A few interesting things happened in the cosplay world this weekend but it seems that the most interesting (to me) happened in Rosemont, IL, near Chicago with Anime Midwest.
I didn’t have an opportunity to attend the convention, but a lot of people I know did and I started seeing complaints around the web about security harassing them. I decided to investigate the issue and started asking questions. I started making calls, contacting people via Facebook, and even made a few Facebook posts asking people to contact me if they were harassed by Anime Midwest security.
I spoke with convention attendees, hotel patrons, and hotel employees. Everyone had slightly different stories and as far as I could tell there were two different perspectives to the security issues. Then Ryan Kopf decided to make a pre-emptive attack and write a counter to an article I had barely begun to research and in that article he called me out. His blog entry gave me a third perspective on the security issues.
The Donald E. Stephens Convention Center was holding two conventions over the July 8-10 weekend. It’s not unusual for a convention center to host more than one event at the same time, but usually the events are at different ends of the hall and totally unrelated to each other.
That wasn’t the case this weekend. The two conventions were Anime Midwest, a popular anime convention, and Exxxotica, a popular porn convention. Many people wished to attend both, and Exxxotica issued discount passes to any that held Anime Midwest tickets and could prove they were at least 18.
Exxxotica was held exclusively at the convention center, while Anime Midwest had events and rooms at both the hotel and the convention center. On a few occasions panel rooms for the two cons were next to each other.
Security was everywhere asking everyone to show them their badges for Anime Midwest, and if they could not produce a badge they were told they could not enter public areas, such as the hotel lobby, or asked to leave if they were already in those areas.
Perspective 1 – Concerned Parents
I spoke directly with two different parents, one a convention virgin who was only along as chaperone for their teen and one who was a convention regular who frequently brought their teen along with them. I also received feedback from a few other parents who attended with their children.
Parents were concerned that an anime convention was running in conjunction with a porn convention and that both were in close proximity to each other. Their main concern was in regards to the ‘type’ of people the porn convention would attract. Both parents felt that the majority of attendees were no threat, but they also felt that a ‘porn’ con was more likely to attract perverts and child molesters.
As parents, they saw the anime crowd as young with most con-goers being under the age of 25 with a large portion under 18. They were concerned about the exposure their children might have to the more unsavory characters that would be at a porn convention.
To them the security was a minor nuisance, but they also saw it as protection for the minors. They assumed the added security was to keep trouble away from their children and keep the unwanted element away from the younger crowd.
However, there were also complaints from parents about the security being excessive. One parent complained to me about security grabbing the arm of her teen and demanding to see a con pass, even though they were done with the con and on their way to the restaurant. The security ignored the mother and seemed to single out the teen because she was still in costume.
This woman with a young child complained about security grabbing her arm while she was holding the kid on the escalator.
If the extra security was arranged for these reasons, I would be in full agreement with it and just write off a few incidents as over zealousness. If Ryan Kopf’s post about the security had said anything along these lines, then I probably would have just dropped the whole security issue. Never did he say a single word about the porn convention or the proximity of minors.
Perspective 2 – The Hotel Patrons
People pay to stay at a hotel. While at the hotel they are allowed to use the amenities, provided they do not abuse them. Most of those amenities are public, meaning that they share them with anyone else that is using the hotel. Typical amenities which are for semi-public use include pool, business facility and ice machine; this means you should be a guest of the hotel to use them. Amenities for public that do not require you to be a guest of the hotel are the bar and restaurant.
Areas such as the lobby are the gray area between, they are technically public areas open to everyone. The intent is to be an area where guests can meet up with each other or friends, or where guests can just sit and relax without feeling isolated in their room. It is also used as a waiting room for transportation, rooms, deliveries, meetings and a huge variety of other things.
The Hyatt is attached to the convention center and hosted many of the Anime Midwest events, which meant that a lot of Anime Midwest attendees stayed at the hotel. However, Anime Midwest did not fill the hotel. There were plenty of other patrons there, including pilots and stewardesses, attendees for Exxxotica, and business people.
If Anime Midwest had filled the entire hotel themselves, then they would have had the right to restrict access to the semi-public areas and perhaps the public areas, if their hotel contract gave them exclusive access to them.
I have reports of hotel patrons being repeatedly asked by security to produce their badges for Anime Midwest. It would be understandable if the hotel patrons were trying to enter a room reserved for an Anime Midwest event, or even if they were going down a hallway where all the rooms led to an Anime Midwest event, but that wasn’t always the case.
I have been told that at one point there was a rope across the front doors of the hotel with Anime Midwest staff asking people to produce a badge before they were allowed to enter. I’ve also received reports of people being stopped on the Skywalk before they got to the convention or the hotel. Some reports have people being asked to produce an Anime Midwest badge, others tell me it was a hotel key or an Anime Midwest badge.
If people simply responded that they were staying at the hotel, or that they had tickets for the following day, they were frequently ‘chased off’, unless they could provide sufficient proof to appease the appointed Anime Midwest security.
I’ve heard from a few Exxotica vendors that felt they were harassed by the hired security. They were in the lobby area, in regular clothing when approached by security. They were asked to produce their badges and one pulled out his Exxxotica ID, at which point he was told “you’re not supposed to be here.” Another reported their group was told “you’re not allowed to be here.” Which version of the wording was used is hard to determine, but they were essentially chased out of a public space they had every right to use.
Of course not everyone was harassed by the hired convention security:
I went there after wrapping up some photo shoots in the early afternoon fully expecting to do just that but no one said a word to me. I asked a hotel front desk staffer that happened to be walking by if I was going to get stopped if I went to Red Bar and she told me (very flustered) that she had no idea what I was talking about of course I won’t be stopped. I smiled and thanked her, …
And many of the comments I received on the security aren’t worth posting due to language, but I grabbed several screen shot reviews. The complaints ranged from totally pissed off to mildly annoyed.
Frequently hotel staff and security were contacted directly by disgruntled patrons, and all of the staff had the same thing to say. The third-party security had no authority to enforce anything.
One annoyed hotel patron went directly to the Hyatt security head:
“… I did talk to the head of Hyatt security for about ten minutes on the phone. He was very annoyed at Ryan Kopf and apologetic to me. I forgot his name, but really nice guy. He basically said what everyone is saying who talked to hotel staff, the third party security has no authority.”
Perspective 3- Ryan Kopf
This will be addressed in a whole separate article, so stay tuned for what goes up tomorrow.