The last time one of John Dal Santo’s parties made it into the Reader was in April 2003, when the party he threw for his 20th birthday was busted and he spent the night in jail on three misdemeanor charges. (Two of them were dropped, but he ended up paying the city $250 in fines.) “From now on,” he said back then, “I’ll make sure everything I’m involved in is legal. I’ve learned my lesson.”

Well, around midnight last Friday, I showed up for the grand opening of Jerkstore, a new work/party space above the Blue Line Club Car diner on Damen near North. Dal Santo (aka Johnny Love) lives there, along with Adam Lee (aka Atomly, a computer programmer and IDM artist). They and a third partner, DJ Marlon Montez, have individually thrown dozens of parties in homes, galleries, and clubs, where there are “lots of people,” says Dal Santo, “but they’re never spilling out on the street.”

They’d lined up an all-star roster, including Swiss DJ Plastique de Reve (best known for his work on the International Deejay Gigolos label) and Berlin’s Phon.o, who’d done a live PA at Sonotheque on October 6, as well as Love and Atomly. The party was promoted “only” through e-mail and the Internet, though as Dal Santo admits “the crew that booked Phon.o had access to the entire Smart Bar mailing list” and a listing ran in the Reader. “They didn’t think they’d attract that many people, says Montez. In fact, says Dal Santo, “we thought we underpromoted.”

By 12:30 the place was jam-packed with Wicker Park riffraff, including club cheeseballs, art students, IDM nerds, and a heavily tattooed woman selling glass pipes out of a briefcase. Well-behaved girls and boys danced without invading each other’s personal space and crowded around an unmanned keg without shoving.

In his blog at the next day, Lee wrote that at this point he “had to go to the front door and tell them to stop letting people in.” As he did, though, he “looked at the stairwell and out the window and realized that we had over a hundred people waiting to get in and more were coming at a constant rate.”

“If you throw a party at one of the busiest intersections in the city and have that many people standing in front of your place,” he continued, “it’s inevitably going to get busted.” Sure enough, around 1 AM a handful of cops showed up and started clearing people out. I asked Officer Suarez what was going on. “This is a fire hazard,” he told me calmly. “If everyone leaves without any trouble there won’t be any problems.”

I saw another officer flick on his flashlight and lift up some couch cushions. “What’s he looking for?” I asked Suarez. Ecstasy or dope, he replied.

Slowly we all shuffled toward the door. Gaurav Jashnani, an Indymedia contributor from Ann Arbor who was standing right behind me, started asking Officer McNichols the same questions I’d just asked Suarez, also in a calm tone: Why was the party getting busted? What determines whether it’s a fire hazard? He finished off the beer he was drinking, set his cup down, and rejoined the exodus.

“If he says anything else,” I heard McNichols tell one of his colleagues, “I’m gonna smash his head into a wall.” I relayed this bit of information to Jashnani and begged him not to engage. He didn’t take my advice. “We were just having a conversation, weren’t we?” he stopped to ask McNichols.

“I’m not interested in conversating,” McNichols replied. Jashnani shook his head in apparent disbelief and asked for the officer’s badge number. We were almost to the door.

“All right, that’s it,” said McNichols. “I’m gonna put my foot up your ass.” He shoved Jashnani from behind, grabbed the back of his T-shirt, and had him cuffed lickety-split.

When Jashnani asked why he was being arrested, I heard McNichols tell him it was for disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. I turned around and tried to tell McNichols that he hadn’t been able to leave because I’d been in his way–the mass departure had bottlenecked and Jashnani couldn’t pass me. “No you weren’t,” he said.

According to the police report, which a press officer read me over the phone later, Jashnani was arrested for “drinking in a public way,” though when McNichols cuffed him he was still inside.

At 8:30 Saturday morning, Jashnani was released on an I-bond. He’s considering representing himself at his December 8 court date.

“It seems like they’re just trying to inconvenience us in order to prevent us from questioning whatever the police do in the future,” Jashnani said when I tracked him down later. Ya think?

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Andrea Beno.