While hundreds of paint-covered attendees danced inside Club Underground on Thursday night, USF student Sarah Preston and her friends waited outside the Dayglow event in downtown Tampa.
For more than three hours, Preston and almost 100 others dressed in white stood “crowded and sweaty” in a line that wrapped around the club, waiting for admittance into an event where acrylic paint is sprayed on partygoers in white attire.
“It was just a mob of people in white pushed together,” said Preston, a freshman majoring in biology. “We were all standing there complaining. We had no idea what was going on.”
There were two lines outside: one for people who bought tickets online and one for people to buy tickets at the door, she said.
“We got really close to the door. There was speculation that the club was full,” Preston said. “All of a sudden this (police officer) at the door just yelled, ‘back up, we’re not letting anybody in.'”
According to Preston’s account, that’s when things outside the club got worse.
“I heard this spraying sound, and people started coughing,” she said.
Torie Doll, who went to Dayglow with Preston and other students, said a police officer sprayed Mace into the crowd outside the club around 2 a.m. She said people began coughing and even throwing up.
According to a report from the Tampa Police Department (TPD), a “concerned citizen” made a complaint call about the Dayglow event Thursday at 11:57 p.m.
The caller told police that there was “a large crowd outside who bought tickets and are not being let in,” the report said. The caller said the crowd was getting “rowdy.”
“We weren’t even doing anything. It was pretty ridiculous,” said Doll, a freshman double-majoring in mass communications and American Sign Language. “No one was fighting. No one was pushing. We were just standing there.”
Tampa Police Officer Justin Martens was working security at the event as an off-duty officer. He said people complained of fighting, but there was no disturbance.
Martens said no one was sprayed in the face with Mace, but that it was “possibly” used.
“It depends on if they comply with police … It could have been (used),” he said.
Martens said Mace “could have been” sprayed into the crowd to get people to leave, but he said no one was taken into custody. There is no written report of the incident other than the complaint call.
Martens said no “Use of Force” report was filed that would show that Mace or other form of police force was used.
According to the TPD Standard Operating Procedures, “any use of force, whether or not it results in injury, will be documented on TPD 970 (Custody Memo).”
The operating procedures also state: “Officers shall ensure prompt first aid is provided, if necessary, to individuals affected by the use of force when the situation is no longer a threat to the officer or any other person.”
A Florida statute allows off-duty officers to carry their weapons and perform functions that they would “normally perform during duty hours,” at the discretion of their superior officers.
Doll said she was originally “excited” about attending Dayglow, but she left feeling “frustrated and disappointed.”
An announcement posted on dayglowtour.com over the weekend said the club did not let everyone in because of capacity.
“We apologize for this. One of the rooms closed due to maintenance and the venue cut the capacity at 11 p.m.,” the announcement said.
“We paid for our tickets, why didn’t we get in?” Preston said. “I’m confused why they would have sold more tickets than they had occupancy for in the building. That didn’t make sense to me.”
At a Dayglow event in Gainesville last year, about 800 people were denied entry, according to an article in the Alligator, the University of Florida’s campus newspaper.
Phone calls and e-mails sent to Club Underground and Dayglow representatives were not returned.
Preston said it was “unfair” that she paid for her ticket but was not let into the event.
“I’m a college student, I don’t have unlimited funds,” she said. “That was $23 down the drain.”
Those who bought online tickets but were not let in can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.