Phoenix Comic Con has already had it’s share of controversy and drama in the past few months beginning with their controversial pay-to-play volunteering policy. However, this is a very important matter that needs to be addressed as the story is breaking. In short, local news reports have stated that Matthew Sterling has been arrested at Phoenix Comic Con carrying weapons with a planned intent to kill. Sterling went on record in court that “things would get bloody.” Among his targets, Jason David Frank, of Power Rangers fame was also targeted. This high level threat was thwarted by a friend of the main target. Many articles have reported the incident. A handful of people have shown their thanks and appreciation for the friend that reported the incident. However, like any cosplay related drama, the ruckus spread like wildfire into social media.
I have zero chill about this incident. In the wake of the Manchester attacks at Ariana Grande’s concert, if this incident was not reported, something even worse would have happened. I am glad it did not go in direction and thankful for the actions of law enforcement and having a bail of $1,000,0000 on the perpetrator. However, a lot of people are asking what does this mean for conventions and cosplay. While it is legitimate to discuss convention safety and what may or may not be allowed, in the wake of this arrest, I have seen posts in capslock fashion whining that cosplay will be banned and props will be a big no-no. There’s a difference in discussing safety precautions and how attendees and the law can meet in the middle and posting in a future that is non-existent.
Conventions and law enforcement are not after your hobby. They are looking out for everyone’s safety. While it is disheartening that Phoenix Comic Con attendees have to leave props and questionable costumes at home or at the hotel room, most attendees at PCC are complying and understanding of this. However, those reacting on social media have had their knee jerk reactions assuming that conventions will ban cosplay because of this. It’s moments like this, I question the sanity of the cosplay community. We talk about how we should support one another, but when crisis happens, we go into our “what about ME?” stasis without regard for others.
Let’s just take a step back here. Arizona has much more lax gun laws than California or Massachusetts. Anime Expo, or any large scale event in Los Angeles, has metal detectors and scanners. They also spell out their weapons policy on their website – in short nothing realistic or live steel. The city of Boston also reacted accordingly in wake of two terrorists incidents wherein Anime Boston implemented an (imperfect) metal detector system and subsequent conventions in Boston (Pax East, Boston Comic Con) followed suite. I would not worry too much about convention props and weapons policy unless it is written out – it is useless to worry. However, we do live in sensitive times right now, it’s important to consider the people who’s lives could have been affected or ended than our hobby. This isn’t about you and your props – this is about protecting others.
“No one can enjoy your cosplay and its accessories if you’re dead,” commented our site contributor, Richie.
“This isn’t the fantasy world nor the world we once lived in my friends. I’m not encouraging us all to live in paranoia. But please don’t ignore the signs.There are so much more I want to say because I love you guys and my community. This isn’t the scripted reality TV, this shit is fucking Real.” – Rayko (Lolita Dark)
Kudos to Scooter and Rayko for reporting the incident. If you’re in contact with them or have the means, thank them for doing some good for the community. Thank you again, Scooter and Rayko. Bless.
Disclosure: I am a friend of the person that was targeted.