Emily Leed came to Coachella for a weekend of camping and music. What she didn’t expect was a full search and inquisition by the private security guards at the entrance to the campgrounds. After two hours in line to the campground her bag was removed from her vehicle, where the male security guard proceeded to empty every pocket of her large bag.
“He went through every piece of clothing I owned. He unzipped every zipper in my bag. He took me to a table and dumped my entire purse.”
He then conducted a fruitless hour-long search of the vehicle, tying up the entry lines for the would-be campers.
Trash cans placed at every entrance of the campgrounds and festival, known by security guards as “amnesty bins”, are filled throughout the day with seized items. Upon finding contraband, festival goers have the choice of surrendering the items — many of which are perfectly legal — or facing prosecution or wristband confiscation. With no way of recourse, most attendees choose the amnesty bin.
But what happens to the amnesty bins after they’re collected from the checkpoints?
Several sources with knowledge of festival security operations claim the bins are taken to a central location, where other hired personnel sort the confiscated items, which are given to runners who sell the recycled contraband at the festival. Most of the sales activity is directed to the Sahara tent, which is known amongst festival goers as the place to score.
Most guards perform adequate checks, ensuring no weapons, glass, or other prohibited items are smuggled inside. But others, according to our source, take the searches further than necessary in order to contribute to the amnesty bins, all the while delaying the lines into the festival and campgrounds.
Other campers reported being directed by groundskeepers to a campsite on row 115 where a large tent contained just about every drug imaginable.
During one security check, this reporter had every pen and pencil removed from his bag, then thrown on the ground as the security guard laughed, “these are not allowed.” During camping checking, he was forced by a security guard, under threat or arrest by two Indio police, to answer details of why his doctor prescribed the medications in his bag, which were in original containers and labeled by the pharmacy.
Goldenvoice, the organizer of the festival, did not respond to our request for comments.
With ticket prices for weekend two now below $250 on the secondary ticket markets, bad weather, lackluster performances, and horrible treatment by security, has the Coachella music festival peaked?