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The Inhumane Treatment of Black Security Guards Behind the Gates of Coachella

It’s no secret that when you think of Coachella, you think of the triples D’s. No, I’m not referring
to a woman’s body part, but to: Dancing, Drugging and Dancing the nights away at the nation’s
largest dance party produced over two weekends during the month of April annually. Held in the
desert of Indio, California and for the minimum of price of $500, you can block out life stresses,
if only for a weekend. But I digress, this isn’t a story about the arts and music festival per se’.
This is a story how I decided to take a job working as a security guard at the Coachella 2019
event and was met with a grim reality of what really happens behind the gates. Mind you, I’m an
emerging screenwriter that moved to L.A. a year ago, but as most artist know, we take on
various types of gigs to stay afloat until Hollywood comes calling. This is one such gig.
The nightmare begins with me getting a random email that a local security guard company was
hiring for security guards to work Coachella 2019. Being that I was recently granted my guard
card, I thought it sounded like exciting opportunity to put my newly minted guard card to use.
So, fast forward a few weeks later and I’m at the BMW Nationwide Security loading into a bus
with about thirty-five people, all people of color, though I didn’t think much of it because the
company is located in Long Beach, CA, but we’ll get back to that later.
It was upon my arrival at the Coachella camp
ground just over two hours later in Indio, CA
that things become... let’s say “interesting”. We
all unloaded with our luggage and checked in
with reps for the Staff Pro, one of the main
security companies contracted by Golden Voice
(the puppeteer behind Coachella, their parent
company AEG) who provided us with a one-
page document; basically, giving us instructions
on how not to die from heat stroke in
temperatures that routinely climb 100
DEGREES. At that point, we were all ushered
into a large, smelly humid tent floored in grass,
which I soon learned was a major upgrade. I was told by other security guards with previous
years’ experience at Coachella, that the entire campground was nothing more than clay-like dirt
and that’s what they all slept on.
Now, just to take a small step back, during the
original orientation at BMW in L.A. we were told
that we should invest in a tent, air mattress and
a blanket, but upon our arrival at the
campground, this was easier said than done,
with some security guards obviously stricken
with poverty and arriving with pretty much
nothing. So, a lot of folks arrived destitute and
had no choice but to sleep on a ground that felt
like you were sleeping on a slab of concrete. I
for one was one of those people that slept on
the ground the first couple of nights. The next morning my body felt like I was a lineman for the
New England Patriots. It ached just that bad.
At night, the temperatures dropped into the low
60s, and the moisture moved in saturating the
grass that was also your bed. So, for those of us
without an air mattress or a blanket, were forced
to use card board boxes and aluminum foil as a
barrier between themselves and an insect
infested, cold, moist ground.
I recall a young man sleeping next to me
shivering like a wet dog in the middle of winter.
This was a situation that if you could not afford to
bring the needed supplies, then you were
screwed and for the most part on your own.
SIDE NOTE: Coachella boasted profits of $114 MILLION in 2017.
Which brings me to my next point. Those bussed
in to work Coachella for the entire month of April
are only paid $12 dollars an hour and are
required to work 12-16 shifts during the event.
You would think they could provide cots.
Outside the initial meal upon of our arrival, you
were pretty much “shit out of luck” if you didn’t
bring food with you, which some people didn’t. It
was very nerve wrecking and infuriating to me
when a gentleman in his late 50s asked me:
“When we would eat?” because he was starving.
If it wasn’t for BMW providing meals until we got
our first paycheck, which was two weeks later, then most of the crew would have been screwed.
Sadly, other security guards with other
companies were not as lucky. It baffled me how a
company that boasted $114 MILLION in profits
would not afford these security guards daily
meals that at least carried them to their first
paychecks. Golden Voice was slick passing the
buck to the subcontracted security companies,
who could care less, though Staff Pro did offer
breakfast a few mornings. They served us a
single Twinkie one morning, the next, it was a
Moon Pie after working 12-hour shifts.
On the campground you are given two choices:
You can either bring your own private tent or live in the community tent. Here’s the horrific
problem with both: During the day when temperatures can easily crack 100 degrees or more,
security guards are given the choice of even baking alive in their tents or moving over to the
community tent and share the warm humidity with a
dense sea of flies that smother not only your
belongings, but people themselves as they try to get
rests after putting in a 12-hour overnight shift on
their feet. People hid under blankets even though
the weather is already 80 degrees out to keep the
