An event like Comic-con International draws more than 100,000 people, and because of its popularity, certain groups will take advantage of the large crowds to have their voices heard. Aside from the artistic endeavors, pop-culture marketing and general excitement, during Comic-con, the streets of San Diego also became a platform for special-interest groups.
Mistaken for Pee-wee Herman, Doctor Who cosplayer encounters fundamentalists
I'm not going to lie: When I first saw the protest signs at Comic-Con, I thought they were a joke -- some sort of bad-taste marketing scheme that would unveil itself as part of a B-movie. I was here when the Westboro Baptist Church protested a couple of years back; this wasn't them. But alas, it's another religious fundamentalists group wanting attention.
I wasn't going to give them what they sought, but then the man with the bullhorn called a Doctor Who cosplayer Peew-ee Herman.
Protester: "Is this Pee-wee Herman? The masturbating Pee-wee Herman? The perverted Pee-wee Herman? Either you want to mimic Pee-wee Herman or you want to be a white, uh, Farrakhan guy. Either way, you're in trouble."
Cosplayer: "I'm actually British, and I'm Doctor Who."
There was an awkward pause, as the protester didn't seem to know what Doctor Who is, so instead he went on a rant about the Beatles.
The protests continued throughout the convention. However, by Saturday police had to intervene when things got heated between the demonstrators and the crowd as harsher words were exchanged. Police tape was put up, and the crowd diffused. On Sunday, the protesters were much quieter, and the atmosphere calmer.
Justice for Trayvon Martin Rally at Comic-Con
The "Justice for Trayvon" rallies were planned across the United States on the one-week anniversary of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. In San Diego, the protesters chose to march in front of the convention center as Comic-Con was being held.
I was taken by surprise by the protest as I was attempting to cross the service road in front of the building, where I was stopped to allow the rally though.
The support for Martin went beyond the streets of San Diego, and the feelings were echoed inside the convention center. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 star Jamie Foxx expressed his disappointment of the outcome of the trial, and give his support to Martin's mother Sybrina Fulton. “She’s always been courageous in saying this has never been about race," the Washington Times quotes the Oscar winner as saying. "She said it’s about 17-year-old kids. We have to protect our kids. So I stand with her forever."
The Avengers star Samuel L. Jackson also chimed in from the convention, saying, “I’m not really surprised by it, considering the way the case was presented and the representation that the family had, and the portrayals that they put out there of the kid and how peoples’ attitudes are about those particular things."
Does it work? Attendee reaction
In the case of the religious fundamentalists, the quiet ones that walked around, for the most part, confused people. "Why would they protest at Comic-Con?" was the reaction I overheard the most. Some crafted their own placards in counter-protest, waging a sign war with phrases that ranged from "Galactus is Nigh" to "God Hates Kittens."
However, it was the demonstrators with the megaphones who insulted attendees as they walked who drew the most ire -- to the point that a riot nearly erupted. And in the end, con-goers seemed to think it was the Westboro Church behind the protests. It was good enough to stir me to write something, but not enough for me to be able to say who the protesters were without assistance from Google (they call themselves Street Preachers).
For the most part, the crowd received the Trayvon Martin protesters positively, showing their support, with cheers, screams and handshakes. Some of the attendees even joined in with the march as it passed by. Others, however, found the march to be more of a nuisance than anything. "I didn't care what they were marching about," one person said. "I just wanted to get into the con."
Still others mentioned they were heading offsite, but when they saw the marchers approaches coming they turned around and went back into the convention center.
As far as these groups see it, though, they have a captive audience in a densely populated area -- more than 100,000 people who potentially can be reached in one weekend.
One of the Trayvon Martin marchers I spoke with said, "It's important to get the message out. And what better place than the biggest convention in the country?"