Protest at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

One of the most exciting things that happened to me on my four day visit to Cleveland during the RNC Convention was when I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on July 19 and witnessed three protestors who had put up an anti-Trump banner at the flag poles of the Hall of Fame. Police had surrounded the protestors, trying to persuade them to come down. It took some time for them to come down, for the fire department to remove the banner and for the protestors to be booked. Word got out and the press arrived to cover the incident.

Two of the photos I took were picked up by Reuters, which happened because a press person asked if I knew what was on the banner. I said I had taken some pictures of it and I started going through my camera to find the photos. I didn’t know at the time he was the editor-in-charge of US Pictures from Reuters. When he saw my pictures he asked if a few of them could be used by Reuters and I said yes.

These are a few of the pictures I took during that time which show the protestors being arrested, booked and the fire department taking down the banner.

What I saw as I arrived at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

What I saw as I arrived at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

This was one of the photos Reuters used for their article

This was one of the photos Reuters used for their article

This is the second photo Reuters used

This is the second photo Reuters used

The protestors taken down from the pole

The protestors taken down from the pole

The protestors taken down from the pole

The protestors taken down from the pole

The protestors taken down from the pole

Photos taken for processing

They checked out the backpack for a suspicious device

They checked out the backpack for a suspicious device

Banner is removed

Banner is removed

The backpack is safe and is removed

The backpack is safe and is removed

Booking tags are placed on the protestors and they are placed in a police van

Booking tags are placed on the protestors and they are placed in a police van

Booking tags are placed on the protestors and they are placed in a police van

Booking tags are placed on the protestors and they are placed in a police van

Booking tags are placed on the protestors and they are placed in a police van

Booking tags are placed on the protestors and they are placed in a police van

 

 

 

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My Impression: Cleveland and the RNC Convention

The original plan was to write about each day’s adventure but I didn’t realize how little down time I would have. I was going from early in the morning until late at night. Despite being really tired, I had a rewarding and interesting experience in Cleveland.

First things first, I didn’t get hit or accosted by Trump supporters, or any political supports no matter their positions. The Christian evangelicals were the ones who, at the very least, I would say were the pushiest to me. Now, I want to put that visual into context. I had a lot of people who wanted to pray for me, who handed out water to me with religious messages on it and there were a few occasions when a friendly getting to know you talk veered into, “let me tell you about my Lord and Savior Jesus.” The only “your gonna burn in Hell” Christians were the ones that walk around with a large police escort, bullhorns and told everyone they were sinners going to Hell. Yes, annoying but not out of the ordinary for a large event like this.

When I arrived Monday afternoon the area known as Tower Square was packed with people. This was the free speech zone where anyone could sign up for a set time to talk. That didn’t stop other people from making speeches, I guess they would be unauthorized speeches, in the same area but not on the platform.

When I got there, a crazy guy, and I still don’t know if what he was doing was an act or not, was saying all sorts of junk to get attention. He talked about Trump being our big daddy and how Clinton should go to prison and other over the top material. What I saw in the days at the convention was the crazy talk the speaker was giving wasn’t too far from the sentiments of the supporters of the RNC and Trump in particular.

In the days I was there I made it point to hit the crowd centers and some places on the outskirts of the circus. Being in the middle of the crazies you’re going to get crazy ideas and crazy people. The rants they give may not be the views of the majority of people. For instance, I got an impression from the many news reports that I’ve seen over the past few months that only rabid Republicans care about the email scandal and Bengazi. I found, as many conservatives have mentioned for months also, many Republicans and some Democrats don’t like the Clinton style because it seems like their hiding something. They may not be, but the secrecy and constant questions the right wing media dishes out every day convinces a lot of people Clinton would be a secretive President.

Going back to the first day, there were lots of colorful characters in the area. I was so tired on the first day I didn’t make it to the free concert. It was relatively close but I wasn’t as familiar with the area as I should have been and couldn’t get my bearings on where it was.

I got a good number of pictures that day (however the next 2 days would change my perception on what a lot of photos mean) and I met my friend’s downtown before I headed to their home. It took me a few minutes to remember I had been to their home before. It was decades before and it is a nice, friendly kind of home. I met their two daughters and they are typical right at the teenage year daughters. Like the home it took me a few moments to get on their vibe level. The oldest daughter is a Harry Potter fan and the youngest is hooked on the Hamilton soundtrack. At any given moment she would break into song about Hamilton. Oh, I forgot to mention the very big dog, the deaf medium sized dog and the cat.

For the first few hours I felt like I was in the episode of Good Times when Mr. Johnson wanted to die at the Evans apartment for New Years. When the Evans kids started fighting and Florida told them to shut up, Mr Johnson said to let them be because all the fighting was a sign of love. I used the line myself when the daughters first started up, then I could see myself marveling at my friends parenting skills because it was patience. It wasn’t that the daughters were particularly bad or annoying. They were just being teenage girls and if you haven’t been around it, it can be challenging. Once I got the dynamics of the family it all made sense how everyone worked with one another, just like a sitcom, and I could appreciate the squabbles.

