problem. On the other hand it's politically rather effective, since it demonstrates power of action. There is a rather urgent problem, and to be able to show that something is done seems good enough for some people. It doesn't matter then what the results are." In order for the Rave Commission to pick someone up and bring them to a police station for urine analysis they must first have - as the police call it - "built a suspicion" that a person is under the influence, which in it self is a crime in Sweden. This is determined by several "signs" of which the most common is the size of the pupils, another is to see if the dancers are "shaking their fingers". Exactly what is meant by that is unclear but the Rave Commission's observers considers it the most significant sign of being under the influence of drugs. A third sign is dry mouth. A fourth is, as the Rave Commissions newly appointed director Janne Magnusson expresses it in unmistakable police lingo: "tense jaws grinding sideways". Jan Quarfordt thinks that the Commission's intense controlling has taken a rather bizarre twist. If you dance like a mad man for hours, he says, it is not so strange to get a slightly dry mouth. "It is obvious that the kids get paranoid about their behavior. They come to a place where they have spent ten or twenty dollars in admission; if you are all dressed up for the evening, in a good mood and full of expectations; to then have to constantly think about not getting cotton mouth, not to shake your fingers too rapidly, not to move in certain ways, so that it isn't interpreted as a 'sign' and then maybe have the evening interrupted to go down to a police station for a few hours and then make it back to the party if you can. It is obvious that this creates a very uncomfortable atmosphere. What adult would accept this treatment in a bar?" Jan Quarfordt contends that the grown-ups reacted spontaneously when the rave culture arrived in Sweden and grew strong in the beginning of the 90's. It was not just the drugs that was scary but the whole concept. Grown-ups were astonished about the peculiar behavior: the youth were not drinking alcohol, not fighting, even the men were dancing, sometimes even with each other, on top of that the dancing continued into the early morning, sometimes throughout the night and way in to the following day. The latter seemed impossible without the use of drugs and all of a sudden it became legitimate to launch large police resources to destroy the culture. Now the Rave Commission has forced the culture under ground, says Jan Quarfordt. "That several hundred young people between the age of 15 - 25 can gather and be together a whole night without fighting and trouble, doesn't happen anywhere else. I have been present at maybe up to 300 parties and have not seen a fight, never. Compare that with going to a bar and two duds happen to bump into each other in a stair case! I think that is something to build upon in our violent society, such possibilities one should care for and further cultivate." He contends that the adults fear of the wide spread drug use within the rave culture is exaggerated and that the police should spend their resources in other areas, inner city bars like, Café Opera and SpyBar. "The Commission is probably there also. But I don't think the methods are as aggressive there. It is a very different crowd there and one can expect more resistance if one goes too far intimidating folks. The ravers are usually very young and nice people, it is easy for the police to assault them. The police get away with a lot before anybody reacts." Of the almost one thousand persons that the Rave Commission has arrested and taken urine samples from, according to their own numbers, has 90% tested positive for narcotics. Many, among them the police, thinks that the numbers indicate that the Commission is right most of the time, and the fact that an innocent 10% are arrested is acceptable. Jan Quarfordt disagrees. "I think it is too much to be mistaken in one out of ten cases. It means that during one year they have apprehended about one hundred innocent persons, that were arrested, had to submit to urine test and been suspected for more than a week before the test results are in. What is sick is that the police reports to the social department immediately without waiting for the test results. Parents thus get a report totally unnecessary that their child is suspected of being a druggie, such things can create quite a scene at home." Prohibition of Feeling Good Oscar is 21 and a druggie. At least according to the society that he feels increasingly alienated from. He has a hard time to identify himself in that role. Presently he is taking a desktop publishing course and a few years ago he was in collage studying Sociology with a 4.1 average. Since then he has studied literature at the university. "I'm no more a druggie than someone that drinks booze, says Oscar. The Swedish classification of drugs is stupid. Everything is illegal if you call it narcotics, and if you use anything that isn't legal then you're an abuser, even if you check it out just once. You can be an user of alcohol and tobacco, anything illegal and you are an abuser. Totally sick!" He is a typical raver. Coming from the high middle class, no previous criminal record, has always been sharp in school, neither smoked nor drank, because he "doesn't like drugs that are addictive". "However, I do take other drugs sometimes - ecstasy, LSD or mushrooms, because they, together with dance and techno