People Spent More Time in Line Waiting to Enter than Inside Anime Expo 2017

Lines to enter #AnimeExpo2017 were so long that some people were still waiting to get in as evening approached. All of this was due to increased security that included bag checks at the entrance. Lines were reportedly 13-14 blocks long. One person reported that after 3 hours of waiting, their iPhone had recorded 7000 steps. Of course, for anyone who had a single-day pass on the worst day (Saturday, July 1, 2017), their day was effectively ruined. Additional entrances to help with the long lines were not opened until around 3:24 p.m., which is when Anime Expo staff tweeted that more had been opened. Anime Expo 2017 closed, however, at 6 p.m.

More bag checks were added in the following days with fewer complaints appearing on social media, but many are now referring to the expo as #linecon, which is likely how this convention is going to be remembered.

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It is inexcusable that conventions that are adding additional security and bag checks are not also adding the needed staff, entrances and training to reduce the resulting increased wait times for paid pass holders to enter. It also begs the question regarding the competence of convention management that increasingly appears to be describable as “amateur hour”.

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Arrested Phoenix Comicon Gunman Identified 

The gunman arrested at #PhoenixComicon on Thursday has been identified as 31-year old Matthew Sterling, who was charged with attempted murder, resisting arrest, multiple counts of aggravated assault, carrying a weapon in a prohibited place, and wearing body armor during the commission of a felony. A judge set his bond at $1-million on Friday.

Police said that Sterling was armed with a shotgun & three handguns, all of which were fully loaded. He was also carrying a combat knife, pepper spray and throwing stars. Police also said he was wearing body armor at the time of arrest.

According to the probable cause statement, Sterling (who was also wearing black tactical pants, a red bandanna, black face paint, and a shotgun bandolier) had entered the Phoenix Convention Center where he managed to avoid both the venue’s security and one of of the peace-bonding stations for inspecting prop weapons. He then proceeded to the second floor.

Signs posted throughout the Phoenix Convention Center prohibit weapons at the event. In court documents, he told police that he believed the signs and laws prohibiting weapons at the venue did not apply to him.

Court documents also reveal that Sterling saw himself as real-life version of Marvel comic book vigilante Punisher & that he was planning to kill well-known #PowerRangers actor Jason David Frank. A calendar reminder that was found on Sterling’s cellphone for May 25th stated “Kill JDF”.  He also told police that he would kill “bad police officers” if he needed to protect himself or his friends.

During the arraignment hearing, prosecutor Ed Leiter (of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office) said in reference to Sterling, “He exhibited a dramatic threat to the community beyond police officers, beyond Jason David Frank.” Leiter also said, “A number of other people were referenced as possible targets or people he wanted to kill.”

The full text of the probable cause statement (with added paragraph breaks, spelling corrections & sentence case for readability) is listed below:

On may 25, 2017 at approximately 1211 hours, Phoenix police received a call from the Hawthorne Police Department in California regarding an individual, later identified as Matthew Enrique Navarro Sterling, via his Arizona drivers license. Details of the call stated a witness was receiving Facebook messages from Matthew stating he was threatening to shoot police officers, taking pictures of them and Matthew had numerous weapons on his person including handguns, a shotgun, a knife, pepper spray and wearing body armor.

Matthew was sending these messages as he sat on the second floor of 100 north 3rd street, the Phoenix Convention Center, while he was attending the Phoenix Comicon event. Matthew was described as wearing black tactical pants, a red bandana with his face painted black with a shotgun bandolier across his chest. Matthew relayed to the witness he was on the second floor with loaded weapons and was not leaving until police arrived. He stated to the witness that he was going to be in a showdown with cops and he would kill them.

Responding officers located Matthew on the second floor reading a comicon brochure. Officers approached and immediately began to control Matthew’s hands due to the numerous weapons they saw he had on his person. Matthew resisted arrest by tensing his arms to avoid being taken into custody. During the struggle to control Matthew, he ripped off an officers Phoenix police patch affixed to his uniform and pushed his full body weight against the bench he was sitting on so he could not be moved. Officers eventually overcame his strength and he was taken into custody at 1222 hours.

Inspection of the firearms revealed they were all real and all fully loaded. Mathew was sitting on a twelve gauge shotgun, two 45 caliber handguns, one .454 caliber handgun, a combat knife, pepper spray and throwing stars. There are signs posted throughout the event that firearms are prohibited and there are numerous stations where attendees with real weapons or props have them secured with bright colored zip ties. Matthew avoided these stations and proceeds to the second floor.

Matthew was transported to 620 West Washington Street to be interviewed. During the interview, Matthew admitted to taking loaded firearms into the venue. Matthew believed that the law prohibiting bringing loaded weapons into the venue applied to other people, but not him. Matthew said if he was forced to kill police officers, he would to defend himself. Matthew stated he was the Punisher, a popular comic book character that punishes people that do wrong. Matthew believes that there are police officers that have kind faces in uniform but they can be bad officers. Matthew said he would use violence against them if it meant he needed to protect his friends.

