After numerous arrests were made for alleged drug possession during an electronic dance music (EDM) festival at Vortex Spring, some attendees and others have formed a grassroots group to protest treatment by law enforcement.

Members of Justice for Sol Fest have alleged civil rights violations by law enforcement and posted on social media about how they were treated and what they saw during the event, held early May in Ponce de Leon.

Justice for Sol Fest team member Derek Hann said they have collected information from over 70 individual cases of people who have firsthand statements and evidence. 

Hann said it is “very clear” there was a “major civil rights violation” during the EDM event.

There were unwarranted searches and traffic stops, he said.

“The list goes on and on,” Hann said.

Justice for Sol Fest has been in contact with the ACLU and assistant attorney general’s office, according to Hann.

The organization is also considering legal action against Holmes County, though no lawsuit has officially been filed as of press time. Justice for Sol Fest is waiting for individual criminal cases to wrap up before exploring that option. 

Hann himself, listed as being from Colorado, was arrested for alleged possession of LSD after a traffic stop on Highway 81, the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office said in an arrest announcement posted to their Facebook page. 

Hann addressed the matter in videos posted to the Justice for Sol Fest social media page.

“I was driving a friend to the gate of Sol Fest. I, myself, did not have a ticket. I was hoping to be able to finish some work over in Orlando and come back for a day pass or something like that when I was done,” Hann said. “I had stopped at a stop sign that was intersecting Highway 81 and I did notice about 35, 40 yards away, that there were three or four patrol cars parked and there were a few officers out there speaking with each other.”

“I wasn’t too worried. I really didn’t think I had anything to hide and I wasn’t breaking any laws, so I made a full stop and I looked both ways across the road and proceeded down the road,” Hann said. “I noticed out of my rear view that one of the officers ran to his car and lit me up. I pulled over and waited to be told why I was pulled over.”

The officer reportedly told Hann he was pulled over because he was driving without a seatbelt but Hann was wearing a seatbelt, he said. The officer said he would give Hann a warning and took Hann’s license, he said.

“After a few minutes, a K9 unit showed up and performed what they call a free air sniff,” Hann said. “I’m not 100% educated on all the different procedures of a free air sniff but how this one went down is the dog walked around my car while the officer tapped one of the dog’s toys against the body of my vehicle. I wasn’t too worried but I thought it was weird.”

The officer left and then came back with Hann’s license and reportedly asked if Hann had marijuana in the vehicle, which Hann said he did not. 

“He said if you tell me what narcotics you have, then we can have a conversation and you can possibly go about your day,” Hann said. “I told him I didn’t have anything. He said if I have to go find myself, I’m going to have to arrest you and you’re going to have a bad time. The dog indicated there were narcotics in this car, so I have probable cause to search your vehicle.”

Hann said he was arrested after getting out of the car and was asked about narcotic possession. 

“My rights were not read to me at that point or any point and I was moved into his police vehicle,” Hann said. “After I was initially arrested, I was driven a couple of blocks and then moved into a second police car, where I was given to a second officer, who was handed my paperwork and finished my paperwork and drove me to Holmes County jail.”

Hann said he was strip searched, “given our stripes,” and then processed and moved into a cell block. Hann said he expected to be held until his bail was set.

“We were given one knitted blanket, one sheet, one toothbrush, one bar of soap, one styrofoam cup, and one roll of toilet paper,” Hann said. “There were no mattresses on the bed. It was just a steel frame bunk bed covered in rust. The cell was covered in black mold, from top to bottom.”

Hann’s bond was eventually set after going before a judge. 

“After talking to these people about how they were stopped, they were stopped for having out headlights at two in the afternoon in Florida,” Hann said. “There were people who were stopped for speeding when they were going three or four under the speed limit. There were people who were stopped for suspicious activity because they had camping gear in the back of their car.”

In an interview with Holmes County Advertiser, Carr said the Justice for Sol Fest team is comprised of people from all over the country who came to Holmes County for Sol Fest. The EDM community is not what some Holmes County resident against Sol Fest have painted them as, Hann said. 

People who attended Sol Fest are in law school, have professional jobs, and work with disabled children, he said. Attendees’ lives were put at risk when they just wanted to see friends and listen to music, Hann said. 

“We’re not crazy kids who want to destroy a town,” he said. 

People have gotten caught up on the fact that drug charges have been filed on some attendees, Hann said. Regardless of the charges, constitutional rights and civil liberties were violated, he said. 

Even inmates have basic rights under the Bill of Rights, Hann said.

“We are still people,” he said.

Sheriff John Tate has been vocal about his apprehension to Sol Fest, before and after the event.

“What we seen firsthand out there–listen, I’m not a Bible scholar–it is a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah. I see stuff out there before I never seen before in Holmes County. Don’t want to see again, either,” Tate said during a recent Holmes County Board of County Commissioners meeting addressing the festival, which some audience members said “amen” to. “Most of the people out there were nice and respectful. But sometimes when the daylight went down and the night come on, they changed. We see it every day in law enforcement with drug use.”

Tate said he would not turn a blind eye to drug use and the people who ran Sol Fest “have no clue how to run nothing,” Tate further said.

“They had no business putting on a festival because they had no clue of what to do or how to do it and that was evident the first day the thing happened,” Tate continued. “Traffic was backed up 10 miles. We told them during the County Commission meeting (before the event) that it was very unorganized.”

The organizers “don’t care about Holmes County” and only care about “the almighty dollar,” Tate said. 

The Board of County Commissioners is working to have an ordinance in place regulating proposed large-scale events, which it did not previously have. The County has also begun steps to take legal action against the Sol Fest organizers to recoup costs for law enforcement and other services rendered during the event.

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