OK, maybe what won me over was Star Wars. I don’t know how it actually happened, not that I was going to object, for each of the three nights I was there we were going to watch a different Star Wars film. The daughters and I debate about half an hour before it was decided that The Empire Strikes Back would be the first film seen. They knew about Star Wars but not fans of Star Wars like myself. It seems their mother and father, and I’ve known both for decades, told them about some of my eccentricities. They knew how I got their parents together, my trip to Cleveland for the Special Edition of Star Wars back in 1997 and other odd facts.

We started on Empire pretty late. We didn’t finish it until midnight. Even though I has been up since Sunday night and other than a few cat naps I hadn’t had a good sleep, I woke up at 3am on Tuesday. I edited the photos and from the first day of the convention. I was able to post video from the convention.

Tuesday was the really big day for me. My original plan was I was going to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame then hit Tower Square. I’m glad I forgot that the Hall was going to open at 10 am. I took some pictures as I wandered towards the Hall of Fame. When I got there I saw a few people standing outside, then I saw a lot of police and one news truck. I looked up and saw this large anti-Trump poster set up between two flag poles. I saw two people on the pole and at first I thought they were taking it down. I took a few pictures on my smartphone and sent them to Instagram. I brought out my Canon and took a few more and thought they would have the poster down soon. It hot me after a few minutes that the people on the pole were the protesters. Once that hit my head I moved in closer and took a lot more pictures. Soon more reporters showed up and I was in the middle of an active news story. I kept clicking away, moving around for better angles as well as watching the reporters around me to see what they were shooting for.

It took about 90 minutes for the situation to get resolved. The protesters came down from the poles and were arrested. They were booked and placed into a police van. The fire department came with a ladder truck and removed the sing, not before a little scare because a backpack was left on one of the poles. It was scanned and proved to be harmless. By the time the sign was down and the women were driven off, one of the photographers approached me and asked what the sign said. I told him I had pictures, after trying to remember exactly what was written on the banner, and while I was going through the photos the photographer was impressed with the shots I had. He was the Editor-in-Charge of US pictures from Reuters. He asked, and didn’t promise it would happen, if he could get my pictures for him to pull 1 or 2 out for use by Reuters. I would be what is called a Handout; I would get credit for the photographs but no pay. I figured being associated with Reuters through my photos would be a cool thing.

20160722-aLess than two hours later I got the email of the agreement I needed to digitally sign and the two photos picked. By this time, I was in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the excitement of getting my photos associated with Reuters made me feel pretty good. While in the Hall of Fame I saw there was a blocked off area for actual convention goers. I didn’t think too much of it until I finished my tour of the Hall. Partially because I was tired, partially because of the photos, I saw a group of convention goers wander towards the balcony behind the wall (Oh, the special place for the GOP convention goers was behind a display of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.) so I followed them like I belonged with them. I was on the balcony with conventioneers looking at the lake and listening to them talk family and politics. The crowd I was with; Trump was their man.

As a side note, what I heard and saw for the four days I was in Cleveland was that there was unity in people about Trump. It could be the crazy guy shouting from the free forum, the guy walking around with a Donald trump sign, the conventioneers in unguarded moments; people in the party like Trump. I know there was talk of dissension in the ranks but in the people I ran into, if they were Republican and especially associated with the RNC convention they were cheering for Trump all the way.

Before leaving the Hall of Fame I picked up a few things, like buttons and free booklets, then walked over to the protest sight take more photos before heading back to the home of my friends.

We went out to a wings place for dinner and a few of the TVs were playing the RNC convention. My friend met up with a couple of their friends and doted over their new baby. As the results were coming in with Trump officially getting the RNC nomination, I thought about that baby. My friend’s kids aren’t fans of Trump and think he is a silly man. I realized that the baby my friend was holding was born into a world where it isn’t an impossibility that someone like Trump could get the nomination from a major party to be their standard bearer for President.

That night we all sat down and watched Return of the Jedi.

The third day of the convention, which was my last full day in town, was where I was doing a lot of catch up work. My friend dropped me off at the Westside Market, which is a staple in Cleveland and a big tourist attraction. I stopped by the café for breakfast which was interesting. Something I haven’t mentioned about Cleveland and the convention has been the police presence. Police from all over the country are everywhere. I made a quick stop to the Westside Market on Monday and I thought there were a lot of police then. On Wednesday morning the presence has almost doubled. When I went into the diner, there were 7-8 full geared SWAT officers eating breakfast and 3 beat cops eating. I’m not sure if he was a cook or the owner but he seemed like he was a retired cop, possibly a local cop, and he was chewing the fat with the officers. It looked like many scenes I’ve seen in cop shows. It a scene where the old bones retired cop has a bar, diner of some other hangout where cops can come in and feel at ease.