music, gives me an unbelievable experience. It improves my quality of life. Besides, says Oscar, LSD for an example is much cheaper than alcohol." "LSD is very inexpensive. You can buy a hefty trip for $12. It can be divided in four, that means $3 for a really good trip that lasts for a whole night." Last summer he was arrested, at a rave concert on a small island in Lake Malaren, with twelve hits of acid in his pocket. That gave him two months in prison. Today he seems almost indifferent about the incident, and says that he doesn't take more or less drugs now than he used to. After some experiments with drugs, Oscar concludes that all he learned in school was either large or small lies, and since then he has a problem to take either police or politicians seriously. Since the Internet became a reality for Oscar and other youth it has become much easier to find the discussions of a more liberal view about narcotics as is the case in other parts of Europe. In September of last year the British newspaper "Independence on Sunday" began its campaign for legalization of Cannabis. The drive is supported by many famous faces - both artists and members of parliament - and every Sunday they publish articles and reports with facts about cannabis use and the paper is filled with a lively debate pros and cons of legalization. The information is spread at the speed of light over mail servers and discussion groups on the Net, there Oscar and other like-minded scorn and make fun of "the official Swedish narcotics policy". One example of this is the latest suggestion from the social department - to establish an "euphoria law". It is an attempt to get to all the new hallucinogenic mushrooms and other substances that are not yet classified as narcotics which are now being imported in large scale or can be collected around in the Swedish forests. The problem that the politicians now have is that all substances that they think ought to be illegal are not "highly addictive", which today is a necessary criterion for a substance to be classified as a narcotic. In May the parliament will put forth a proposition to expand the definition of narcotics to include everything that contains any "euphoric substances" as a classified narcotic and thereby prohibited. Since the government seems uninterested in whether the substance is dangerous or not but rather concentrates on whether it causes "euphoria" - a word whose synonyms according to the dictionary is "well-being" or "happiness" - it is not only Oscar and his friends but also several serious narcotics experts that find it hard not to laugh. But when you are body searched by the Rave Commission and have to stand with your pants down it is easy to hold back laughter. The Commission has the whole violence machinery in their hands. That is a fact. Oscar has been apprehended several times without having been under the influence, and he sees the Commission as the most primitive expression of what he experiences as the politicians total drug paranoia. "Their work has only one effect, he says. Youth are feeling growing hatred for government authority. They are acting like fascists. People don't use less drugs, but take them at home. They are destructive for the people that want to have fun in a new way, in a form they are not familiar with." The Raves Are Lying Wednesday, February 18th at 11 AM, I am calling up the office of the Rave Commission at Nacka police station in Stockholm to talk to David Beukelmann or Patrik Ungsater, two guys that have been a part of it since the start in November 1996. "I'm sorry," says a woman. "They are out on a house search. I'm sorry I cannot tell when they'll be back." House searches, I am informed, is currently a routine mission for the Rave Commission. During 1997 the Commission has conducted more than a thousand house searches in the Stockholm area. That is about three every day seven days a week. Any warrant from a prosecutor to enter and search a house is not necessary, a verbal OK by phone is enough. Or, if the Rave Commissions young police officers - average age is 28 years - doesn't think they have enough time to contact the prosecutor, they can make the decision themselves to brake in. All that is needed is that the officers consider that they have "reasonable suspicion of a narcotics violation". When I the following day get hold of David Beukelmann he explains his views on narcotics. He hates narcotics, and does not want to see druggies in his life. He sees narcotics as the society's number one problem. If we can eliminate drugs all other problems will solve themselves, he says, and several times during our conversation he repeats that he is "fired up" about his work. "I have seen so many druggie shacks and so much misery," says David Beukelmann. "For me this is a pathos. Narcotics is the real fight in our society." His opinion is that all narcotics is life threatening. Recent reports about the relatively modest danger of cannabis smoking in comparison to alcohol he can see no reason to take seriously. Alcohol is alcohol and narcotics is narcotics. For David Beukelmann there is an enormous difference. He has never tried any drugs, it's not necessary, since he already knows what happens. And that is true for everything, cannabis as well as heroin. "I don't need to jump from the Eiffel tower to understand that it hurts to hit the ground," he says. "If I have basic knowledge of the laws of physics then I know that it will hurt when I come down. It is the same thing with narcotics, since I know how the