Anime Midwest – Part 2: Securi-Gate?

In Part 2 of this article, I address the third perspective regarding security at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency O’Hare. Ryan Kopf has clearly stated his perspective in both a blog post on his own site and on a statement he issued in the comments section of our page.

It has gotten long enough just addressing his original statement. I’m not going to bore you with more back and forth…To read his comment on my original article, scroll to the bottom, his is the first comment.

I will also state that I had all of this written and was in the proofing stage when this more recent post by Mr. Kopf was brought to my attention. It is much better worded than his original and brings up very valid points that were apparently addressed at the time the issues happened. Unfortunately, whoever left the pornography in the bathrooms was not caught, as that is a criminal act.

As for the fact that I stated “On a few occasions panel rooms for the two cons were next to each other.” If I was wrong, I apologize. Between comments from patrons and looking at scheduling of the two cons it appeared that two or more panels were in proximity of each other upstairs.

However, before I start I need to correct a misnomer I used in the last article.

In the last article I clearly used the word public to refer to areas such as the lobby, in truth I should have used the phrase common area, as it is a common area shared by all guests of the hotel. The foyer of the convention center is also a common area used by all guests of the convention center. To use the word public would mean that anyone can enter the facility and feel free to use those areas as they see fit (within common sense, local laws and regulations.) This is not the case, these areas are owned by the hotel and the convention center, meaning that they have a right to restrict who may use them. They will generally allow anyone to be their guest, but as you are their guest they also have the right to request your removal or to authorize another party to request your removal.

Perspective 3- Ryan Kopf

 

To see Ryan Kopf’s original post, please visit his blog. His comments below are in black and my response is in red.

Over 12,000 people came to the Hyatt Regency O’hare and Stephens Convention Center over the past few days for a weekend of cosplaying, vendors, events, and guests.

Yes, there were well over 12,000 between the two conventions and the regular guests. I do not have any numbers from Exxotica or the hotel to know what numbers passed through on the entire weekend.

In order to provide a fun environment that stays safe all weekend, AnimeCon.org invests in hired security and our own staff to guard entrances and check that everyone there is someone okay to be there.

This is standard security protocol everywhere. Events typically post some sort of security near or at all their event entrances and exits to prevent those entering which do not belong and to prevent the untimely egress of those that have done wrong.

With the recent trends in news and happenings around the world, combined with the fact that there were other conventions happening in the same city, Anime Midwest/AnimeCon.org decided to increase security, by checking all the entrances to convention areas, including hotel lobbies and other areas that attendees tended to congregate in large amounts.

As earlier stated, posting security is perfectly fine and normal. Unfortunately, events in recent years have forced everyone to add extra precautions. Having security near public access and common areas is also fine as it improves general security. However, preventing or hampering legitimate access to common areas without authorization from the owners of those locations is not acceptable.

As of this point I have not seen any proof that there was authorization to restrict access in the common areas.

The overwhelming majority of the people coming buy badges to attend, and can get past security checkpoints without issue. Most of those that don’t want to purchase a badge, or can’t, will attend by working for a vendor for the weekend, joining staff, or applying to do panels to get a free badge for the weekend. It’s just generally accepted that to be part of the convention experience, you get a badge.

Agreed, if you want to attend an event, you buy a ticket or find some other means to get in legally.

Unfortunately many people that had badges felt that the checkpoints were an issue. They weren’t just asked to produce their badge once, they were asked several times. I have heard several accounts of people being asked two or three times to produce a badge when walking into the masquerade, after they have already made it past the primary checkpoint. I’ve also heard complaints from badged congoers about being approached after hours in the common areas and asked for badges, badges that they had left in their rooms because the con was over for the day.

But all these security measures brought a new issue to the forefront.

It may be surprising to learn, some people come to a convention intent on not getting a badge for the event. Perhaps 80 people, compared to 12,000 people who intended on getting badges. Sometimes they come up with clever names for this, such as “lobbycon” or “ghosting”.