The Westside Market Diner was what I was looking for in Cleveland, and in general what I look for in a town when there is a big event that has national media focused on it. What I saw all four days I was in Cleveland and focusing on the convention were reporters looking for the sensational story. They were all in the same spot looking for the unusual. Basically if something didn’t happen around the convention it didn’t happen, but what upped the focus was the sillier the better.

I noticed this on Wednesday in particular in that there was a woman who was on the 20160722-cofficial free speech stage talking about female veteran care. No one paid attention to her. The black man shouting his support for Trump got attention, the woman dressed as a butterfly against Trump got attention and the Muslim (he said he was a Muslim) carrying the rifle got attention. It wasn’t until a man started shouting her, saying women shouldn’t be in the military, is when she started yelling back at him. All of a sudden the press flocked not to her but the man shouting at her. She continued with her speech but the man continued to heckle and more press showed up covering him shouting at her. Even after she was finished with her speech, the camera crews and reporters continued to cover him.

That’s what people learn from big events like the RNC convention. Do something crazy and you’ll get eyes on you. Say something outrageous and the press will focus on you. I have to add something else, and this is of the people seeking attention. You think you’re going to get on the major networks, possibly in prime time, but in reality you might get lucky enough to get on someone’s podcast. If you’re lucky that will go viral. In reality it’s a longshot that your video or photo will get to a level where it will inspire a mass amount of people. I saw people who had put time and effort in their particular cause very excited they were getting recognition from a website that might have 5000 visits a night. I’m not trying to bash bloggers, but many people who are trying to get their voices heard work on the assumption if they put it out there they will come, when the reality is if you aren’t promoting the site you’re not going to get the eyes you want.

Hanging out with my friends and their daughters was interesting that night; making me think about something that should have been obvious to me. We watched The Force Awakens and they were so excited to see it. I know they’ve seen it before and maybe they were putting on a show for me, but they were SO excited watching the movie. They screamed as they read the opening credits, which kind of made their parents mad. They commented a lot through the movie. It made me happy because the girls weren’t just watching but were engaged in it. With the commotion about the revamped Ghostbusters having an all-female cast, and talk in general about having more representation of all types of people in comics and films, I have to say watching those girls focused on the film because of a female in the lead was heartwarming. It’s something I don’t think we think about as fans because we work out in our heads how to make the lack of representation work. I’ve seen the San Diego Comic-Con go from very few minorities and women to a very substantial representation of all types of people, including the LBGTQ community.

It was heartwarming to see their daughters engaged and identifying with the new group of Star Wars characters. It was great to have watched the films with them.

My flight left hours before Trump would make his final speech and I did this on purpose because I didn’t want to face the crowds of thousands of people leaving at one time from the city. I did have one last time to visit the free speech area. I got there around 9pm and other than the same ranting person at the podium I saw my first day there, there wasn’t a lot of activity in the area. What I saw were a lot of camera people and reporters waiting around for something to happen. A huge contingent of police was in the area on bikes, 20160722-bhorseback and on the ground but they were guarding nothing. Kids were having fun playing in the ground fountain. It was so boring that when a few police officers started playing ping pong with citizens, the reporters and camera people rushed to the scene like a political superstar arrived to say hello.

By 11:30 am, a group had arrived and with their chanting the area began filling up with people. By noon the crowd was very large, like I had seen most of my stay in Cleveland. I stayed until 1 pm then started my journey back to Arizona.

It was a remarkable four days. Cleveland was an interesting choice for the RNC to have the convention, and things may have worked better for them if they had showcased the city. Here’s what I mean; like San Diego with the Comic-Con or even the recent All Star Game, cities that host major events want to concentrate coverage on the mile or two surrounding the particular event. Now, I’m not saying reporters are lazy but if you’re at a hotel in a different city, the idea of exploring past the focus point and seeing what is happening with the people in the area isn’t high on the list of things to do. The big stuff is happening on the convention floors or in the hotels surrounding the convention. What I think is forgotten is that decisions made in the hall or hotel rooms are going to impact the hotel workers, the people cleaning up the convention hall, the vendors on the street and the regular folks who work day to day in cities all over the country.

There were a few stories about them but not enough. The press was too busy wandering about the main areas looking for a story, and if all the people are in the same area, they are going to get the same answers from the same people. Going to the Westside Farmers Market gave me a good idea of what was happening on the outskirts of the convention. While people near the convention center were making lots of money on trinkets, the café at the market had slow business. From what I heard from the staff as they talked amongst themselves, many of the regulars thought it would be crowded and didn’t show up and the promised crowds never arrived because they, like the reporters, wanted to be close to the action. I was told by my friends that ridership was slightly up on public transportation, but it wasn’t packed and unmanageable.

I didn’t see a lot of the convention itself. I didn’t have a pass to the floor but I did get to see and listen to some interesting people. Some were crazy, some made sense but all had a chance to talk and speak their minds.

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Things Got Off To An Interesting Start

Phoenix – July 17, 2016 7:20pm

As usual, because I’m paranoid about missing a flight, I’m at the airport far earlier than I should be. My plan was to sit at the charging station, get some work and maybe some gameplay done before the flight left. That would have been great if I was leaving from the popular terminal. Turns out I’m leaving from the older terminal. Hardly any plugs that the public can use, one old style charging station that is quite a distance from my gate, and most of the food areas are already closed.

