Or, I was a Teenage Meatshield
I won’t go into detail about why there were two protests outside WorldCon on Saturday. It’s both pathetic and entirely what the people who instigated the situation want. Suffice to say, Saturday afternoon, the San Jose convention centre became the no man’s land between two equally apathetic protests, neither of which should have been there in the first place.
In the far right corner! A group of red hat wearing youtube wannabes who think that having a steadicam makes them journalists and blocking a blood drive van in makes them patriots! They were protesting, officially, pedophilia. In reality, they were just looking to cause some trouble for nerds.
In the left corner, Antifa! The infamous boogiepeople of Fox News. Who are they?! what do they want? Are they actually evil?! Did any of them block in a blood drive van?! How many of them rocked a full size American flag-as-cape ensemble? (Spoilers for those last two questions: None because they aren’t fucking idiots. And one.)
And in the middle, us. 5000 nerds, most of which were completely unaware of what was going on. Aside from the convention committee and, well, us.
Operation Meatshield was put together by Adam Rakunas, Alex Acks, Pablo Defendini, Joseph Brassey and a group of willing volunteers. The idea was simple; if folks wanted to come to the convention but didn’t feel comfortable walking through a community theatre representation of Fox News vs CNN, we’d walk with them. We weren’t going to engage, we weren’t going to confront. Like the shirts we were issued said: here to help.
It’s hard capturing the mindset of this after the fact but I’ll do my best; we were a group of volunteers of multiple ages, sizes, genders and health levels. We had no idea if these folks were going to be violent. We had no idea if they were going to try and get in. All we knew was that 5000 convention goers were probably going to feel a bit uncomfortable and that someone needed to hold the line. That was us. We discussed de-escalation tactics, we looked at entrances and exits, we nervously monitored the news and tried to figure out how much trouble we could be in.
Turned out, not so much. At 12.30, the two groups filed into their two areas on either side of the plaza and proceeded to yell at each and us. Marguerite, because she is a fully operational superhuman, took on the role of media spokeswoman. This meant talking to at least two people who think every conversation begins with ‘’SUP YOUTUBE!’ And politely explaining that the grownups were talking, all the while in an epic pink dress. The rest of us paired off, walked the floor, made ourselves visible and escorted folks as needed.
And what happened was kind of amazing. People thanked us. Vociferously. And often. People brought us water and snacks. The convention staff, who started the afternoon assuming we were the mythical third side of a West Side Story dance fight, ended up deploying us to help out with logistics. Aside from a couple of sallow faced, no chinned, clearly frightened young ‘men’ who decided a 90 buck day pass was too high a price for shenanigans.
Oh, and aside from the blood drive van.
I got tasked to go out to it once. I dont anticipate the anger at what I saw there fading anytime soon.
To the right of the van (of course), a pair of shrill blonde harpies yelling into megaphones about pedophilia and family separation, Milling around them 25 or so visibly embarrassed older men, all in leather jackets, most in MAGA hats. One, notable SF editor Dave Truesdale, had the common decency to look embarrassed when I saw him. Which he fucking should have been.
We weren’t opposed or stopped going out to the van, it’s important you know that. But it’s also important you know that doesn’t matter. Because I and two women walked a Hispanic gentleman out to give blood because a group of white cowards decided to bully people they’ve never met and he, understandably, felt terrified.
On his way to give blood.
On his way to save a life.
Odds are, a white life.
Because this was absolutely a race thing. Just one dressed in self righteous clothes that fitted about as well as one speaker’s idiotic pink cowboy hat.
Me, I just feel relieved. And angry. Not just for him or the other folks who literally gave their time and blood despite the attempts of cowards to dissuade them. But because those cowards honestly thought they were doing something worthwhile. Yelling halfhearted sexist comments at my colleagues as we walked back inside, wearing the idiot brand proudly on their red idiot caps. Slinking home, go pro in one hand, to explain to their 300 viewers how they owned the libs. When all they did was steal a Saturday afternoon and get in the way. Just like they always do and always will.
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