Matthew was wearing body armor under his shirt. He stated he had this on to protect himself. Matthew explained that he calls bad police officers “Aphrodite officers” and he can differentiate these bad officers from good ones. When asked about the officers he encountered today, Matthew said he would shoot them if he deemed they were Aphrodite officers. Matthew went on to post that things would get bloody and he would kill cops with his firearms.

When asked about his array of weapons, Matthew explained they were for self defense in case officers gave him trouble and that he would shoot to kill. Matthew said he would use his shotgun to hold them back until they were able to produce sufficient identification because Aphrodite officers hide behind regular police patches.

Facebook messages listed one victim by name who was scheduled to be at the comicon event. Matthew stated in his message and interview with detectives that he had stabbed the victim fifteen years prior and was at the event to finish the job. I asked Matthew what he meant when he said finishing the job and he said he wanted to see the victim behind bars.

Matthew set a calendar reminder in his phone to alert him tc kill the victim at comicon on may 25th. The victim was scheduled at comicon all four days and mathew purchased a four day pass. Matthew stated he believed if the victim was deceased, the victims wife and child would be happy. Matthew was sub-sequently booked into jail for the listed charges.

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More on Arrest of Heavily Armed Man at Phoenix Comicon

News coverage of the arrest of a heavily armed 30-year old man at #PhoenixComicon resulting in the banning of all #PropWeapons beginning tomorrow. The man was carrying 3 handguns, a shotgun, ammunition & knives. He was also wearing body armor and was dressed in all black. A tip alerted police to the man’s intentions that likely averted a very serious situation.

If you know anyone carrying firearms to conventions or other #costuming or #cosplay events, please do not hesitate to contact local authorities.

Prop Weapons Banned at Phoenix Comicon

All prop weapons have been banned at #PhoenixComicon after a man carrying real firearms & ammunition was arrested by police at the Phoenix Convention Center. 

The 30-year old man was wearing body armor, was carrying three handguns & one shotgun, along with ammunition, a knife and a variety of handheld weapons. The man intended to harm Phoenix police & had been taking pictures of officers, including those patrolling Phoenix Comicon, then posting them on social media. A woman who knows the man alerted police to his activities.

A spokeswoman for Phoenix Comicon said this regarding prop weapons: “Please leave them (prop weapons) at home or in your vehicles, since they will not be allowed into the facility.”

People waiting to enter Phoenix Comicon

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More on the Cancellation of the 2017 Rocky Mountain Fur Con

After posting on April 16, 2017 about the cancellation of the 2017 #RockyMountainFurCon (#RMFC), we viewed several YouTube videos on the subject from varying points of view. After going through each of them, we found that one posted by a furry named Roo on his YouTube channel called Rooview provided the most complete & unbiased description of not only the cancellation of RMFC, but also the complex chain of events from multiple directions that lead to its demise.

While the video is over 35 minutes in length, we highly recommend viewing it in its entirety for anyone who wants a much more complete understanding of what lead to the cancellation of RMFC. The thing to remember here is that what lead to the demise of this particular convention could occur at any convention; the type of drama and conflict that destroyed RMFC is not limited to the furry community as we’ve seen similar levels of conflict & drama destroy #costuming & #cosplay groups well outside the furry community. Some of which lead to the destruction of entire #CostumeClub chapters and even one costume club altogether.

Unresolved drama and conflict that is allowed to exponentially spiral out of control is a recipe for disaster in any situation; but when conflicting parties are willing to calmly discuss their differences and be open to accepting compromises, disaster can usually be averted. Sadly, RMFC is an example of the former, not the latter; combined with (in our opinion) poor convention management that:

  1. Failed to adequately address concerns with the furry group named “Furry Raiders” and its founder Foxler Nightfire, who wears a Nazi-like armband as part of his furry costume.
  2. Failed to extricate itself completely from the convicted felon (Kendal Emery, a.k.a. Kahuki,) who had originally founded the convention 10 years earlier and who had been removed from leading it in 2008.
  3. Lost its non-profit status several years earlier,
  4. Allowed Kahuki to send a “cease and desist” letter that cited non-existent laws as a way to intimidate and threaten an individual in another state (Deo) with loss of property, among other things, including being consistent with the anti-government “Sovereign Citizens” movement.

In response, Deo shared the threatening “cease and desist” letter publicly on April 10, 2017, which is what prompted the RMFC management to cancel the convention. The “cease and desist” letter (in our opinion) served only to damage the credibility of the RMFC management because:

  1. If they didn’t know the letter was sent, then there was a complete breakdown in internal communication.
  2. Or, if they did know about the letter, then they should have prevented it from being sent in the first place given that it cited non-existent laws and was highly threatening.

As we said in our original post on April 16, 2017:

Please leave your personal beliefs and politics out of costuming & cosplay. When it comes to symbolism used in custom costumes, using highly controversial and potentially upsetting political or religious symbolism or something that closely resembles it in a costume is really not a good idea. This is why costume clubs don’t permit politics & religion in their groups. It only leads to problems.

