Attacks and Violence Signal End of DJ Stage at Whole Earth Festival

wholeearthFirst Picnic Day, now Whole Earth.  Some in the community will be tempted to cast a broad net towards youth.  Unfortunately, as is always the case, a small number of miscreants spoil it for the rest who are looking for good and clean fun.

UC Davis officials probably had little choice but to shut down the Whole Earth Festival’s DJ Stage beginning next year, in the wake of the campus Police Department’s investigations of three violent crimes, including the reported rape of a 16-year-old girl, in and around the music venue last weekend.

“We are sending a message that people cannot come to our campus and behave this way,” said Fred Wood, vice chancellor for Student Affairs. “It can’t continue and it won’t be tolerated. We need to create a safe environment for everyone at this university.”

Police also are investigating reports of two other incidents, a sexual battery and a beating, also in the DJ Stage area, which has been set up for over a decade in the lower patio area west of Wellman Hall, away from the Quad where most of the festival took place.

“The DJ Stage has become completely antithetical to the founding positive mission of the Whole Earth Festival,” Mr. Wood said in a campus press release. “The evening dance event has been attracting an ever-larger, ever-younger crowd. It has simply become unsafe, and it will be discontinued.”

Police Lt. Matt Carmichael said the stage attracted a bigger crowd this year, as many as 1,000 people, and the crowd was much younger, drawing large numbers of junior high and high school students. 

Police said the rape took place inside Wellman Hall at about 8:30 p.m. Friday and was reported late Sunday.  Police describe the rape victim as having been dancing in the area on Friday night, when led away by the suspect into Wellman Hall where he sexually assaulted her in the men’s room.

Why Wellman was open to begin with seems to be a source of controversy in and of itself.

There was also a sexual battery that occurred on Saturday evening at the DJ Stage area, where a 14-year-old girl was the victim.  The suspect in that attack is said to be a Latino male around 16 or 17.  In the Friday rape, it was a Latino male in his early to mid-20s.

Naturally, the reaction was to shut down the venue and no one seems to be objecting to that.

Apparently, the location has been a problem for some time.  The venue itself is away from the main quad, which makes it more difficult for officials and Whole Earth volunteers to monitor.  The venue attracts a lot of kids, and has become more crowded and thus more difficult to manage.

Questions will undoubtedly linger about the responsibility of the university and planners of the event for this.

Clearly, university officials do not want to see a repeat of this, as embodied by the comments of Fred Wood.

“This type of behavior is unacceptable,” Mr. Wood said. “We must recapture the intended spirit of the Whole Earth Festival, which has been a popular community event for decades.”

Students Laura Damian and Racquel Esqueda, co-directors of the festival, said they support the decision and will re-evaluate festival programming for next year. “We don’t want to create an unsafe space,” Ms. Damian said.

The question that will remain for some time is who is culpable for this.  After all, concerts and music venues happen all of the time without the kind of violent crimes that occurred at Whole Earth this year. 

Clearly, one factor is that this venue was located apart from the main festivities.  Another factor, for the Friday rape, is the access someone had to Wellman, but where was security?  How was a minor and her attacker allowed to enter into a campus building that supposedly should have been locked?

These are questions that require answers.  The easy solution is always to shut down a venue when it becomes a problem, but venues like this exist across the country and there are rarely such incidents.

This is not to point fingers before we know the facts, and it just seems to me we are quick to shut things down and slow to figure out what went wrong and try to fix it for the future.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. E Roberts Musser

    Frankly, shutting down problem events for a year or two may be the only solution. It seems as if the UCD campus and its events are now drawing the wrong kind of element to it like a magnet – probably bc there is a lack of security. Davis is seen as a friendly, safe town/UCD as a friendly safe campus – but also represent easy targets as well bc people are lulled into a false sense of security. I agree that it is a shame that a few spoil it for so many – but the level of the problems is serious enough that something pretty drastic needs to be done. Very frustrating…

  2. Gunrock

    Its pretty easy to identify the culprits, the same ones as at Picnic Day, same one who rob the banks here in town, same ones who do the home invasion crimes etc. They really are easy to identify, but we seem to be very determined to not let the police do what they need to do to spot them early on…

  3. Steve Hayes

    DG …Unfortunately, as is always the case, a small number of miscreants spoil it for the rest who are looking for good and clean fun.

    Unfortunately, as the quality of life within the greater UCD/City of Davis community continues to decrease(the City is now a destination “Party Town” on weekends), the number of miscreants will continue to increase. It ultimately will become a numbers game when the liability (costs) exceed the benefits, and then the events will be cancelled.

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