And I think here we need some definitions, for those that are unfamiliar with the terms. The definitions as I have come to know them:

To ‘Lobbycon’ is to ‘hang out’ outside of the convention itself, frequently in the lobby of the hotel, but it has also occurred at nearby parks or other locations convenient to the convention. It is done by those that can’t afford or don’t want to buy tickets. Those that Lobbycon come for a variety of reasons: to hang with friends, to show off a costume, take photos, or to just get ‘a feel’ for the convention itself.

To ‘ghost’ a convention is to attend the convention illegally, either by slipping past security or using someone elses pass. You have not paid to attend the convention and you are not there to work. You have not obtained a badge in a commonly acceptable manner. Their goal is to actually attend the convention without paying. They are directly stealing from the convention organizers, the con attendees, and the con vendors by taking the perks of the con and not paying for them.

To many people, lobbyconning and ghosting are one and the same

Over this past weekend, many of these “ghost” people were surprised by the number of security officers and badge checkers at Anime Midwest over the weekend.

I am certain that your security managed to extricate several of the ghosts and they had every right to, as long as they were in or attempting to get into, the convention.

In other parts of the country, it may be surprising to suggest that anyone attending might not have a badge. Some of the largest conventions in the world are held in massive expo centers, with paid security at every entrance – there is no place to “hang out” except behind this security.

In the past, Rosemont/Chicago has been a little different, because of the layout of the venues. Most conventions in the area are spread out among different venues, including hotels and convention centers, which doubles the number of entrances to check if you want to check everyone entering. And for many years, people would be able to “hang out” without getting a badge.

Many large convention centers have a similar type layout, with a large entrance area in the convention center itself where lobbyconning frequently occurs. One example in Chicago is the McCormick Place. And in my experience most hotel based conventions also have lobbies where similar occurs.

Lobbyconning is more prevalent at cosplay heavy events and rarely seen at industrial or business based conventions. At large scale, popular gaming or electronic events there are frequently unbadged groups that hang out in the lobby, hoping to hear information or to get a glimpse a some new technology, but not nearly the amount for a cosplay type event.

But I’ve written about this before about why you should not come to a convention without a badge.

Some of his arguments I agree with, some I do not, but they are mostly opinions. We all have them and have a right to express them.

With recent world trends, we decided to be extra proactive, and keep anyone without a badge out of our major congregation areas. We told our outside hired security staff to be as polite as possible, and to offer helpful directions to badge pickup areas.

The world has always been a dangerous place, and unfortunately it seems to only get worse, not better. This is a reason everyone has increased security measures, everywhere. I agree, that you had every right to only allow badge holders into your major congregation areas. You can provide directions to your staff on how to handle things, but unless you are there, you can’t always be assured of how they carry out those orders.

We also asked them to provide exceptions through the main doors to people who are likely to have other non-con business in the hotel, including business people in suits, families with children, et cetera.

So you admit to having your security block the main entrance to the hotel, barring guests from entering? Entrance was at the sole discretion of your security personnel. Did you have permission from the hotel for this? I highly doubt that this action was part of your contractual agreement with the hotel. If you have a contractual agreement with the hotel proving your rights to this action, please provide us with the paragraph and we will issue apologies. I can see having your security patrol for public intoxication, underage drinking, and inappropriate behavior, but I feel that barring or restricting admittance to the common areas was not the right of you or your security people

A handful of people came to the convention, dressed up in cosplay, without badges, and we had to kick them out.

Did they intend to purchase badges the next day? Were they perhaps picking up or meeting friends after they had attended one of the other cons that were also occurring that weekend?

Some of them stated that they had hotel rooms, assuming that included access to hang out in cosplay areas, and we had to let them know that was not the case. We had no problem with them returning to their rooms and hanging out there. Our staff also offered to show them to the information desk, where we could issue their badge instantly and without waiting in line, to make it even more convenient.

