Major concerns about the effect a scheduled “White Rights Rally” in Washington D.C. would have on Otakon 2018, the anime convention which was held from August 10-12th in the same city, seem to have been inflated. Attendees generally reported the rally had little to no impact on their enjoyment of the event.
Back in June 21st, 2018, we reported the approved application for a “White Rights Rally” on the same weekend as the popular convention. Many were concerned that the timing of the rally would cause problems for the attendees, including safety concerns. The event is known for its inclusiveness and diverse attendance.
Reactions to the Rally
However, it was reported by numerous outlets that while the organizer of the rally hoped for a large gathering, fewer than 40 people showed up to take part. (Source: The Washington Post) Thousands of anti-hate protesters showed up in opposition to the rally, far outnumbering those gathered by Jason Kessler, the “White Rights” organizer.
The staff of Otakon has made adjustments to their procedures out of concern, but these measures proved to be unneeded. It seemed what few difficulties arose for attendees were more based on anticipation of the rally instead of the rally itself. Jenny K., an attendee, stated, “This year it made a lot of people change their minds and not go, or didn’t bother staying on Sunday to get out of town before the rally started.”
Katie H., who attended, stated “I spent most of my day on Friday trying to find parking. I originally reserved a spot at a garage for the whole weekend but upon arrival, I found out most garages were closing on Sunday due to the rally. I ended up leaving the con Saturday night because I wouldn’t be able to get my car on Sunday morning to leave before the rally.” Concerning her safety, she went on to say, “Even though I was cautious, I felt generally safe at the con for both Friday and Saturday.”
Another attendee who uses the internet alias “Prince David,” was mostly unconcerned about the rally. “I had absolutely no concern about the Unite the Right 2 rally and counter-protests. As this was taking place in Washington DC so close to the White House, I have a lot of trust that they could keep any protests under control…” he said. “My only real concern was traffic getting out of DC on Sunday which turned out to be a non-issue. I am of Jewish descent and never once felt that my safety was at risk. I had no intention of going to any of the protests and knew that authorities in DC could keep this under control. I am concerned that this kept a lot of people stressed and away from the convention, however.”
It does appear that the rally did impact Sunday attendance at the con. Melissa F reported, “My 20 yr old daughter attended and stayed at a nice hotel in the city. However as the news started showing road closed and suggesting violence may break out, she and her group decided to call for rides instead of taking the metro out of the city and leave super early Sunday. They were out before 8 AM. They skipped the entire last day.”
Fans who attended were also confident that convention organizers would have the situation under control. “While there was a lot of fear leading up to the event as the what-ifs came in, it actually didn’t affect my stay,” attendee Elizabeth H. said. “Long before the rally was ever discussed I had already opted to stay in a hotel that was closer and while there I was confident that staff had all of the entrances covered [and] that nothing was going to happen inside the con.”
Jamisan H. thought the fears leading up to the event were unfounded. “It had no effect what so ever because it barely showed up as a blip on the radar. The only real way it affected anything was people freaking out over nothing, having no facts about it and spreading fake rumors about it being at the con or during it. Leading to people not wanting to go. And in the end, barely anyone showed up to the rally but the counter-protest caused more disturbance for people trying to leave the area.” He concluded: “All in all. It was nothing. And people made it worse for crying wolf.”
An Appropriate Response
By all accounts, the “White Rights” rally did not significantly impact this year’s convention. We did reach out to Otakon for comment but were unable to receive one before publication of this article. But so far the only complaints about the event seem to be the standard ones received by every similar convention concerning lines, panels and meeting guests. Elizabeth H. stated: “I did hear that others had problems but nothing above normal and nothing directly with the rally.”
So Otakon appears to have acted appropriately to the situation and the convention was mostly unaffected by the rally. It’s unlikely next year there will be a gathering to celebrate the turnout of this “White Rights” event. However, it’s good to know that the convention is responsive to such events and will take steps to ensure the safety of their attendees.
For more information about Otakon, you can visit https://www.otakon.com/.
If you attended Otakon 2018 and would like to share your story, please leave a comment below.