This situation is the reason why I carry so much junk on a trip. I can get some things done, maybe not the way I’d like to but I can manage. I’m glad I brought the tablet along, but I thought I had some movies loaded on it. No such luck. At least I have music on it so that should pass the time for me with the layover in Newark. Seriously every time I think about going to the Newark Airport I think about the classic pre-Neo Keanu Reeves cyberpunk film Johnny Mnemonic. I feel like once I land I should look for J-Bone or Ralfi.

The trip is definitely starting off with some interesting elements. Before I left work, one of the techs called and he mentioned something about one of the stores in his territory was near the shooting, He’s in Baton Rouge and I assumed he was talking about the shooting of Alton Sterling from a few weeks ago. The airport has the TV on CNN and it seems there’s been another mass police shooting. So I’m heading into the heart of the Trump’s Republican convention with another cop shooting by mad black men in the news. I’m going to be in the middle (OK, I’m not in the convention but I’ll be outside of it) of the ‘enthusiastic’ convention goers and protestors for three plus days. Nothing to be concerned about. (Right?)

I’m pretty sure when this leg of the two trips is over, I’m going to think, I hope, that all this anxious anxiety was an overreaction. Look, I’m not gnashing teeth, sweating bullets and shaking with nervousness about some phantom danger on this trip. It’s just with the climate that has been seen in the past few weeks, I would be silly not have safety concerns. There’s been so much news about the ramped up security in Cleveland, what can and can’t be brought into area and the news focusing on fringe groups promising to show up in the open carry state that I would be foolish not to proceed with some sense of caution on the trip. This shooting of the police officers in Louisiana is going to put the police in Cleveland on edge.

Look, all I want to do is have a good trip, take some interesting pictures and see some friends I haven’t seen in a long time. I will just keep my eyes open a bit more than I planned on.

OK enough of that. I know it will be expensive but the bar across from my gate looks like it has some real tasty food. Temptation is making me want to sample some of it.

(UPDATE – Way too pricey so I got the $1.75 candy bar.)

 

Phoenix – July 17, 2016 9:30pm

About two hours ago, I was looking at my flight itinerary, making sure the plane was coming in on time. Well in checking I saw that my seat assignment, the one that should have been my usual window seat at the back of the plane, mysteriously was changed to the middle of the plane, middle seat. Oh, I wasn’t going to stand or sit for that! I checked my emails for the reservation and they were indeed for the rear of the plane, window seat. I made a call to United Airlines, waited for five minutes on the phone then spent 15 minutes explaining how my seat was changed then spent another 15 in silence while the ticket agent on the phone worked to correct the situation. There were lots of sorrys and lots of we will fix it and after 35 minutes on the phone I was told the issue was resolved, I had my original seat and an email would be sent with the corrected seat information.

Five minutes later I got the email and the same wrong seat assignment was on it.

I made a call again, and after going through the menu tree again I got an agent who was having computer problems which was making his phone line not work. Five minutes into that conversation the line went dead.

Dialed up again, menu tree again, a new agent and after explaining my situation again, and surprising myself by being calm about the whole thing, the agent told me there were no window seats available and there was no way for him to change my seat assignment. I was told I would have to go through the airport agents to possibly get the seat corrected.

I’m not sure what possessed me to call for a fourth time, but the thought of walking to the ticket counter, which meant I would have to leave the secure TSA area and would have to be rescreened again (something you didn’t have to do at the good terminal) made me incredibly angry. I went through the menu tree again and I was so on the edge of being ‘that customer’ that customer service people talk about in hushed whispers with fear, some humor and the right amount of anger. I talk about those types of customers a lot.

Once I got my fourth agent, I took a deep breath, started running A Clockwork Orange soundtrack in my head, and proceeded to explain for the fourth time my issue. I was angry, but it wasn’t very contained. I didn’t yell or scream, but I was determined to tell the agent this was my fourth call and what my issue was. Now here’s what I found fascinating on this whole experience. The first call I got someone who was really willing to help me, apologized a lot and when I was told everything was fixed, they weren’t. The third person told me there were nothing he could do and furthermore there were no windows seats. I would have to go to the airport ticket counter to get things fixed, if it were possible.

The fourth agent started to tell me the same thing. I pressed my issue further and there was still not a way for me to get a window seat. Just when I was sure the call was going to end in disaster, because I was real close to raising my voice and being ‘that customer,’ she asked me if I wanted a window exit row seat.

She was going to offer it to me for no extra charge. Window seat, lots of leg room and no extra charge? OK sure. So now for the funny part. Like the first agent, she was going to send me an email and then let me go. I told her I wanted to stay on the line until I got the change in the schedule. Would you believe that after the email arrived, which for some reason took almost five minutes to come through, the itinerary was still wrong! She was already frustrated that the email didn’t get to me fast and she didn’t believe me when I said it was wrong, just like she didn’t believe me when I said the email took a long time to get to me.