If they had hotel rooms then they had as much right to be in the common areas as every other con attendee, in fact more so. They had more right to be there than con attendees who were going home or to other hotels that evening as they had directly paid for the right to use that space with their room.

I estimate we kicked out only about five or six “groups” that seemed clustered together intending not to get a badge.

But, back in my other article, I write that a key reason to get a badge is that badgeless people are quite often much more trouble than people with badges. They feel no accountability, and can cause harassment or damage to the convention, without being held accountable for their actions.

So with that generic statement you are stating that badgeless people people without a badge to your convention, are more likely to cause trouble, whether they are there for the convention or not? People who were there to attend the Exxotica con, vending at Exxotica, the curious guests who were on layovers and decided to see what it was about, the pilots and stewardesses, the parents who didn’t have tickets but were chaperoning, and those who decided to hang with their friends were all more likely to cause problems than those that had Anime Midwest badges?

And this weekend’s statistics don’t lie.

Another anime convention happens in the same venue every year, and is much more lenient on badging – and so there are many people visiting without badges. I’m told this year, they had almost ten ambulances called to that different anime convention before their Friday dance began.

Anime Midwest had a total of two ambulance calls over the weekend.

That is an incredible difference in dangerous or medical situations – and one of many key differences in the two conventions, is how we handle our lobby congregation areas. The first ambulance was due to a fight between two men in someone’s private hotel room, and the second call was for a sprained ankle.

That other anime convention is much larger than yours and according to the 2015 numbers they had 31,113 attendees, more than double your amount. Following their annual growth rate of about 5%, I expect their numbers this year was about 32,000, more than twice your numbers. I can’t find record of more than 20 calls to both the hotel and the convention center for the 2016 weekend. If you want to talk ratios and percentages, their rate was 10 times than your reported rate, but percentage difference is fractionally in their favor.

Overall, requiring everyone attending to have badges, and posting security officers at every entrance, greatly increased the security for our paying attendees at Anime Midwest.

Sadly, some of these people without badges decided to take their complaints online. We kept them from entering a paid event without a ticket, and they’ve decided to call it harassment.

We were told this is such news, that a pop culture news website would be covering it. We are happy to share any details we are able or answer any questions they have.

As stated in my earlier article, I was merely gathering information at that point.

You can’t attend a Shakira concert for free.

Hanging out with friends, in cosplay, in major convention lobbies is a big part of the convention experience – it’s not free either.

It’s not uncommon to go to restaurants or bars in cosplay after a con either; for many, just hanging with your friends is the biggest part of the convention.

We have many congoers hanging out in the lobby. We have medical staff to respond to incidents – if someone passes out from dehydration, gets harassed by another attendee, or has a medical emergency, we’re keeping them safe – above and beyond what these venues would normally provide. Paying for supplies and people to keep them safe costs the convention money, and so spending time in major lobbies is not something that is free.

As the operator of a convention where large amounts of people are gathered, it is expected and, I would think, probably part of the contract to provide security and first aid for the event. If nothing else, it is a security measure to keep your organization from being accused of endangerment or neglect.

In general, people attending without badges is not a large amount of people, and most people are happy to get a badge to attend an event.

The point of my investigation and my original inquiry was to determine if your security was going overboard, was being overzealous, or if they or you were overstepping your/their bounds. I feel that security was overboard and that there was definite stepping beyond the pre-established bounds. After hearing from Hyatt security through various sources, they have also agreed that your security overstepped.

And overall, we had a fun, safe weekend in Chicago with thousands of other anime fans.

I’m not going to object to that point, a lot of people had a great time and I would have no problem running a cosplay article on this or any of your cons. It’s not the convention or even yourself, it was the way security was handled or mishandled that I wanted brought to light.

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2 Comments

    • thank you for pointing that out, looks like one of the codes was missing. I have corrected it.

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