Throwing someone out of a venue is an unpleasant responsibility that the majority of organizers have to deal with. I have found there is a lack of easy to find resources out there on how to do it. In result I am writing a brief guide of what I recommend when removing people from a venue based on my own personal experiences and what I learned talking to police officials and other organizers.
Note: I am not a legal professional and none of this should be construed as legal advice. I highly recommend you talk to a lawyer and/or your local police officials about the laws related to trespassing and removal of individuals from your premises.
The best way to deal with throwing people out of your swing dance venue is to avoid having to do it in the first place. I have found a good portion of individuals are not intentionally malicious but often miss social cues or fall under the popular label “socially awkward”.
I find it is common in a lot of swing dance communities to ignore uncomfortable behavior until it comes to a breaking point where one is forced to take action. I think a lot of these confrontational situations could be prevented by addressing the questionable behavior earlier with a friendly warning. While it can be uncomfortable giving these warnings often you can with a few words cause a person to adjust their behavior to make an event a better time for that person and the people they interact with.
When I have had to issue friendly warnings I make sure:
- We are in a setting that other dancers can’t overhear so they are not embarrassed in front of their peers.
- Note: Depending upon the context it is sometimes better to do this with another organizer for safety reasons and/or to have a witness.
- I make this about their actions and not about them as a person.
- I frame it in a manner that the warning comes from wanting them to have a good time and not cause any potential trouble for them. Avoid coming off as intimidating or threatening.
- Don’t argue or debate the point, just state what you have to say.
- Even if it is a minor warning log that it occurred somewhere, preferably in an email or a document that has a timestamp. In the unfortunate event that the situation escalates down the road that information has the potential to be useful.
Ideally any event staff ranging from the head organizers, DJs, to instructors should be informed on how to issue early and friendly warnings. An important thing to also realize is this isn’t something you are instantly good at but improve at over time. Peter Strom in this instructor forum hosted by Yehoodi below talks about when he was asking a lead at a local venue to stop lifting people on the social dance floor. Even though he was doing the right thing he vocalized the how the difficulty in the process and how he himself could have handled it better in the future.
If a friendly warning doesn’t work then warnings with a more serious tone and actionable items declared at the end of them such as removal from the venue for that night or permanent eviction is a route to take. Here is an example of a conversation to a theoretical dancer named Johnny that displays this method of issuing a warning,
“Johnny, we have had two conversations with you before about leading aerials on the social dance floor. There have complaints before from follows that it makes them feel uncomfortable and it goes against our insurance policy. If we have another report of it happening again we will have to ask you to leave and not return for at least two weeks.”
Lastly, one of the useful features of having organizational policies or a code of conduct is it gives something you can easily cite when issuing these warnings or in the unfortunate case of having to remove someone from your venue.
Removing Someone From Your Venue
Sadly there are cases when people act out in ways that are completely inappropriate or they do not heed your warnings and continue in behavior that makes other dancers uncomfortable or outright endangers them. When you have to remove someone from your venue it should come as no surprise to them because it should be after:
- They have taken actions which have clearly crossed the line.
- They have been issued multiple warnings with the last warning informing the person that the next action to be taken will be removal and banning from the premises.
When the decision has been made that someone needs to be removed whether it is just for that night or a permanent ban, similar guidelines are followed to issuing a warning with a fairly different tone.
- Be in a private setting where you still feel safe. It is highly recommended to have another staff member with you for safety reasons and to have a witness.
- Tell the person you are ask them to leave the premises (this includes the parking lot) and inform them of the duration they are banned as the starting point of the conversation. Be respectful but firm during the entire conversation.
- Cite the actions they took and any previous warnings issued if relevant on why they are being asked to leave however do not argue or debate the point.
- If the individual refuses to leave issue them a trespass warning and state that their two options are to leave quietly or that the police will be called to escort them off the premises.
- File an incident report that lists all the individuals involved, references to previous incidents, time, date, place, and other relevant information.
- If relevant inform the local authorities and/or other local organizers.
While I know often the behaviors of these individuals will make you want to react like the picture above. The important thing is to remain professional and not escalate the situation any further than it needs to.
I’ve had requests to share some incidents where I have had to remove people from venues or classes I have taught. I’d like to iterate that in both of these incidents they were not easy things to do and with the benefit of hindsight I can see ways I could have handled them better.
Harassment of A Minor at a College Campus
The first incident I was one of the main organizers for a college club. I was informed one night at a dance that an older community member who was not a college student said an inappropriate comment to a minor attending our dance from the local high school. Infuriated does not even begin to describe how I felt upon receiving this news.
A shortsighted decision in retrospect, I walked up to this individual and asked him to immediately leave. He proceeded to in a condescending manner attempt to lecture me on the way I should have handled the incident, how legal action may be a response, and generally attempting to intimidate me. After a few minutes of this he finally conceded to leave.
I reported the incident to the local authorities and they informed me if he ever showed up again to state he was trespassing and if he refused to leave to not discuss the matter with him further and call them to remove him. Lo and behold he showed up about two weeks later in spite of us sternly saying to leave and never come back.
As the police instructed me to do I went up to him and stated he was trespassing on the premises and he needed to leave immediately or I would inform the police. He refused to leave and attempted to engage me in debate about the topic. I promptly informed him I was calling the police, proceeded to ignore him, asked another staff member go watch him and I then called the police. The police kept me in a separate room under police surveillance while they escorted him out of the building. I later found he was banned from two other college clubs for similar behavior and this incident lead to the college campus banning him permanently from campus grounds.
Things I learned:
- Log incidents, when dealing with the police they will want as much detail as possible.
- When removing them calm yourself down to the point that you can deal with them professionally and isolate them from the general public when informing them that they have to leave.
- Communicate with your local organizations, they can inform you of prior incidents which allow you to make more informed decisions.
- When relevant inform local organizations of individuals you have removed to create a safe community.
Stalking of A Student at A Dance Studio
The second incident was at a dance studio I organize for and teach at. Another organizer in town sent me an email informing that he had banned a person from his venue because this individual was aggressively hitting on a person in spite of her saying she was not interested and asking them to stop and later was found following her in his car. I was completely oblivious to this behavior and found this email surprising.
Our studio from the beginning has had a code of conduct. I drafted an email stating that because this individual’s actions had broken our code of conduct they were banned from the premises. I had another organizer review to ensure this is the wording we wanted to come from our organization and we sent it out. The individual responded that while they didn’t agree with our decision that they would not show up to our classes/events again.
Things I learned:
- Communication between organizations is important. This person could have habitually scared off different dancers if the behavior was not reported.
- When in doubt if your actions as a staff member or organizer are correct, err on the side of caution and consult another staff member when appropriate.
- While a code of conduct or policies are useful as a method of deterrence off the bat, they are also useful in situations where you have to explain why certain behaviors lead to certain consequences.
Questions for Everyone
I hope that my knowledge as an organizer and instructor of a few years is useful to anyone reading this. However what I would like to hear is from other instructors and organizers your stories, knowledge, and experiences whether it is on your own blog, in the comments section, or even in local discussions within your own community. I think the more information out there about this topic there is the better so we can look for ways to improve our methods on handling incidents like these to make our community a safer place.