She then told me, which I don’t understand why this wasn’t done in the first place, that she would send a digital copy of the boarding pass. After a few seconds she told me I should have it but it hadn’t arrived. The crazy visual of me with my smartphone, tablet and laptop all refreshing the email and checking their website to check my new seat status made me feel like I was grabbing tickets for the San Diego Comic-Con or first day Star Wars tickets. The end result was I got the boarding pass with the new seat assignment.

Even with the good seat with no cost, I can’t say I’m happy with the service I received from United. From the first agent, I never got a reason as to why the seat assignment was changed, other than ‘it sometimes happens.’ If I hadn’t been persistent I would have been stuck in a middle seat on a flight lasting 4+ hours. To be told by one agent that nothing be done by them, but having the first agent apparently messing up and the fourth one getting me an upgraded seat seems dishonest.

The first thing I did was checked out my flight next week to San Diego and confirmed by the email that my seats were windows as I picked. I’m going to be observant when I pick up the boarding passes to make sure my seats are correct. I’m definitely going to check on their website to make sure the boarding information is correct.

CF20160717

UPDATE: I guess the way United works is they offer you a carrot but hit you with a stick. The ‘upgrade’ of getting a better seat by the exit door was no upgrade. American Airlines, the carrier I normally take, has a huge amount of leg room and seats with a lot more room. The ‘upgrade’ seat was no better than the regular seats. When I came on board and found my seat, there were two people already in the other two seats; a mother and her adult son. Less than half the plane had boarded and they had stuff spread out in the seat like no one was going to claim the seat, even with constant announcements by the crew that the flight was sold out.

I put on a calm front, shoved myself in the seat while the adult son did the wide sitting which gave me less room, put on my headphone and listened to music for the duration of the flight.

Look, despite what seems like complaints, other than the seating fiasco with United, the trip has been as expected. You have to assume bumps on a trip, and you have to ride out the small stuff so you can be better prepared for the big stuff. Traveling to Cleveland isn’t a picnic but once there things will be interesting.

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Ultimately, Facebook Reminds Me How Little Things Have Changed

Honestly, there isn’t a lot that can be said about the recent shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the five police officers. I didn’t want to write about the subject because I know how this country works. Once the police officers were shot, the focus shifted from the possible senseless deaths of the two black men to the threat faced by police. I’ve seen local and national newscast focus on the lives of the officers, to the point where on Monday on the three major news channels half of the 30-minute broadcast by the networks focused on the Dallas police officers. Social media memes and questionable shares from unreliable sources pushed statistics and personal statements about the stress officers face, how we should hug a police officer and how acts of kindness to police are needed. Political opportunist jumped on the Black Lives Matter movement, calling them a fraud and racist. Even at the recent All Star Game, during the Canadian national anthem one of the singers changed the lyrics of the anthem to All Lives Matter and held up a sign with the slogan.

Now news organizations are reporting plots by black people to shoot officers. Already some fringe news organizations have criticized the girlfriend of Philando Castile, calling her a profiteer in her boyfriend’s death. It is being said Castile was shot because he had a gun, not because of the color of his skin. In the case of Sterling, documents now say he was reaching for a gun before being fatally shot.

Protests have happened all across the country about the shooting of Sterling and Castile, but if local coverage is any indication, the fact that the protests, in most cases are peaceful and non-violent are an astonishment to local and national media. Because of the incident in Dallas, much of the coverage I’ve witnesses has focused on the tools and tactics that the police will use if, heaven forbid, violence occurs at any of the rallies. By implication, because the rallies are happening and in some cases planned by people associated with Black Lives Matter, the assumption is that the natives might get restless and turn on officers.

A year ago, a group of angry white men had a protest at a mosque after the shooting that occurred in over the Mohammad drawing contest. I would argue there was less coverage of the concerns of violence at that march than there is of the protests happening now. I know, many would argue that the shooting by the lone gunman in Dallas changed the equation, but has it changed?

Since Black Lives Matters formed you had some on the radical right who wanted to paint the group as a new Black Panther Party; not the fake ones running around today or the actual ones in the 60s and 70s but the mythical one seen on TV and movies. They have made those in the movement out as being thugs, radicals and revolutionaries. People remotely associated with the movement, if they are accused of a crime, are suddenly propped up as leaders of the movement and are used to smear the whole group. The early speculation of the Dallas shooter was he was affiliated with the movement. When that turned out to be false, the damage was already done as initial reports of a group of snipers taking out white cops seemed more suited for old school 70s Blaxploitation movies.

In a majority of the shootings by police of black people, it doesn’t take much time before the police and opportunists paints the victim as the cause of their own demise. The person had a criminal record, the person was doing something illegal which caused their death or the person didn’t listen to the lawful commands of a police officer. We have to endure social commentators on cable news channels talk about the responsibility we, as black people, must take when these events happen. We have to have the talk with male children to respect the police and do everything they say. We have to address the high crime rates in Chicago or any ‘ghetto’ region in any part of the US before we can talk about police officers shooting black people. We have to take race out of the equation because when we say Black Lives Matter it excludes all people because all people matter, so the story goes.

