A back-to-school blow-out rave in San Bernardino took a wrong turn late Saturday night when police had to use tear gas to disperse fans outside the event, resulting in a few arrests.
More than 7,000 young fans were already inside the National Orange Show complex and continued to enjoy the colorful, all-night electronic dance music party known as Nocturnal Wonderland, largely unaware of the disturbance as they danced energetically to the beat-heavy music dispensed from five stages in three large pavilions.
But at the entrance, a line of about 2,000 to 3,000 people waiting to enter the annual event started to push forward and overwhelm security guards. At about 11 p.m., the gates were closed while the staff attempted to restore order, but the crowd continued to push toward the front.
Fearing injuries, officials decided not to reopen the entrance. A police helicopter circled overhead and broadcast an order for the fans outside to return to their vehicles and leave the area. When the order went unheeded, San Bernardino police officers in riot helmets worked into the crowd and eventually deployed tear gas, sending people scurrying away.
On Sunday, Sgt. Robert Coulter, watch commander at the San Bernardino police headquarters, reported that five people were arrested for failure to disperse, with 23 other arrests made during the night for a variety of drug-possession and disturbing-the-peace violations. There were no reports of injuries. Coulter said that officers plan to meet with Orange Show management soon to discuss future events.
Nocturnal promoter Pasquale Rotella blamed the situation on a larger walk-up turnout than expected and the refusal of facility management to open a second entrance. Dejected, he said he hopes to compensate the estimated 2,000 people who had purchased tickets in advance but could not get in. National Orange Show officials were not available to comment.
The turn of events served as a backhanded testimony to the strength of the Southern California rave scene, as well as the strong appeal of this particular event. Raves held the previous two weekends, one at the same location and one at the former Santa's Village in the San Bernardino Mountains, each drew crowds in excess of 7,000. Coming on the Labor Day weekend and with a stellar lineup, including such national electronica stars as former Deee-Lite singer Lady Miss Kier and Detroit techno pioneer Juan Atkins along with local club stars John Kelly and the Invisibl Skratch Pickles, Nocturnal was seen by many as the season's crowning event.
The entertainment delivered as promised. Kier gave a boisterous performance, singing to recorded tracks as she mixed the music at a deejay console, and the Pickles (champion deejays Q-Bert and D-Styles) dazzled with their turntable techniques as they transformed familiar tracks by the Wu-Tang Clan and Lauryn Hill, among others, into new musical experiences. Around the grounds, festooned with Lewis Carroll-inspired paraphernalia, fans enjoyed the groove, with the police action outside the fences just another part of the show.