Over the past six months, music fans who have been spinning records -- or even just attending friends' events -- claim their laptops, soundboards, and mixers have been taken by the cops in police raids. The busted gatherings include an illegal dance party, an artist fundraiser, and a private Halloween bash. While it's unclear whether the lack of official permits was enough reason to close down all these parties, the bigger question is why the police are seizing and holding private property that DJs and attendees use as valuable tools for making their art and living.S.F. cops may have gone too far in seizing DJ gear at underground parties
Mike Holmes, aka DJ White Mike, was a recent victim of an SFPD sweep. On Halloween night, he DJed at the Beauty Bar and then hit a friend's costume party at a SOMA loft. He stored his bag, which held his laptop, in the DJ booth to prevent it from getting swiped. Ten minutes later, around 2:30 a.m., he says the police arrived and announced that they were taking all the laptops in the warehouse space. "I tried to explain that I wasn't even playing at the party," he says. Nonetheless, his computer was seized by a cop who identified himself as part of a "task force," who told him that he shouldn't expect to get his laptop back "for at least three months." Other DJs at the party claim to have received similar warnings -- as well as threats of jail time, if they were seen DJing at warehouses again -- from officers who said they were part of a task force.(The SFPD claims it does not have a specific task force looking at underground parties, but it does routine checks in the SOMA area, sometimes with other agencies such as the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, for permit and other violations.)
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I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.