When these shooting happen of police shooting black people, a good number of people want people to sit down and shut up. They don’t want to hear about race, they don’t want to hear about possible poor police training or perception issues. They will find any excuse in the world to dismiss the possibility that the police might be shooting blacks indiscriminately because they will find any excuse to deflect the discussion to something else. They will find the one crazy black person who says something idiotic and say they speak for all the protestors. They will find the one disturbed person who shoots and kills a police officer and say they are representative of everyone in the movement.

Trust me, the smear tactic doesn’t just happen with Black Lives Matters and black people getting shot by police. A Muslin shoots up a gay nightclub and he’s automatically a terrorist sympathizer and we should deport all Muslims. A migrant worker kills a woman and we need to ship all ‘illegals’ back to Mexico. Of course the counter argument is that all police aren’t shooting black people, and that’s true but if you had people of the Muslim faith shooting people every few months in the name of some cause, I might consider the argument but we aren’t talking a lone person shooting black people. We’re talking about black people being shot by people we are lead to believe who are out there to protect and serve us.

CF20160713I’ve been here for over an hour trying to get my thoughts down about the recent shooting, even though I told myself I wasn’t going to. I have been too angry about this situation, all of it, to write anything that didn’t read like I was enraged. I still think what I’ve written so far hasn’t helped any. There’s a lot more I’d love to say but it seems like I’m going in circles. Like I’ve gone through this before.

I went to Facebook and what did I find on the My Memories of Facebook? My reaction to the Zimmerman verdict, three years ago today, where I made a video that I carry with me that essentially says I’m a non-threatening black man, please don’t shoot be but if you do, this will speak for me in my own words so I’m not defined as a thug or hoodlum. Three years after the Zimmerman verdict nothing has changed. Years of marching before and after the shooting and black people are still getting shot by the police and people like myself are in fear of their lives and reputation.

That’s why as much as I’d love to say something profound or hope for change I don’t believe it will happen, not for a long time.

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Less than a Week to Go before the RNC / SDCC Trips

I have a little under a week before the travel plans begin and I’m not nearly as finished planning as I’d like to be. I’m probably going to have a day to wrap up a few loose ends before I have to pack. I have to get the packing done earlier than I want because I go to work one day and the next day I go to work again then leave straight from there to the airport for the red eye to Cleveland. It didn’t hit me how little time I have left, even though I have time technically the free time to prepare isn’t.

My friends in Cleveland have been very helpful. They know how I roll. As long as I have a corner to sleep in, a place to clean up and access to a power supply I’m good. This stage of the ‘vacation’ is more working than anything else because of the Republican convention and the changes that will be in Cleveland as far as schedules and routes.

I have a feeling a lot of what I’ll be doing on this leg of the adventure is standing on the outside of the fun stuff. I don’t have a pass onto the convention floor, so I’ll be outside with the protestors and supporters. Considering the events of last week, I have a feeling tensions will be high. I’ve joked to people that I might get hit by a Trump supporter. Now that might not be so much of a joke, although now the police have to be factored into the mix. I doubt anything will happen, but I have to be prepared.

The San Diego Comic-Con planning has been a lot easier only because I’ve been through it so many times. I think I’ll be able to see Rep John Lewis give his talk on the final book of his graphic novel MARCH. I’ve gone to his talk ever since he put out the first book and I’ve taken pictures and videos of each appearance. Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, the co-writer and artist, have become my comic-con buddies who have been very gracious and open every time I’ve attended the event and after I’ve sent them video of the presentation. They are upright guys and I appreciate that they have been appreciative of the photos and videos I’ve done.

I will catch up with a lot of convention friends, both inside and outside the convention floor. Friday, when I’m not on the convention floor, I have to get the street preachers. So much weirdness with them.

Anyway, time is getting close and a lot has to be done, but this anxious time pays off in the end with a hopefully fulfilling experience.

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Photo Inspiration

Hate Compare 2

The inspiration for this pair of photos from my recent Commuter set was a strange set of coincidences. As I was heading home, this gentleman sat across from me. I had my headphones on listening to music. I wasn’t paying much attention to him or the surroundings. It had been a long day at work and all I wanted to do was to get home.

The track that started playing on my headphones probably five minutes after the gentleman sat down was The Hate That Hate Produced by Sister Souljah. In the video of the song, there are two striking images I remember. The first is of a young black male, with a hooded KKK member in the foreground and in the background there is a shadow of a hangman’s noose. The next is of the similar image except the young black man is in shadow hanging from the noose.

While the song was playing I noticed that the way the shadows were hitting the gentleman’s body in front of me it looked like a hangman’s noose. I realized that the hanging hand supports on the bus and the bar holding them up gave the shadow image of the noose. It was so striking to me, especially when I had the song from Souljah in my head, I had to take a picture.