flies off.
The results of swapping away at flies while trying to
rest leads to sleep deprivation for many, then they
head back for another shift.
You would think Golden Voice after boasting about profits of $114 MILLION would be a
corporate leader and trickle down some of that success and provide air craft hangars that house
military cots, that way those bussed in to work their
butts off for them can have a decent place to rest
and not have to struggle with the stressful weather
conditions. Unlike their customers who pay up to
$1000 for a ticket for a single weekend of partying
and then go home, the security guards live here for
five weeks in these conditions.
It was argued to me by a Staff Pro rep on the
campground that these security guards made a
choice to walk into these conditions, year-after-year,
that they knew what they’re walking into. Maybe so,
but does that make it right? People do very demeaning things to keep a roof over their heads. Is
this fact of desperation to survive something Golden Voice depends on? Is this why they hide
behind a veil of ignorance to the reality of their record profits.
Which brings me to my second point: There are roughly one-hundred and fifty security guards
on our campground, 95 percent black. Adjacent to our campground is another security guard
company, mostly white. Based on my experience here, a racial undertone does exist.
Why would Golden Voice not want the security guards subcontracted in to extend security
support not to be well rested and fed? We are the ones responsible for keeping their property
and customers safe during Coachella. We live in crazy times and people do crazy things. You
would think Golden Voice would want security guards operating at their best, BUT maybe not at
the cost of housing and feeding them correctly. That would be crazy, right?
My third and final point:
Not only must bussed in black security guards deal with the living conditions during their tenure
of the event. They also must deal with the daily and constant harassment of Golden Voice
Security Guards. These menaces, primary on the graveyard shift, ride around on four wheelers
constantly harassing sub-contracted security guards over the most minuscule issues, such as:
forcing them to walk consistently during the duration of their shift. If you are caught taking a five-
minute break to rest your feet, check the time or your phone or are out walking your area, but
not visible to them, will lead to constant complaints throughout the night.
Mind you, we were brought in to support their efforts to keep the grounds and the fans safe. We
are not treated like colleagues but more like second class citizens by masked hooligans who’s
only agenda seems to get those brought in to help fired. This is a practice that has gone on for
years, yet subcontracted security guards are scared to speak up for fear of losing their jobs, so
they tolerate it and only complain to each other.
I’ve witnessed Golden Voice security kill the engines of their four wheelers and attempt to sneak
up on fellow security guards and take pictures and make frivolous unwarranted complaints that
has caused security guards their jobs or forcing them to quit because of the constant stress of
harassment on a nightly basis. To be honest, they remind me of the Klu Klux Klan. They have
zero regard or respect for the chain of command and go over shift leaders’ heads to the higher
ups to make baseless claims. Their bullying tactics remain uncheck because of fear of being
Working this event has left a very unpleasant taste in my mouth and I plan to never return not as
subcontracted employee, nor a customer. I hope this declaration of my experience and the
realties of what has been going on regarding the treatment of black security guards leads to
better working conditions for those who come after me.
As a company Golden Voice and AEG makes hundreds of millions on events but lack proper
management when it comes to the treatment of those responsible to helping to keep their
events, and the artist fans safe, which in todays times has never been more important.
Good karma goes a long way. Provide better living conditions on those providing a service that
allows you to entertain hundred of thousands of people in a single weekend. Treat them with
respect and kindness. When we do better, we become better. Afterall, isn’t that the point?
Golden Voice can start the below efforts now:

• Provide blankets and pillows to subcontracted security guards bussed in from low
income areas, or just in general.
• Provide air craft hangars with military cots, so guards don’t have to sleep on the ground
for an entire month. Tents, sleeping bags and boxes do not provide comfort.
• Allocate food budgets to properly feed guards for at least two weeks until they receive
their first pay checks. Some people arrive destitute, proper meals are essential. This
burden should not fall on small subcontracted security companies because all can’t
afford to do it.
• A visible first aid station on the campground, dust masks and goggles. The dust storms
are horrid.
• Hold sensitivity training for the Golden Voice Security Guards. If Starbucks can do it,
then so can you.

This shouldn’t be:

These are people. Treat them humanely, you won’t even miss the money it would cost.
- Antonio Cannady

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