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2017 Rocky Mountain Fur Con Canceled

The 2017 #RockyMountainFurCon has been canceled. The #RMFC board of directors that was organizing the 10th annual event posted a statement this past Monday (April 10, 2017), which we have quoted below:

“The furry community and Rocky Mountain Fur Con have always strived to be a place of inclusion; a place where furs from all walks of life, differing religious, political, social and personal views can come together to celebrate the thing that we have in common, the love of our fandom.

Recently, members of our community have taken it upon themselves to bring in external influences of hate, intolerance, and stubborn refusal to compromise. This movement has grown into a community that promotes violence, and it is because of that, it is with deep regret that I make the following announcement:

Last month, we were faced with a sudden and drastic increase in security costs amounting to more than a third of our entire existing operating budget. This cost increase stemmed directly from the very public threats of violence against one another by members of this community,  as well as the negative backlash from misinformation spread about the convention, its staff and attendees. Therefore, Rocky Mountain Fur Con 2017 is officially canceled.”

Sadly, the statement is the only part of the fur con’s website that remains.

While the fur con chairman did not directly mention the group being blamed for this in the cancellation statement, Rolling Stone listed that the source: a group within the furry community calling itself the “Furry Raiders”, which Rolling Stone described as “an outlier group within the anthropomorphic subculture” and whose founder (shown below in his “Foxler Nightfire” furry persona) has chosen to wear a red armband with a black paw print over a white circle.

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The armband bears a very strong resemblance to those worn by members of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (otherwise known as Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or the Nazi Party for short) that was founded by Adolf Hitler and operated in Germany between 1920 and 1945. Various Nazi uniforms included a red armband with the infamous black swastika symbol over a white circle, as illustrated in these Nazi-era uniforms that are located in the Imperial War Museum in London:

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While Foxler Nightfire denies any connection between his armband and those worn by members of the Nazi Party (and also worn by many Neo-Nazis today), the only difference between his and actual Nazi armband was his replacement of a black paw print in place of the swastika.

Also according to the Rolling Stone article and one posted by Dogpatch Press, the “Furry Raiders” were being characterized by various online forums as a “neo-nazi cult-like group”. Also, Vice had posted an article earlier in 2017 that members of Colorado’s furry community were fighting neo-Nazis.

Then, while responding to a friend on Twitter, a furry in another state named Deo (who had never attended RMFC) tweeted that neo-Nazis should be punched. According to Deo, this had nothing to do with what was occurring in Colorado or with the “Furry Raiders”, but a member of the “Furry Raiders” read Deo’s tweet and responded by not only threatening to shoot Deo, but appeared to be threatening to bring a gun to the 2017 Rocky Mountain Fur Con itself.

Here’s where things get bad. After Deo reported the threat to Twitter, Twitter deleted the Twitter account belonging to the member of the “Furry Raiders”. She also contacted the RMFC, which we will describe by quoting directly from Rolling Stone:

“In January, Deo reached out to the RMFC board via Twitter and sent an email to their security team to report the threats, she tells Rolling Stone through Twitter. There was no response until April 3rd when she received a letter from Kendal Emery aka Kahuki, a board member of MAAAC and RMFC, who personally sent a cease and desist letter to Deo’s house.”

And who is Kahuki? He’s the original founder and former chairman of the board of directors of the Rocky Mountain Fur Con. But why isn’t he still the RMFC chairman? Apparently, he was removed from the position in 2008 after it was revealed that Kahuki (a.k.a., Kendal Emery) has a felony conviction in 1993 of Criminal Sexual Contact with a Minor. As for the letter that Kahuki sent to Deo, he attempted to make it appear to have been written by an attorney by listing a non-existent law, use of incorrectly spelled Latin and threats against her home. It also contained “dog-whistle” language and a red finger print indicative of a government-known racist group known as “Sovereign Citizens”.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, members of “Sovereign Citizens” believe they “get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore”, are “rooted in racism and anti-Semitism,” and do “acts of deadly violence”.

In response, Deo not only contacted police in her home state and a Colorado attorney, she went public with the letter on April 10, 2017. This is the day that the RMFC board of directors learned about the letter and chose to cancel the event.

Folks, we can only say this: please leave your personal beliefs and politics out of costuming & cosplay. When it comes to symbolism used in custom costumes, using highly controversial and potentially upsetting political or religious symbolism or something that closely resembles it in a costume is really not a good idea. This is why costume clubs don’t permit politics & religion in their groups. It only leads to problems.

As for what lead to the cancellation of Rocky Mountain Fur Con 2017, you will have to use your own judgement as to who to believe in this complicated situation. Regardless of who is believed, several thousand furries have lost a convention, which is highly unfortunate as it’s not the only furry convention to disappear recently. This is what happens when the negative acts of a few destroy something for the many. As we’ve posted before, there are no winners when it comes to cosplay drama.

Costuming Community Drama

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