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Did Anime Midwest Go Overboard on Security?

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.

call out

The Location

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.

The Issue

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.

anime child review1If 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.

The access issues were even reported on the review page for the hotel itself;hotel review

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.

anime review 1anime review 2anime review 3anime review 4anime review 5anime review 6

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.

 

 

10 thoughts on “Did Anime Midwest Go Overboard on Security?

  1. As I wrote in my post, “We are happy to share any details we are able or answer any questions they have.” Journalists are always encouraged to contact the other side for questions, and you are welcome to contact me any time at my email, ryan[@]ryankopf.com

    You addressed the elephant in the room, saying that I did not mention it – but that is not exactly the case. I mention it very briefly, and for good reason. In my post I write “combined with the fact that there were other conventions happening in the same city.”

    Specifically, you say, “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.”

    If I make a blog post specifically calling out another convention for our increased security, we could venture into dangerous waters of liable, which I wish to avoid. The blog post I wrote answered many questions, but I did not want to delve into suggesting “this is all because of another company,” because I do not wish to damage another company’s reputation.

    I believe I may have been oversensitive to the issue by not writing more about it, but I assure you that the fact that another convention was happening at the same time was the number one factor in our additional security.

    Further, our additional security measures were announced two months ago, in May of 2016, in my post http://ryankopf.com/posts/2112-A-note-on-sharing-convention-space-

    Here are some snippets from that article that clearly lays that out:
    “AnimeCon.org has known for a while that we’ll be sharing the convention center with another convention in July in Chicago.”
    “We are hiring additional convention center security staff, approximately double last year’s.”
    “As always Anime Midwest typically hires several private security officers, 4 or more police officers, and a team of our own internal staff.”
    “Only individuals with badges are allowed in convention space. We are able to ask individuals in lobby areas of our main hotel (Hyatt) to present their badge.”

    I don’t think I could more perfectly match your definitions for “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 you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to write to me directly.

    1. And then just recently, you or one of your higher up staff members stated that the added security had to do with recent events across the country. Alluding to the the shootings and protests of the week before the convention. You can’t even get your own facts straight.
      As for the Exxxotica, which I did attend, the patrons, staff and everybody else of that convention were nothing short of exemplary when it came to respect, behavior and knowing boundaries. Something I can’t say for your convention.
      And also, as for you attendance numbers, I personally believe you inflated them just so they wouldn’t be overshadowed by Exxxotica’s numbers.

      1. Anime Midwest had 12.5k unique attendees.
        People were getting harassed by Exxxotica attendees in other hotels and outside of the Hyatt.
        Inside the Hyatt, any story of harassment is literally made up from people angry that they got kicked out.

  2. once again, ryan kopf feels the need to spawn drama after every event he throws. this isn’t what anime conventions are about. it’s about ANIME, it’s about what the attendees want, not about making some quick cash from anyone who steps foot in your presence.
    if you read kopf’s blog post, the focus is mainly on people who go to conventions for free, he even states “you wouldn’t attend a shakira concert for free.” and yet now here he is, changing his mask to fit the situation, saying that it was for ‘security.’ no, you just want money, be honest with us man.
    this is tearing apart my local anime convention scene, and it’s sad to watch. half my friends who attend are banned from ‘kopfcons’ for petty and small reasons, many of whom claim to have been harassed, assaulted, or stolen from by his staff in the heat of the situation causing the banning. he illegally broke into my friend’s room last anime midwest to take the outfit she was wearing in the maid cafe. this drama is just so pointless. it takes away from the spirit of anime conventions. it’s taking away business from local small not-for-profit cons, such as con-alt-delete and kollision con. it’s making the hyatt look bad. it’s an explosion of drama, shittalking, and what-did-he-do-this-time every time this man throws a party. aren’t these things supposed to be fun?
    ryan kopf, please, i know all these blog posts feed your ego so nicely, but we’d all really like it if you found something better to do for money. we attend these events for fun and to see each other. not because we think you’re a great guy, or even worth talking about.
    the owner of kollision has wordlessly poured me a drink, working as a bartender all night for free at someone else’s room party, and how many scandals happen with his conventions? none. it’s my favorite con in the chicago area.
    there’s enough politics, drama, and shit-flinging going on in the world today, does it really need to happen in the events we attend to have fun? if you can’t drive the car, maybe it’s time to give the wheel up to people who do this out of love for the community.

