[UPDATED] What Not To Do This Summer: A Renegade Festival Disguised Itself as a Protest Amidst a Pandemic

[UPDATE 8/26] The community reactions have come out in full force on Twitter and Instagram, as well as a few artists that have shared their – um, let’s call them apologies? – for the situation at hand. Scroll to the bottom for the details, screenshots, and continued absurdity.

In a normal year, I’d be preparing to head out to Burning Man right now – tens of thousands of people would. However, Burning Man was cancelled because of COVID-19 – along with the countless other festivals that met the same fate because of the pandemic. As logical and responsible members of society, we are refraining from getting dusty this year out of respect for the health and safety of others.

But somehow – because this seems like a grand idea *sarcasm intended* – an individual had the audacity to throw his own festival in the Mojave Desert last weekend called Reunite Festival as a replacement since they couldn’t head to playa. The Facebook description – it wasn’t even a Facebook event, it was a “fundraiser” for this individual – reads:

According to Grit Daily, “Reunite was planned as a small camping trip for a group of friends that wanted to get together after a summer with no events. But after interest spiked in the weeks prior, it grew into a renegade desert festival—allegedly operating under the guise of a protest, according to several sources.”

Oh, and it gets better. So much better.

It Claimed To Be A “Protest”

Let’s start with this. Apparently, this event was held under the guise of being a protest. But wait – it’s not clear what kind of protest. There was no real, stated cause.

An anonymous attendee told Grit Daily that “We’ve been wanting to get together again and that’s why it was called Reunite—because it was supposed to bring us together. There’s a lot of sh*t going on in the world right now so it turned into ‘lets stand up for something’ so I was like ‘I’ll go out there and ill protest for what i believe in.”

Rumors swirling social media claim that the event was a Black Lives Matter protest. One attendee claimed that it was a protest of numerous things, saying that “I was protesting for all of the environmental abuse that’s going on… I don’t believe in fracking. Our groundwater is being destroyed for no reason. I was protesting to end slavery with love, just super simple things. We’re all one at the end of the day. Those are the key points that I wanted to make while I was out there and I think the message got received.”

Here’s a third opinion about what the “protest” was about – calling it an “Environmental Camp-out Protest for Sustainability”:

To be frank: this was a party that was disguised as a protest. This was not a protest. They were not protesting to anyone. It was an excuse to party. And it’s so painful to see these people attempt to hide beneath the incredible efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement simply because they wanted to rave. The disrespect here is incomprehensible on so many levels.

…With An Entry Fee

An initial event description read that the “minimum donation is $100 for the weekend (regardless of time there) That covers your stay just like BM, the rest is up to you. You can bring alcohol and whatever you need to have fun.” We were able to capture a screenshot of that one before it was updated – please excuse the blurriness:

The event is still up on Facebook (as of publishing) and can be found here. The price has been updated to slightly less, but still required – and with more, very fun details:

Yep. A required “donation” that is nonrefundable to attend a protest. Is your blood boiling yet?

A Death In The Desert

Beyond the fact that this event blew any and all COVID-19 protocols out of the water and put everyone at risk – completely disregarding the guidelines that California has set to fight this pandemic – it gets worse. One attendee died while partying. Not because of COVID, either.

The following Facebook status was posted by an attendee (see source: Acacia Butterfly on Twitter). Said attendee has asked us to remove the screenshot we shared originally (found via Twitter), but has given us the go-ahead to share quotes from her post.

“I remember the days when journalists would work their hardest to get all the facts, from both sides, before reporting a story and not just type something up based off rumors. First off, this was a voluntary event, meaning nobody was forced to go, and those that did filled out liability waivers, the whole event had insurance, and the landlord allowed us to do this. We actually did have EMT’s and medics on staff. The tragedy that occurred during the first night was ultimately that man’s own responsibility. He was 51 years old with a heart condition. He had a pacemaker and went with his brother. He CHOSE to do cocaine and ecstasy… with a heart condition. To me, that almost sounds like he knew what he was doing and CHOSE to risk his life, with the cost being his death. Reminds me of the 2017 Burning Man incident where the man ran into the fire and died. As soon as he went into cardiac arrest 4 individuals were there attempting to resuscitate him and they successfully did. 911 was called immediately and they arrived within 54 minutes bringing police cruisers, ambulances, and firetrucks.”

She continues on regarding the police encounter:

“IF anyone killed this man it was the POLICE! As soon as they got there they made the 4 helping them go away. They just left him there while they cleared the scene and didn’t even do anything about it! Also he was nowhere near the dance floor, he was near the entrance of the event by everybody’s tents and RV’s. Those precious moments were wasted clearing the scene, and the man died. While this was happening the main stage was shut down and the whole mood was extremely bleak. Nobody was partying. We were all waiting to see what had happened. The paramedics finally took his body, and cleared it away. The event wasn’t shut down because it was on private property, and the man signed a liability waiver that said his death was his responsibility (and not to sugar coat anything it 100% was his fault by CHOOSING to do drugs with a heart condition.)”

And onto the protest aspect:

“Nobody said it was a Black Lives Matter protest, that is absolutely absurd and complete bullshit spread by those who make rumors without knowing any details. The mere fact you chose to include that in this story shows you run off rumors and facts. If any protest was claimed it was that we were an Environmental Protest with volunteers who wanted a chance to get away and be free from the societal restrictions placed on everybody because of COVID. And why is everybody about what other’s choose to do in their free time? This was a group of adults who all consented to be a part of this. The group that organized this chose to do so to give those hurting a chance to dance and be free. That is what the EDM community is all about, letting loose, being free, and and dancing your heart away.”