A few minutes later, a young black man came on the bus and when he sat down he was in the right position for the light. It looked like he was hanging by the neck from the noose. I had to take that shot. I don’t think I would have seen the noose image if I hadn’t heard the song and had I not taken the first picture I don’t think I would have taken the second. It was a situation where things lined up and I got something that was incredibly powerful to me.

Hate Compare

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2 Men Shot By Cops. America Yawns.

I don’t have the energy to be mad anymore. No energy to be sad. I mean seriously, before starting work yesterday I hear the news of the shooting in Louisiana by the police of a black man and less than 24 hours later there another shooting by police of another black male in Minnesota. This is on top of the mass shooting in Orlando less than a month ago.

I’ve written a lot of these reflections over the past few years. There’s no mystery in knowing what to write, what my feelings are, and the results of those shootings, be it the individual black person, and you know what I’m going to be fair and say the unlawful shooting of any individual by law enforcement, just so the parsing, nit picking individuals won’t have another thing to jump on me about, and the mass shooting. People will sit at their computers, retweet heartfelt words of condolences, and then will do nothing. Politicians will do their moment of silence then do nothing. We will all wait for the next shooting to occur and we will repeat the cycle.

Maybe later I’ll write more about my anger about the apathy I see and the contempt I have for a vast majority of the American public for not getting off their butts and using the rights we have guaranteed by the constitution and march, protest and letting their voices be heard.

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The Crossover Event of the Season – The Conventions

Near the end of next month, I’m going to take part in a unique opportunity. I will be in the city of Cleveland to experience the excitement of the Republican National Convention. A little over a week later, I’ll be in San Diego at the San Diego Comic Con. While there are obvious differences between the two conventions, I imagine there are more similarities than differences to both conventions. The obvious difference is the RNC convention will formally nominate, well possibly formally nominate, Donald Trump as their standard bearer for the office of President of the United States. Before his successful run for the Republican nomination, Trump was a cultural celebrity due to his Celebrity Apprentice show, which would make him right at home, at least in its current incarnation, at the San Diego Comic Con.

Without too much stretching, the RNC and San Diego conventions will attract the same type of fervent, excited and loyal fans who are there to celebrate with other like-minded people. The big difference is while San Diego convention goers may discuss and debate the political intrigue of Game of Thrones, the RNC convention goers will be debating and nominating someone who will be in combat in a real Game of Thrones; battling to become leader of the free world.

I’m not going to be at those conventions for the politics. I want to chronicle how the people of the cities and the convention goers react and interact at these two events. I didn’t realize this but I had a similar opportunity twenty years ago. In 1996, of course the Comic Con was in San Diego but that was the same year the Republicans had their conventions. Because of the generosity of a good friend I was able to attend the Republican convention that year. As fate would have it, that same friend is putting me up at their home in Cleveland so that I can be in town for the convention.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to have the ability to attend both conventions. When I was presented with the opportunity, I had just started a new job, had for the first time in over 30 years not guaranteed of going to the San Diego Comic Con and unknown to me, the next month wasn’t going to be a cake walk. Taking a stab at going to Cleveland was a shot in the dark for me; a hail Mary attempt that I thought I should at least try just in case things turned around.

Well, things did change slowly and they did for the better. I raised the money for the airfare for Cleveland and San Diego. Even though I didn’t get into the San Diego Comic Con, I realized I couldn’t pass up on the free room and board I was offered (OK, semi free, I did promise to pay a little bit and cook a meal, a small price I’m willing to pay). At the last moment I took a shot at my job and asked for an unorthodox pattern of time off so I could attend both conventions and still work a little. The time, to my happiness, was approved. Late last week I finally saved up the money I needed to cover incidentals for both trips, then was surprised to secure what I’ll call an insurance policy.

More good news happened last night. It looks like I will get into the San Diego Comic Con this year after all! It will be for one day, but getting myself inside the door for a day will keep my attendance record alive but getting into the convention, and actually this whole project of comparing and contrasting both conventions has yielded a lesson I wouldn’t have figured the experience would give me.

I have some really amazing friends. I don’t think, actually I know I don’t say that a lot but I do. They’re all good people, the folks that I say are my friends. I mean I have Jenna and Tim putting me up in their home for Cleveland. Cody is offering her pad in San Diego to crash at, which is incredibly close, within walking distance, to the convention. That’s definitely better than my usual Tijuana arrangement and means I don’t have to walk up at 3am to cross the border. Ray was kind enough to arrange for me to get a ticket into Comic Con for a day. Linda, without asking for any money, helped me out possible bogus lawsuit early this year. Without even knowing it, another Ray friend wrote a lot about depression which helped me understand and cope with my own depression. Yes, Lynn, even the message you sent to me made me consider what you were concerned about.

There were more people who gave me advice, words of encouragement and sometimes nothing more than a hello that helped me at times this year which I can’t put into words how much it helped. Even seeing messages from new friends like Gaby and Chris from work have put a smile on my face and made feel just a bit more human.

