In most ways, the landscape of last summer’s Fort Reno shows was pretty typical: beaten-up stage; scattered picnic blankets and toddlers; D.C. flag tattoos; Ian MacKaye. The only thing that felt amiss was the presence, at nearly every show, of a U.S. Park Police cruiser, usually resting on a hill, up a walkway from the stage and the cozy, placid crowd.
MacKaye says that in 2013, she fielded lots of complaints from attendees that the enhanced police detail was “visually and energetically disruptive.” But the punk case against cops isn’t necessarily just instinctual. Kevin Erickson, a spokesman for the Future of Music Coalition who is involved in the All-Ages Music Project, a nonprofit network of DIY venues, points to provisions across the country like a “teen dance ordinance” in Seattle that required anyone hosting an all-ages concert to hire an off-duty police officer, no matter the size of the venue or crowd. “Security requirements can often be well-intentioned, but they tend to be one-size-fits-all,” he writes. “When these sort of requirements become policy, it can creates problems with the expense of hiring someone, but it can also be a cultural mismatch.” The problem, then, is how to explain ideas like “peer security”—at Fort Reno, volunteers ask attendees sneaking sips of booze to hand it over so they can trash it—to the bureaucracy of the National Park Service.