Two party companies that were each fined $10,000 by the Utah County Health Department for allegedly promoting and organizing an illegal Halloween party near Utah Lake released statements addressing the incident, and one of the companies launched a fundraiser to help cover the costs.
The Tribe Utah, which was fined on Monday for violating a public health order, and that prosecutors say helped organize the event of more than 10,000 people, said in a written statement that it was forced to cancel its “The Protest on Halloween” event “which would have followed ALL COVID-19 guidelines.”
“On Halloween night, individuals, acting independent of The Tribe, decided to gather on public lands. No profits were made and the event was completely free. The anticipated attendance at the informal gathering was exceeded by thousands,” the statement read. “(The Tribe Utah co-owner) Erik Little, upon seeing the growing nature of the event freely and voluntarily ended the event at approximately 11:30 p.m. Law enforcement officials never put a stop to the event despite being made aware of it at approximately 3:00 p.m. that same day.”
Sgt. Spencer Cannon, public information officer of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, said law enforcement received an anonymous tip around 1 p.m. day of party about a gathering of around 100 people scheduled to take place from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
“But by the time we went out there that night, the party had just gotten huge,” Cannon said on Wednesday.
Cannon noted that the sheriff’s office did not respond to break up the party but in response to a 911 call about an attendee needing an ambulance, adding that “based on the size that we were told that it was supposed to be, we didn’t have concern that there would be the kind of response that they ended up having.”
“I think the organizers didn’t even anticipate that it would end up being the size that it did end up being,” he said.
In charging documents, prosecutors state that The Tribe Utah and Young/Dumb, another event company, both promoted the party on social media.
The latter company “used their Instagram page to post the location of the party,” according to prosecutors, and stated that any individuals who wanted more information about the party should contact Samuel Nii, the co-owner of Young/Dumb.
In an Instagram post on Tuesday, Young/Dumb wrote that “we don’t feel it necessary to post about every rumor, misreporting, or complicated business matter that happens.”
“At the end of the day, who cares? Sometimes journalists will get mad. Sometimes politicians will get mad. That’s life. As far as you guys should be concerned, the show still goes on & we’re going to keep celebrating life with y’all,” the post said.
In addition to the two event companies, four individuals were fined $10,000, including Nii, as well as The Tribe Utah co-owners Little and Tanner Valerio.
Also, the Utah County Attorney’s Office filed class B misdemeanor charges for “violation of state public health” against nine individuals accused of organizing and promoting the party, including Nii, Little and Valerio.
On Monday, the Tribe Utah launched a GoFundMe fundraiser to raise $76,345 to cover $60,000 in civil fines, $10,000 for lawyer fees, $6,210 for the misdemeanor charges and $135 for fingerprinting.
As of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, the company had received 67 donations totaling just over $4,500.
“The Tribe is in humble indeed of assistance to pay for legal fees and to fight to protect the right to gather, not only for event hosts but for all businesses who are struggling under the weight of constantly-changing rules and regulations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the fundraiser said.
“The Tribe believes that the negative effects of social isolation (ie. depression, suicide, anxiety, etc.) are just as significant and harmful to our community as the negative effects caused by COVD-19,” it continued.
Sherrie Hall Everett, spokesperson for the Utah County Attorney’s Office, said the office had “taken note of their effort to fund the fines” using GoFundMe.
“While this is an ongoing investigation, we won’t be commenting at this time,” Everett said on Wednesday.
Young/Dumb is planning on hosting a “limited entry” party on Saturday and will require attendees to wear masks, according to a flyer.
“This is THE party for you to let back, let loose, go crazy & be a part of something wild. We need all ur help to make this as unforgettable as possible,” the flyer read, noting that the location of the party would be announced on Saturday.
Young/Dumb had not applied for an event permit from the Utah County Health Department as of Wednesday, according to spokesperson Aislynn Tolman-Hill, who added that the group did not get permits for any of the dance parties it hosted in Utah County throughout the summer of 2020.
Hill said the health department was aware of the party and had notified the county attorney’s office.