Baltimore Promoter Speaks Out on Moonrise Festival Attendee Extortion

...In addition to alleged theft, harassment and gross negligence
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...In addition to alleged theft, harassment and gross negligence
Festival security staff

UPDATE: Moonrise Festival's organizers have issued the following statement:

We are aware of the reports coming in about members of specific security teams on site acting in an unprofessional manner that would be considered unfair to our patrons and unfair to the event. We are taking these reports very seriously. We ask that anyone who had any issue with security personnel on site please contact us immediately at SecurityIssues@MoonriseFestival.com with full details, including a description of the individual, what they were wearing, where the issue took place, and what happened. We have already begun an investigation with the management running each of the security teams on site. We will be addressing these issues as a whole internally and on a personal case-by-case basis with our fans.

This is not something we will be taking lightly; we spend countless hours on our security planning for this event in an effort to create a safe and comfortable environment for our fan base. We added additional management from our team to oversee the security and prevent these issues. Throughout the weekend we had management staff working to remove individuals from our security team who acted in a manner that was unprofessional. We are heartbroken to hear that our patrons were treated in a way that was less than acceptable by our standards.

Please contact us immediately so we can resolve these issues for future events – securityissues@moonrisefestival.com

Sincerely,

The Moonrise Team

Unfortunate as it may be, the high points of the 2016 edition of Moonrise Festival in Baltimore will be largely overshadowed by reports of extortion, theft, harassment and gross negligence on the part of security guards hired to work the event. 

Yesterday, Magnetic Magazine brought to light two attendees’ claims that members of event security staff had approached them and demanded bribes in return for letting them stay at the event last weekend. In the time that has passed since then, we’ve received an outpouring of similar testimonies suggesting that they had not been isolated instances.

Most notably, Baltimore activist, author and rave promoter John “Vibes” (who avoids disclosing his full legal name because of previous activist work) reached out to us. Pointing out that attendee extortion was not exclusive to this year's installment of Moonrise Festival, the Good Vibes Promotions founder wrote:

I have had issues with the event in the past, and was boycotting it this year after how I was treated in 2015.

I am actually a retired rave promoter from the Baltimore area who has worked with the crew responsible for Moonrise at various times throughout the past decade, so I have witnessed how things operate behind the scenes.

Extortion at these events has been going on for a while now. It existed to some extent back when the event was called Starscape and held in a different venue, however, when the event moved venues and became Moonrise the extortion hit a whole new level, as did the extremely tight security. This was likely a result of how unpopular Starscape became with the local government over the years.
Last year, upon entering the venue, I had a security guard spend two minutes rummaging through my wallet, thumbing through every bill - something that a TSA agent would probably feel awkward doing.

Last year I voiced my concerns with promoter Evan Weinstein, who I know personally. I suggested that his staff take a harm prevention approach instead of turning the event into a police state. He strongly opposed and ridiculed the idea, and today I see a CBS article about how there were a large number of hospitalizations. I would bet that had a lot to do with the staff refusing to consider harm prevention policies. 

Author/Activist/Good Vibes Founder John Vibes

John "Vibes" speaking at last year's AltExpo in Austin, Texas.

In addition, countless more attendees of this year's edition offered firsthand accounts that support the previously published claims. More disturbingly, a handful of them also recounted instances bordering on sexual assault. An attendee named Justin Stern told Magnetic Magazine:

I went to both days of Moonrise Festival over the weekend. I had no problem with the security the first day. The second day, there were some serious issues. 

The security guard in my line for the security check before entering was saying, "Give me $40 or give me what you are hiding." There were some people that gave him $40 and others that gave him drugs or other paraphernalia that they were hiding and he just put them in his pocket. 

The same guard also grabbed my pants and my underwear, pulled them back, looked down at my genitals, put my pants back, asked what I was hiding - I had nothing on me and I told him that - and then he proceeds to pull my pants and underwear back again and look at my genitals. I heard many other people complaining about this and I feel very violated by this happening. 