    from an ACEN IRT member – “Acen operates on the idea of friendliness towards con goers. The idea that we are fellow nerds watching out for other nerds so they can have a good time in the hotel. Midwest seems to run in the jack boot thug power trip method of the implied blave of police force.”

    1. I hope you’re joking about your post about ACEN and IRT.

      IRT is filled with Jack Boot Thugs, and that name originates from ACen. You can’t go anywhere or do anything without IRT either power tripping and screaming at lines, or them completely ignoring you and letting you get harassed.

      Anime Midwest is TEN TIMES safer and more friendly than ACen. But people who actually go know this.

  3. April, I’m sure Ryan’s having his lawyer buddy review this post looking for something he can sue you over. Clearly THIS ARTICLE is damaging to his reputation…not his actual actions witnessed by so many people. *rolls eyes*

    Ryan, your reputation proceeds you and it proceeded you LONG before Nerd & Tie said anything. You should really get out of the convention game at this point. Go plan events for medical professionals or photoshop or something instead. Debating (OR SUING) people who happen to disagree with you does absolutely nothing to help your reputation and digs your hole even deeper. The fact you keep doing it and expect a different result shows how out of touch with reality you are. Your behavior shows a pattern of never considering how others will see you before taking action. You can’t just debate (or sue) to make stuff better, you have to be better from the start.

  4. I attend about 8 conventions a year, for a total somewhere around 100 over the past two decades (some for work, mostly for Anime and Gaming, but recently also for Lolita and Steampunk).

    Anime Midwest is one of my favorite conventions: It’s not too big, it’s well organized, there are lots of cosplay, and it feels safe for kids.

    Yes, security was a bit zealous this year. I must have had my badge checked 20x over the con weekend–which is hands down if the most I’ve ever seen at a convention. But as a parent of 3 kids and chaperone to another 3, I was *very* concerned about the EXXXotica Convention running concurrently. That thing was well advertised both in the media but also on huge billboards on the local interstates, which was not the case for Anime Midwest (despite it’s much larger attendance numbers). The girls I had with me ranged in age from 12-16.

    I LIKE that I can bring my girls in Lolita dress and not worry about them getting harassed. I LIKE that they can dress in cosplay and not be creeped out. A few years ago, we had a pervert taking crotch shots of the girls dressed in Japanese school girl uniforms at Anime Central. As soon as two of the girls realized what was happening, I stopped it and informed security–who removed the jerk–but it was traumatizing for all of us. Thank heaven I had had a conversation with the girls about appropriate v. inappropriate photos–and they realized what was happening to them before it got really out of hand–but really, shouldn’t the convention be a safe place? I had left them for 5 minutes to go to the bathroom–this perv clearly had been scoping us out, waiting for just that moment! Many parents would have banned anime and conventions for the rest of their children’s lives over an incident like that, and it certainly changed the way we all felt about them. I don’t think that’s the way anyone wishes to see their convention, hobby or lifestyle choice being diminished.

    We all felt perfectly safe at Anime Midwest. The girls loved it and despite my initial concerns, the overlap with the porn people was minimal (mostly outside on the sidewalks). My guess is that the vast majority of EXXXotica attendees didn’t want anything to do with the Anime Midwest crowd. But you just don’t know what kinkiness turns people on. I, for one, am grateful for the increased security presence. My guess is that the over-zealousness of the enforcement was due more to the training of the hired security or their taking on duties beyond the scope of their job. That can be corrected by good communication and management–and by my perception, security was more appropriate by Sunday.

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