chemistry works I also know it is dangerous." David Beukelmann is, unlike his boss district police chief Gunno Gunnmo, not so sure that the total consumption of drugs among youth has been reduced as a consequence of the Rave Commissions work. "It is hard to determine," he says. "But the open handling of narcotics in clubs and bars in Stockholm has become much less obvious since we started our work. I guess one can say that people are using drugs in private instead, and that might be true. But our results are positive anyway since youth that do not use drugs will not be exposed to narcotics, that in itself is positive, since one is less likely to slip in to it. We know about people who have been arrested by us and now have a straighter view of life. There is no statistical evidence of that. But we do know of cases like that, and even if it is only one or two that is better than none." He contends that the youth's accusations, that he and his colleges have changed the mandate they got by society to a personal crusade against narcotics and that they are unnecessarily tough and make random body searches which are not really legally sanctioned, are totally absurd. He gets upset when he is accused of being brutal. "What's brutal? What the hell does brutal mean? As if we would mistreat people or what is the question?" David Beukelmann says that the raves are fabricating a lot of stories about assaults which they contend that the Commission has done and that there are fake interviews about them spread on the Internet. "To control people is our job, and if we could know beforehand and on a distance that people are high then we would never have to approach them. However, that is not how it is. To determine if someone is high one has to talk to them. We always try to make that encounter with as little discomfort as possible. But sometimes it doesn't get as pleasant as one would like, and it doesn't always depend on our behavior. In other police units there is much more violence than in ours, not saying that there is much violence elsewhere." Dave Beukelmann repeats over and over that he has no problem seeing the positive values within the rave culture. Fighting and drinking, he says, is something the Rave Commission almost never run into. He likes techno music and agrees that a rave concert is an enormous sound and light experience. "We are not out to destroy the rave culture. I have to strongly deny that. We are not fighting the rave culture, what is putting sticks in the wheel for that culture is the narcotics. The Rave Culture can not sanitize themselves from it, that's why our society has to do something, and that's where the police come in. It is not the police that is destructive, it is those who use narcotics that makes us have to shut down the parties." The name - the Rave Commission - is however a fact that nobody can deny. That it implies that a whole youth culture is criminal, David Beukelmann has some sympathy for. But, he says, now the name is so accepted and effective that it will be kept. "But that is insignificant. The name of a police unit doesn't mean anything. But if we had to do it all over again we would probably choose another name, that I agree with." Changing Trends Or Endangered Culture That Sweden chose this unique model to criminalize not only possession but also use of narcotics in 1988 and then tightened that law in 1993 making it possible for police officers to control what is happening under the skin of its citizens has undeniably had consequences regarding their personal integrity. The worst consequences of this decision is for the youth that love to dance and are unfortunate enough to like techno music. Ullix - she does not want to use her full name in the paper - is operating a newly opened rave facility, Industry, in southern Stockholm. She speaks of outright stalking, and if the police really mean that it's not a culture police then it would be suitable as a first step to change the name, she says. "How can parents dare to let their children go to a rave concert when they can read in the news paper that our society has put a whole police commando to fight rave? The name of the Rave Commission is branding the whole movement. Rave becomes a synonym for illegal drugs." The rave culture is no doubt threatened. There are different opinions on whether it depends on hyper active controls of the Rave Commission, narcotics or just simply a trend that is on its way out. David Beukelmann believes in prohibition, tough control and has no problem justifying his work methods. He contends that all this talk about personal integrity and individual freedom are drug myths. Most of all he wants to expand the powers of the state, and suggests that a total prohibition of alcohol is the next step. "Yes," he says. "If it was up to me then I think it would be best." Jan Quarfordt is seriously concerned about the future. He contends that the Rave Commission's officers are inexperienced people, and tend to behave like indoctrinated soldiers. "I think one ought to make them think a bit further. They talk like parrots: 'early discovery, broken abuse, denounce abuse, prohibition, arrest, save people, etc., etc.'" That is a rather narrow perspective. One does not save people like this. The rave culture must be met with respect and dialog. Instead they are driven underground into a permanent subculture. And it is not really good if we get groups of young people that feel more loyalty with the Hells Angels than with our Swedish police. That is when it gets really awful.