What Not To Do This Summer: A Renegade Festival Disguised Itself as a Protest Amidst a Pandemic

In a normal year, I’d be preparing to head out to Burning Man right now – tens of thousands of people would. However, Burning Man was cancelled because of COVID-19 – along with the countless other festivals that met the same fate because of the pandemic. As logical and responsible members of society, we are refraining from getting dusty this year out of respect for the health and safety of others.

But somehow – because this seems like a grand idea *sarcasm intended* – an individual had the audacity to throw his own festival in the Mojave Desert last weekend called Reunite Festival as a replacement since they couldn’t head to playa. The Facebook description – it wasn’t even a Facebook event, it was a “fundraiser” for this individual – reads:

According to Grit Daily, “Reunite was planned as a small camping trip for a group of friends that wanted to get together after a summer with no events. But after interest spiked in the weeks prior, it grew into a renegade desert festival—allegedly operating under the guise of a protest, according to several sources.”

Oh, and it gets better. So much better.

It Claimed To Be A “Protest”

Let’s start with this. Apparently, this event was held under the guise of being a protest. But wait – it’s not clear what kind of protest. There was no real, stated cause.

An anonymous attendee told Grit Daily that “We’ve been wanting to get together again and that’s why it was called Reunite—because it was supposed to bring us together. There’s a lot of sh*t going on in the world right now so it turned into ‘lets stand up for something’ so I was like ‘I’ll go out there and ill protest for what i believe in.”

Rumors swirling social media claim that the event was a Black Lives Matter protest. One attendee claimed that it was a protest of numerous things, saying that “I was protesting for all of the environmental abuse that’s going on… I don’t believe in fracking. Our groundwater is being destroyed for no reason. I was protesting to end slavery with love, just super simple things. We’re all one at the end of the day. Those are the key points that I wanted to make while I was out there and I think the message got received.”

Here’s a third opinion about what the “protest” was about – calling it an “Environmental Camp-out Protest for Sustainability”:

To be frank: this was a party that was disguised as a protest. This was not a protest. They were not protesting to anyone. It was an excuse to party. And it’s so painful to see these people attempt to hide beneath the incredible efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement simply because they wanted to rave. The disrespect here is incomprehensible on so many levels.

…With An Entry Fee

An initial event description read that the “minimum donation is $100 for the weekend (regardless of time there) That covers your stay just like BM, the rest is up to you. You can bring alcohol and whatever you need to have fun.” We were able to capture a screenshot of that one before it was updated – please excuse the blurriness:

The event is still up on Facebook (as of publishing) and can be found here. The price has been updated to slightly less, but still required – and with more, very fun details:

Yep. A required “donation” that is nonrefundable to attend a protest. Is your blood boiling yet?

A Death In The Desert

Beyond the fact that this event blew any and all COVID-19 protocols out of the water and put everyone at risk – completely disregarding the guidelines that California has set to fight this pandemic – it gets worse. One attendee died while partying. Not because of COVID, either. See this Facebook status:

Source: Acacia Butterfly on Twitter

Let’s unpack this a little bit. First – instead of acknowledging that this event shouldn’t have even been happening (we’re beyond that, honestly) – she blames it on the man that passed away. Then, she blames it on the police (because this is a protest… *eye roll*). And while we’re here, let’s appreciate this part: If any protest was claimed it was that we were an Environmental Protest with volunteers who wanted a chance to get away and be free from the societal restrictions placed on everybody because of COVID.

Those volunteers paid at least $100 to be there. And, apparently, life-saving tactics made some of those volunteers “uncomfortable”:

Source: @nappyisCRACKED on Twitter

There’s now a GoFundMe set up for the man that died – Lidor Malka. The alleged organizer of the event, Rick Silver, posted the link to his Farcebook today:

Source: Rick Silver’s Facebook page

And needless to say, the comments that followed have not been kind.

Source: Rick Silver’s Facebook page
Source: Rick Silver’s Facebook page

Lineups, DJ Ethics and Total Confusion

As an artist myself, I’m genuinely curious as to why DJs feel ethically ok with playing at an event like this. You’re asking your fans, supporters, and friends to gather at a party in the desert with hundreds of people at a time in which we are supposed to be sticking to our own pods, socially distancing, and being respectful of each other’s health.

But here’s another thing that has interestingly unfolded around this: a “lineup” photo for Reunite has been circulating social media. However, a few artists listed here – Madeaux and House Divided – have chimed in claiming that they didn’t play this party – so clearly something is up.

Source: @paulahi on Instagram
Source: @itshousedivided on Twitter

Interestingly, it looks like Madeaux’s claims were rebuttled by Twitter user @fabio__gallo, who shared a photo and video of Madeux actually playing at the event. It hasn’t been verified if that’s actually him, but photos can be damning.

We did find, however, that The Kimonos – a duo who holds a residency at Deep Space LA – also performed, and shared this video to their 19.9k Instagram followers:

This Is Not Ok.

There are so many issues that I have with this event, but let’s point out the two primary ones.

First: this is not a representation of Burning Man culture in any way, shape, or form. The Burning Man organization cancelled 2020’s event because it was the safe, logical, and right thing to do. I would heavily guess that they would never condone a renegade festival-slash-protest-during-pandemic-that-charges-volunteers-to-attend. This is beyond disrespectful to the community that surrounds Burnign Man in so many ways.

Second: these types of gatherings are selfish and stupid. COVID-19 is not going to go away anytime soon if we continue to party and rave like it never existed. The electronic music world is crumbling, nightlife is disintegrating, and yet these people seem to have no care in the world. The pandemic is real – The CDC’s latest report (as of August 25, 2020) shares 5,715,567 cases in the US and over 176,000 deaths. It cannot be ignored.

We all want to return to the dancefloor. We all miss seeing our favorite DJs on the decks. But irresponsible and reckless behavior like this will not ever see us return to normal anytime soon.

Ultimately, it seems that this pandemic has divided us. Some people just don’t get it – and they will be the death of us. And on that note, I’ll leave you with one last Instagram post from an attendee:

Source: @daionysus on Instagram

H/T Grit Daily for their insight and quotes.