A female attendee of the 2015 edition of Moonrise who contacted us anonymously recalled:

I was not in attendance this year but I was the year prior. This is a company that needs to be shut down! The security on the way in was pulling girls shirts over their heads exposing them to the crowd, reaching into bras and grabbing breasts, and ball tapping the males! 

I tried to tell them I would eject myself from the event rather than be subjected to this over-the-top search and was told if I did not allow them to basically violate and molest me they would attempt to have me arrested. I have never felt so filthy and violated in my entire life as I did when I was cornered and accosted by this one toothless land whale. I watched dozens of attendees get shaken down and told that without bribe money they would be ejected - or even worse, detained by police and subjected to an even more thorough search! I saw them take drugs from attendees and then attempt to sell them back to them! At one point I saw a guy drop his GoPro on the ground and a security officer ran over snatched it up and ran away! I will never attend again after the horrible experience I had last year!

Someone needs to stop these people because had this been my first festival experience, I never would have attended another music festival again due to the fear and anxiety I now feel every time I am around security guards at events...They attempted to stop me from sharing my experience and began to slander me through their hired reps when I posted in other festival groups about what had happened to me!

Other attendees witnessed security guards endangering festivalgoers. An attendee named Sarah Voisine wrote:

Security was moving so slow that it looked as if they didn't care. To top that off, a girl passed out in line due to the heat. Multiple people started screaming for security and it took them almost four minutes to realize someone was down. Two security guards strolled over and kept trying to make her stand up; every time they did that she would fall back down and it took them another five minutes to call for medics. Five minutes later, they're still standing in the crowd until she gains conscious and they walk away with her.

Another example of the terrible staff: My friend was walking back to where our friends were and she sees a man who's clearly messed up. He's naked, and the security tackles him to the ground and has there hands pushing down on his neck. The poor guy was on the ground being choked asking for water so my friend tried to walk over nicely and poor water in his mouth cause he looked crazy. They were hurting him and he needed water but they didn't care. The security guards screamed at my friend telling her to move the fuck back. I saw another security guard getting in a fan's face trying to fight him.

There were so many dehydrated people laying on the ground and I didn't see any security stopping to see if they were okay. This is not how a music festival should be. I was honestly terrified to be there, and the saddest thing is that it was because of the staff.

Moonrise attendee Hillary Smith gave an account similar to the above testimony, going on to attribute the rampant theft issues at the festival to security shortcomings as well. She told Magnetic Magazine:

As I was leaving, I saw security tell one gentleman who was clearly exhausted that he "didn't need any water" as he was exiting and didn't give him any water. I hope that this article will help do something about this problem. The staff were clearly ex-cons and of little to no help as far as actual security goes, they were more concerned with finding ways to make an extra buck.

Judging by the amount of pickpockets, cars broken into and stolen, and other cases of extortion it's clear to see that Steez promo should have hired a better, more professional security team so that incidents and injuries such as these wouldn't have occurred.

An attendee named Olivia Williams echoed Smith's sentiments - particularly those regarding theft - with her own speculations:

My squad and a bunch of people we were parked with got our cars either broken into or stolen, and my sister's wallet ended up in someone else's ransacked car. the police told us that at least 12 cars were stolen out of that same parking lot on Sunday that was being patrolled and watched by security.

We paid $40 to park there for the weekend expecting our cars to be safe and had that happen. Me and my group ended up having to stay two hours after the festival and talk to police. Watching fam nearby get stranded because their cars were stolen after a festival we all paid good money to attend is completely devastating.

I've been going to moonrise since the first year and was extremely disappointed in the way some things were handled - especially the crooked shit show they call security. They were much better in past years, and I'm really sad to say I probably won't be back because of this. What was once one of my favorite festivals has left me with a bad taste In my mouth and it's really a shame.

The above accounts are only a handful of those sent to us by Moonrise Festival attendees, but event organizers Steez Promo have yet to respond to Magnetic Magazine's inquiry or issue a public statement regarding the testimonies emerging from last weekend. If you share similar experiences, don't hesitate to comment them below - or email info@MagneticMag.com for guaranteed anonymity.