Dance Parties as a Public Service

How do you prevent a riot after a World Series win? By throwing a dance party.

In this piece of Civic Design Fiction, the police are with it enough to know that loving someone’s music is not an endorsement of their character.

If we want to avoid post-championship riots, our government needs to send a clear message: theres nothing wrong with a little bump n’ grind.


It will be 9pm on the West Coast when the Giants win the World Series tonight. A split-second after that last pitch, the Giants will rush the mound in Kansas City and their fans will rush the streets across San Francisco. The Bay will glow effervescent, an entire region celebrating all at once.

These vivid celebrations are a rare blessing — a positive experience shared between millions. They sustain and replenish the empathy required to get along in a city this big and tumultuous. But if tonight is anything like 2012, the experience will be tainted by scenes like this:

“The Giants Win; San Francisco is on Fire” is a Mission Local headline that can be avoided easily. Source: http://www.missionmission.org/2012/10/28/sf-giants-win-san-francisco-is-on-fire/

Unfortunately, what should be a positive and inclusive experience for the widest-cross section of the Bay Area we can muster will instead be sullied by mindless destruction and even violence. A celebration that starts out safe for females and inclusive to those of all ages and backgrounds is sure to become the exlusive province of drunk young men and police narrowing their perimeter. Eventually, things will devolve into broken windows and dangerous spectacle, and the armored cops will snuff out the party with force.

It won’t be entirely the fault of those drunk young men though. After all, they are the guests at this party. The City of San Francisco and the San Francisco Giants will be producing this event — they need to own the fact that they are throwing the party.

And the only kind of party that can metabolize the torrent of energy unleashed by a World Series win is a legitimate dance party.

Seriously, what kind of vibe do the cops think they are giving off here? Photo Credit: Alex Washburn, SF Chronicle

It’s best to let our imaginations run with this.

First of all, a police-produced dance party is also going to have to play far funkier music than they are probably comfortable with. Until proven otherwise, people will dismiss the idea of a police dance party as a setlist full of bloodless compromises and tone deaf Top 40. The police will have to go the extra mile to establish immediately that people are allowed to get the freak out. Folks need to know that it’s alright to get a little intimate.

Of course this party isn’t the exclusive province of the young or cool, but instead, as many people as possible. There are many things the police can do to get the vibe right:

  1. Ditch the guns. Otherwise one of us will have our hands up eventually.
  2. Ditch the staid uniforms. Police throwing a dance party need to look fresh. Maybe all white suites and matching leather shoes.
  3. Learn to dance. Nobody is going to trust police to throw a dance party if they can’t dance themselves.
  4. Hire a stage lighting engineer to put those helicopters and drones to good use.
  5. Bring lots of bottled water — people gotta hydrate.

Obviously this is a monumental task. Police are going to need some professional leadership, preferably from the most beloved pop and hip-hop stars we have. San Francisco could lead the way with an interim appointment of Del the Funky Homosapien. Beyoncé clearly has first right of refusal in Houston. Black Thought and Questlove get Philly. Common runs Chicago. Macklemore runs Seattle, and so forth.

Until all that happens, though we’ll have to settle for some movement from the grassroots. With the help of friends, I’ve put together a first pass playlist that will drop after the Giants lock this thing down. I have no doubt ya’ll can do even better. Make your own playlist, share it, and maybe try to get the party started on the right foot tonight.


Update: It turns out there may be an opportunity to prototype these kinds of ideas in collaboration with the San Francisco Giants. Head over to Neighborland to learn more: https://neighborland.com/ideas/sf-dance-parties-instead-of


Many thanks to the slew of contributors who have indulged this absurd line of thinking: Kavi Harshawat, Preston Rhea, Ainsley Wagoner, Aaron Shapiro, Lily Wood, Ben Geary, Livien Yin, Molly McLeod, Jake Solomon, Jack Madans, Dan Parham and many others.