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Tragedy around SDCC or Why We Need To Worry About More Than Internal Policies

TW: physical & sexual assault, horrible people



Sorry to be so negative with my first-ever GT post, but some big badness around San Diego Comic Con hit my overnight news cycle tonight-

An underage attendee of the convention was found unconscious on the side of a road, covered in blood, and without her ID. She was taken to the hospital, her parents were eventually called, but she is likely still in critical condition, and may have bleeding on the brain. The San Diego Harbor Police arrested a 29 year old man on Sunday morning, but are struggling to put together a timeline of Saturday's events and are asking the public for information.


The police have yet to name the alleged assailant, though they have named his hotel— the Marriot Marquis & Marina at 333 West Harbor Drive. Though no one has said the man was an attendee of SDCC, the location of that arrest doesn't fill me with a great deal of confidence that he's not.

What complicates things is that whatever happened to this poor young woman almost certainly happened to her outside of the convention center. Whether the assailant was an attendee or not, they could have met blocks or even miles from the event itself, and whatever policies the convention has, their influence over you pretty much ceases the moment you step onto the sidewalk.


That's kind of a problem for the big conventions— SDCC, NYCC, this year's HOPE— all of them have people spilling out into the streets for blocks around the convention's location. And all those people are in a convention mindset, even though they're well outside the convention itself. But, the real world isn't really safe for that— I would die before I spoke to an IRL co-worker the way that I speak to other members of convention staff. We're like a family, a family of assholes, but a family nonetheless. Not so true about most co-workers in life.

How do you keep all those people safe while they're, at least mentally, on vacation? In some cases, the conventions try hard to take care of their own. For example, during The Last HOPE (2008, the year Adam Savage spoke and we thought they were going to rip down the Hotel Penn), a few of us on the security staff were outside when a woman walked up to us and, completely undeterred by her difficulty with English, spoke to us for 20 minutes until we finally understood that she'd seen someone with a badge from our conference passed out on a street corner. I've never seen people toss their cigarettes so fast. Four of us ran over and carried him back into the convention so he could be looked over by one of the staff EMTs. The kid was lucky, he'd taken an entire bottle of klonopin (don't do that, just don't), and might have died if that woman hadn't been so determined to make us understand or if we'd decided we were too tired to help in an emergency. Legally speaking, the convention was neither responsible nor liable for what happened to him, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a bunch of other conventions toe that hard line.


So, who is responsible when the conventions spill out into the streets? How do we keep people safe even when they're beyond the physical scope of the convention?

New York Comic Con makes some effort to extend the boundaries of their convention beyond the building itself, roping off what's basically the Javits' drop-off zone so that the people who need some air and the people who need a cigarette can congregate safely. But that doesn't stop the five block radius of attendees, and it doesn't do anything for the after-parties advertised at the convention that happen all over the city and beyond (I've got old flyers from ones in Jersey). So, even assuming everyone follows policy to the letter and behaves themselves while at the convention itself, that doesn't preclude people who might use the convention as a buffet from which they can cull potential victims.


Even if we get every harassment policy perfectly right, this is still a problem.

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