And – lastly – her take on COVID:

“Also if you want real information on the Sars-Cov-2 virus I’d recommend checking our Dr. Andrew Kaufman, a man who’s been in the medical field for 20+ years and was even a part of the initial AIDS epidemic response team. That man has decades of medical knowledge and has been openly speaking about COVID but you won’t see any of that on the mainstream news.”

Let’s unpack this a little bit. First – instead of acknowledging that this event shouldn’t have even been happening (we’re beyond that, honestly) – she blames it on the man that passed away. Then, she blames it on the police (because this is a protest… *eye roll*). And while we’re here, let’s appreciate this part: If any protest was claimed it was that we were an Environmental Protest with volunteers who wanted a chance to get away and be free from the societal restrictions placed on everybody because of COVID.

And don’t forget that these people are “hurting” and clearly need a chance to dance and be free”, because “that is what the EDM community is all about.”

I’m gonna stop you right there. The EDM community is absolutely not about throwing illegal parties during a pandemic that have no real or proper health protocols (really, where are your masks?!). Quite frankly, this entire event gives the electronic music world a bad name.

Lastly: I encourage you to look up Dr. Kaufman and understand that his COVID point of view has not been shared on mainstream media for good reason. In this London Real article he authored titled “Unmasking the Lies Around COVID-19: Fact vs Fiction of the Coronavirus Pandemic”, it is described that he “has stated that a virus is not causing a new disease, there is no evidence of increased mortality and modern medicine is the leading cause of death.”

Yep. Really.

…And This Death Made Attendees “Uncomfortable”

Carrying on: those volunteers paid at least $100 to be there. And, apparently, life-saving tactics made some of those volunteers “uncomfortable”:

Source: @nappyisCRACKED on Twitter

There’s now a GoFundMe set up for the man that died. The alleged organizer of the event, Rick Silver, posted the link to his Facebook today:

Source: Rick Silver’s Facebook page

And needless to say, the comments that followed have not been kind.

Source: Rick Silver’s Facebook page
Source: Rick Silver’s Facebook page

Lineups, DJ Ethics and Total Confusion

As an artist myself, I’m genuinely curious as to why DJs feel ethically ok with playing at an event like this. You’re asking your fans, supporters, and friends to gather at a party in the desert with hundreds of people at a time in which we are supposed to be sticking to our own pods, socially distancing, and being respectful of each other’s health.

But here’s another thing that has interestingly unfolded around this: a “lineup” photo for Reunite has been circulating social media. However, a few artists listed here – Madeaux and House Divided – have chimed in claiming that they didn’t play this party – so clearly something is up.

Source: @paulahi on Instagram
Source: @itshousedivided on Twitter

Interestingly, it looks like Madeaux’s claims were rebuttled by Twitter user @fabio__gallo, who shared a photo and video of Madeux actually playing at the event. It hasn’t been verified if that’s actually him, but photos can be damning.

We did find, however, that The Kimonos – a duo who holds a residency at Deep Space LA – also performed, and shared a video to their 19.9k Instagram followers about how this “weekend was one for the books.” They’ve since deleted that video, but we grabbed a screenshot before it was gone:

Source: The Kimonos on Instagram

This Is Not Ok.

There are so many issues that I have with this event, but let’s point out the two primary ones.

First: this is not a representation of Burning Man culture in any way, shape, or form. The Burning Man organization cancelled 2020’s event because it was the safe, logical, and right thing to do. I would heavily guess that they would never condone a renegade festival-slash-protest-during-pandemic-that-charges-volunteers-to-attend. This is beyond disrespectful to the community that surrounds Burning Man in so many ways.

Second: these types of gatherings are selfish and stupid. COVID-19 is not going to go away anytime soon if we continue to party and rave like it never existed. The electronic music world is crumbling, nightlife is disintegrating, and yet these people seem to have no care in the world. The pandemic is real – The CDC’s latest report (as of August 25, 2020) shares 5,715,567 cases in the US and over 176,000 deaths. It cannot be ignored.

We all want to return to the dancefloor. We all miss seeing our favorite DJs on the decks. But irresponsible and reckless behavior like this will not ever see us return to normal anytime soon.

Ultimately, it seems that this pandemic has divided us. Some people just don’t get it – and they will be the death of us. And on that note, I’ll leave you with one last Instagram post from an attendee:

Source: @daionysus on Instagram

[UPDATE:] The Community Reacts

The Twittersphere has garnered a variety of very entertaining responses to this event. Please enjoy this rabbit hole of feelings:

Source: @jakefine6 on Twitter

(note: this thread from @kayyleighjo in particular is SO worth a read – check the full thing here).

Source: @sakiibaum on Twitter
Source: @fadedmorgana on Twitter
Source: @YasmineAllison on Twitter
Source: @ill_esha on Twitter

This is just a few of the gems that stood out, but there are plenty more. You can check out the hashtag #ReuniteFestival on Twitter to read on.

[UPDATE:] The Artists Attempt To… Apologize?

Mansion Music and Ofier have both posted apologies to their Instagram stories. We’ll start with a nicer one: Ofier’s feels truly heartfelt – and I appreciated that.

Source: @stuffkerensays on Twitter

However, Mansion Music leaves… something to be desired. So many question marks here. Most importantly, can we talk about the fact that he claims that he attended because he was “volunteering to help organize the music due to my expertise in curating a vibe.” I had no idea this was an expertise you could have! Did you graduate with a degree in vibe curation? Do you teach a Masterclass on this? Please enlighten us on your expertise.

Bear with us, there are a few slides here – but they are worth the read:

Source: @_mansionmusic_ on Instagram
Source: @_mansionmusic_ on Instagram
Source: @_mansionmusic_ on Instagram
Source: @_mansionmusic_ on Instagram

There you have it, folks. Privilege and selfishness at its finest.

H/T Grit Daily for their insight and quotes.