Each year, thousands of fans converge on Washington D.C. to attend Otakon, a convention celebrating anime. They meet their favorite voice actors, socialize with friends old and new and many dress as their favorite characters. Only this year, many are concerned about an event that may occur the same weekend.
Jason Kessler, who organized the “Unite the Right” rally last year in Charlottesville, has applied for a permit to hold a new rally in Washington D.C. This rally is reportedly called the “White Civil Rights Rally” and is planned for August 11th and 12th, the same weekend as Otakon. While no permit has yet been issued, this application has been approved.
A Convention That Promotes Inclusion
Otakon has long been a place where fans of diverse backgrounds could gather in safety to celebrate their shared fandom. Young, old, gay, straight and every variation in between attend this convention. Every ethnicity and nationality is represented. Last year attendance was estimated at approximately 80,000 fans.
A Rally Based on Exclusion
The organizer claims the rally is not about opposing any group. “This rally is not about opposing you. This is about us. This is about white people and standing up for our rights,” Kessler said.
However, many are concerned as the rally last year was attended by those carrying Nazi and Confederate battle flags. Many attendees, who identified themselves as white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, Klansmen, and neo-Nazis, chanted racist and antisemitic slogans. And violence erupted, leaving one person dead and dozens injured.
Attendees are Concerned
Many of those who planned on attending Otakon are very concerned about this rally, which is slated to occur only 2.1 miles away from the venue. Some are considering skipping this year’s event.
Kyle Tatem, for whom this would be the fifth year attending, posted: “This sucks, I like going to cons because they are an escape, but looks like that wont be the case this year, might not go. Just to be safe.”
He is not alone with this sentiment. Thousands of social media posts from fans of the convention express fears regarding the rally.
The Convention is Monitoring the Situation
A post on Facebook from Otakon reads: “To all of our fans and Members: We would like you to know that Otakon is aware of the proposed rally which would take place 2.1 miles from our event, and the concerns raised by our members. We are carefully monitoring the situation as it develops.”
Should the permit be issued for this rally, options may be limited for the convention. Rescheduling would be extremely difficult and costly. Barring that, they might have to hire additional security staff and work with local police to provide a layer of safety for their attendees. Access points to the convention might be reduced. Attendees would likely be advised to travel in groups and avoid confronting anyone who appeared to be part of the rally.
But the Rally May Not Happen
However, while is it natural for people to be concerned about two very different groups holding events in close proximity, don’t cancel your hotel rooms quite yet. While the application has been approved for the rally, a permit has not been issued and may be denied. Even if the rally does happen, the venue and the immediate surroundings should be well patrolled and safe. Plus there’s always the chance the organizer of the rally will choose to change the location. After all, with all the hotel rooms in the area being booked by Otakon attendees, those who wish to attend the rally might not be able to find a place to stay. And unlike the rally in Charlottesville, those attending will be unable to bring any firearms without being subject to immediate arrest.
So there is still hope for a fun filled weekend of anime at Otakon.
We’ll have more on this story as it develops.
Otakon is scheduled from August 10-12, 2018 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt Vernon Pl NW, Washington, DC 20001
Visit www.otakon.com for more information about this convention.
Cover Photo Courtesy of Otakorp