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Dance-party lawsuit attacks ordinance

Federal court filing challenges the constitutionality of law behind raids

The constitutionality of a Utah County ordinance is being challenged in a federal court lawsuit after police used it to justify raids of dance parties in Spanish Fork Canyon.

Attorneys representing the party promoters and the family that owns land in the canyon on Friday filed suit in U.S. District Court against Utah County Sheriff James Tracy, Utah County Attorney Kay Bryson, the Utah County Commission and the county government.

Bryson said he was aware of the lawsuit but could not comment.

The suit stems from police raids of UPROCK parties on July 16 and Aug. 20.

Both parties — dubbed rave parties by officers who disbanded the events — were shut down a few hours after they started.

They were raided by gun-toting officers based on a determination by Utah County Sheriff James Tracy that the concerts would last longer than the 12 hours allowed by a mass-gathering permit, said attorney Brian Barnard, who filed the lawsuit on the promoter's behalf.

The plaintiffs, who claim their civil rights were violated, want the court to examine the mass-gathering ordinance.

The ordinance requires organizations seek a permit for gatherings where "an actual or reasonably anticipated assembly of 250 or more people which continues or can reasonably be expected to continue for 12 or more consecutive hours."

"That's the catch — 'reasonably expected,' " said Barnard. "How, Mr. Sheriff, can you predict the future? Is that really your job, especially when the promoters have set it up to only last nine hours?"

Before the concerts, promoters had leased the land from a family that owns it.

They also received a permit from the Utah County Health Department and explained that hip-hop DJ music would begin about 9 p.m. and continue through 6 the next morning, the suit states.

Officials did not at any time tell the promoters to get an additional mass gathering permit from the county, the suit states.

The sheriff raided the concert because he reasonably expected it to continue longer than 12 hours, the suit states.

He ordered the music to stop and people to leave the land because they lacked the necessary permit, the suit states.

People who had cameras or video recorders also were told to stop documenting the raid. Some equipment was confiscated, the suit states.

"There was illegal drugs and dealing among the audience," Barnard said.

But, he said, it was only among a handful of people and that those actions should not affect the whole group's right to gather.

The suit claims the sheriff illegally entered the land and illegally searched and seized items without a warrant.

For the past three summers, the promoters have held concerts on the land. They plan to have concerts there in the future, the suit states.

The suit does not seek a money reward, other than attorneys' fees.


Contributing: Associated Press

E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com