I’m on a bus to go back up there, this is a bit of a rant post, so I apologize if it’s long-winded.
— Introduction —
Hi! My name is Sefam. I think before I start off this post, an introduction is in order. I’m a Canadian from Montreal who started going to cons in the US last year. I have done Anime Boston 2012, Otakon 2012, Nekocon 2012, AUSA 2012, Magfest 2013, and now Katsucon 2013. I decided to go to Katsucon after hearing good things about it from friends, and after experiencing the Gaylord experience at Magfest.
Due to the high cost of plane tickets (Would cost me 500-700$ to get a roundtrip ticket to Washington DC), I usually go down on a greyhound bus, it took me about 13 hours on an overnight bus to get from the Montreal Bus Station to Union Station in DC. Costs me 150$ if I take the round trip a while in advance. The badge cost me 60$ since I pre-registered, and the hotel cost me 120$ for the weekend as the room was shared by multiple people. It costs me 26 hours of traveling on a bus and 330$ to get to attend the convention, without counting miscellaneous items such as food.
Although the travel is arduous, it’s usually well worth my time. This time around however, quite a few issues popped up, making my personal con experience a bitter disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fun time for the most part, but these issues undermined the rest of the con.
— Problems with the Gaylord —
I arrived at the Gaylord at about 4PM on Thursday. The group I resided with had reserved a suite almost a year ago. Our reservation supposedly disappeared from the system after the Marriot bought out the hotel. The same thing happened to this exact same group at Magfest, although it was dealt with quickly. This time around, it took the entirety of the evening to fix the problem, the hotel kept claiming we had no reservation, and that they overbooked the suites to the BBYO conference. We finally ended up with a suite and had to move all our stuff during the late evening. That was very irritating.
Also, some attendees I talked to instantly assumed the dress code amended on wednesday, and the rules concerning excessive noise and not bringing in outside alcohol were due to BBYO “because they are jews” (I’ll get on this one later). Already, things were not starting on a right foot. And started to annoy people.
— BBYO Conference Conflicts —
For those of you who do not know, we were sharing the convention center with a jewish youth conference (BBYO). For the most part, the youth conference attendees and most of their staff were awesome, and discussing with them was a great source of enlightenment. It was interesting to see and introduce a new community to a hobby that takes up a great portion of our time.
I don’t know when all of this went wrong though, tensions started to rise as soon as people knew the gazebo and direct access to the parking lot was blocked at some point on Thursday by what I assumed were hotel staff, but were actually rent-a-cops hired by BBYO. Katsucon investigated the matter quickly (I very much appreciated that intervention) to realize that both of these spaces were actually rented by BBYO, and then proceeded to announce it on the con website.
Certain people, including one of Katsucon’s guests, Yaya Han, were very unhappy and expressed their concerns at the situation; the iconic Katsucon gazebo being forbidden to all the people wanting to do photoshoots. From what I understand, all the complaining didn’t fix the problem and only made the tension worst. On top of the gazebo being closed, all of the attendees that had cars in the Gaylord parking lot were not able to get to their car directly anymore.
Later on, BBYO attempted to enforce segregation in certain parts of the convention, shoving the Katsucon attendees to one side of a hallway while their people moved on the other. What certainly didn’t help is that some BBYO staffers also rudely harassed cosplayers who had the misfortune to have BBYO attendees talk to them, being told to stop “impressing their kids”. One of the youth conference staffers was really rude to me because I was pointing my camera around, requesting that I instantly stop “filming their children”. I do not understand what caused the youth conference from being okay to being so protective of their attendees. (Again, I’ll talk more about this later)
Some people got fed up with this attitude really fast, this resulted in fist fights happening (Two against BBYO staff, if I recall well). BBYO probably realized at this point that sacrificing part of the gazebo to douse the flames was the best thing to do. Sure, we “got the gazebo” back, but at what price? This problem was not fixed until somebody got hurt.
I said I would come back to something earlier. I’ve talked to some of BBYO’s staffers, quite a few of their attendees, some of them even attended Katsucon in secret, leaving their BBYO badge and donning a Katsu badge after sundown as to not be spited by their conference peers/elders. Most of these people were super cool, they talked to us about how cool this event is, and how they think doing this too would help them really express themselves. Yet we had people going around venting their frustration on them (And sometimes preemptively assumed things about them because of their religion), rather than on the poor administrative and communication skills of a few leaders on their side (If they understood right off the bat that the gazebo was very important to the people here, and that they go there once a year to take photos of their costume, maybe all this wouldn’t have happened), there was people walking around, throwing pennies at the BBYO attendees, singing sensitive songs/doing things that they knew were sensitive for people of jewish religion, yelling slurs at the conference populace.
Sadly, some people who did absolutely nothing got caught in this escalating crossfire. I’m really unhappy about how this all turned out, and the only way we got to be heard as a group was through violence, and people on both sides got hurt because of inconsiderate individuals on both sides. In the end, I do believe all we’ve managed to hurt was ourselves, as a whole; the entire population of the Gaylord National this weekend.
— Conclusion —
When I was in high school, a holocaust survivor visited us, and told us of his story. His name is Martin Gray, he still lives to this day. He is probably the wisest human beings I have met in my life. Yet, even though he had beliefs not everyone agreed with, he was still a person, just like all of us here, even though anime is a big part of our lives, even though we are sometimes ridiculed for it, we are people too, just like BBYO’s members are. Being sort of stuck between two chairs, and reflecting on intelligent posts like this one( http://drunkaya.tumblr.com/post/43212159523 ). I’m rather disappointed by this situation, and having to travel so far and having view a spectacle like this sort of saddened me, it quite undermined my convention experience, on top of the issues with the hotel itself.
Just as a shoutout, for all the BBYO people who had the courage to talk to or even participate in Katsucon with us, you’re always welcome, and there is always a place for you, regardless of your beliefs; we are here for you. The same goes for all the Katsucon attendees who opened themselves up, regardless of the conflict that was going on, and shared their experiences with people from a different group. Thanks to all of you.
I hope that we do all learn a lesson from this, and that next time a situation like this occurs, we all fare because of what happened this weekend. I really do hope that this does not happen again next year.