If you're headed to Electric Forest this weekend, you might not want to advertise it by decorating your car. Police are profiling the shit out of anyone driving in the greater Michigan area who looks like they might enjoy bass in their face.
Police representing numerous small Michigan municipalities — and even as far away as Indiana — seem to be stopping and searching anyone they think is headed to the EDM festival, which is located outside Rothbury, MI and goes until Sunday. It certainly doesn't help if you're driving one of those Scooby Doo-style psychedelic vans, with peace signs and whatnot. I saw a pair of those pulled over on Michigan highways 31 and 196. The dreadlocked, shirtless inhabitants had been evacuated from their vehicles and were standing by the side of the road, beside multiple cop cars with their lights flashing and police searching their vehicles.
But it wasn't just a few scattered hippies. My Waze alerts announcing police presence was going off every 30 seconds or so. Cops absolutely swarmed in a municipality named Holland, Michigan: population 33,000. There, I saw a perfectly innocent-looking minivan of kids with camping equipment strapped to their roof pulled over, despite going well below the speed limit. The shoulder was almost as crowded as the road. (A request for comment from the Holland police was not immediately returned.)
Tyler Stinson and Nathan Strickland were headed to Electric Forest from San Diego. They were pulled over on Michigan highway 31 in Allegan County, and say that nine police cars surrounded them and searched their van. They found two grams of weed, and Stinson spent Thursday night in jail. "When I have two grams of weed, I'm considered 'out of weed,'" he says. On Monday he'll find out what kind of fine he might have to pay.
A couple named Jacob Efimoff and Hannah Sherrill drove all the way from Laguna Niguel, California, only to be pulled over on 31N in Deer Creek, Indiana, on one of the distant arteries into the festival. They were going 71 in a 60; the state trooper asked where they were going, and then told them to get out of the car. Out came the canines, and the search team spent the next thirty minutes going through everything in the car. They really freaked out when they found the couple's oregano mixture, which they'd brought to season their food. But here's the rub: Turns out Jacob and Hannah are totally sober, and the police found nothing.
They breathed a sigh of relief, but watched anxiously as, over the course of the rest of their trip, others were stopped constantly. "They were pulling over anyone with writing on their windows," said Jacob. (Sergeant Brian Dormer of the Indiana State Police confirmed that troopers were stopping people for infractions, and used dogs if there was a suspicion of drugs, but denied any sort of profiling.)
You might be thinking that these kids headed out to the woods to listen to EDM and do mushrooms or whatever could probably use a wake-up call. And, indeed, if the police were focused on, say, preventing a drug-related death like so often happens at these festivals, that would be one thing.
But that's clearly not the case. In the time-honored tradition of small towns, they're focused on filling city coffers. It's hippie profiling, and it's the pits. Lucky for most of these EDM fans, though, when the festival is over, they can just go back to their standard white privilege.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.