In the next few weeks a lot of my posts are going to be made on all of the websites I have because this trip is starting to look like, in comic book terms, a crossover event. Between the planning for the trip, the events themselves and hopefully great pictures this adventure is shaping up to be something that will last with me for a long time. It will be great to see my friends in Cleveland and experience the town again. Something I’ll be able to do in San Diego this year is explore the town during Comic Con.

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Starting the Prep for Convention Season

When I was at work this afternoon, it being a typical hard work day, I started thinking about all the planning I needed to do for the upcoming working vacations in Cleveland and San Diego. Yesterday I got an email from my friend in Cleveland confirming everything was a go for staying with her and her family. I’ve known her and her husband for years and if you believe the toast her husband gave at the wedding, and I’ve known her husband almost as long as I’ve known her, I was the one who got them together in the beginning.

Yep, all true.

Anyway, while I was checking out the transportation system in Cleveland I saw they had special commemorative passes for the RNC week. The cost was the same as a regular unlimited weekly pass so I had to buy one online.

I did that during my break and as I went back to work for the barrage of phone calls it started sinking in that I was really going to be doing this really long and interesting trip. I started to get nervous and excited as the time went on before leaving work because I started to get the excitement and energy I would get when working on a film project. I’m in my element when I’m planning how all the parts will fit together, even anticipating that some things might go wrong and how to compensate for that. It makes me feel great when I can get everything working as it should.

That’s how I’m feeling now in the early stages. Thursday is when I’m going fully in on getting some of the good plans lined up and mapping out Cleveland for photo opportunities. Here’s an example of the excitement that gets me going when working on projects like this. I was planning on going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I was going to buy tickets online, but when I got to the date of the RNC those dates were blocked out. I was afraid it might be closed for the convention and I did a quick message on Twitter about not being able to get advanced tickets. As soon as I posted it I thought, dude, you have been out of this type of thinking for too long. Do what you do.

It took me less than two minutes to find out the reason for the blacked out dates was because on the days of the convention the Hall of Fame would be free but the hours would be shortened. Not a problem for me. If I could still get into it, I was good. It might be a lot more crowded but I could get in, cool.

A good friend of mine post and after some quick conversations, it looks like I will be able to get into the San Diego Comic Con for one day. It was entirely an unexpected turn of events and I know it may sound silly to a lot of folks but for me to keep the streak alive and being able to set foot at the San Diego Comic Con is satisfying in ways that I cannot express.

I felt like I was going down this wild rabbit hole after I lost my job last year. It was like all the stable element is had set up in my life were getting torn down. I was trying to make myself believe what was happening was like many rebirth stories I’ve read in comics; where the hero has such a great tragedy befall them, with so much being forsaken yet they find a way to battle back from the depths and rise up to become a better and stronger individual. You might think it’s melodramatic but living though what I did, and maybe it wasn’t as traumatic as what some people have to deal with, but to me losing a lot of those stable elements hurt me. I’m going to be honest and say I know I didn’t hit some rock bottom where I was staring into an abyss in a fetal position and balling my eyes out. I did know I was in a spiral and I had to find a way to get myself out.

The upcoming trip is beginning to be a good thing for me because I’m feeling things I’d forgotten about. I’m looking at small opportunities and building on them. It’s not some grand plan I’ve for set up but I’m genuinely excited about the opportunities I will have in the next few weeks.

Of course, the byproduct of being this excited about the upcoming opportunities is sleep. I have to get some sleep soon so I can go to work but I can feel the energy inside me that could keep me up well into morning. That’s how I used to roll. I’ll calm myself down and get to sleep but I’m glad the old me is returning. I’ve been away too long.

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Here We Go Again on Gun Control

It amazes me that people who seem to think more guns owned by citizens would make mass shootings a thing of the past believes that. One of the views posed by these armchair Monday morning quarterbacks is that if more people had guns at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando then the death toll would have been less.

Let’s take a moment to lay out the situation. People are at a nightclub. For those of you who have ever been to a nightclub, you know that a club is all about having a good time. Part of that good time is great music, which usually means it is loud. You’re going to have pulsating music with a loud beat. That’s why, for those of you whom have never been to a nightclub, people have a hard time hearing one another. You have to yell to someone next to you, in most cases, to be heard.

A club is going to have pulsating lights and the room will be dimly lit, which makes for a certain kind of atmosphere. Yes, for those of you whom have never been to a club the flashing lights in a dark room makes it hard to see. The strobe lights don’t help the eyes to adjust. The view in a nightclub, even when the lights aren’t pulsing, is pretty rough because it’s so dark. With flashing lights, it can take the eyes time to adjust.

So, just at the start of our ‘armed citizens can take out a bad guy’ scenario you have disorienting sounds and lights that have to be dealt with in the Orlando shooting. Now we need to talk about drinking. A nightclub, by its very nature, means alcohol will be served. Some may drink a lot, some may drink a little but if you take any alcohol in an environment where your senses are already impaired, it will be tough to overcome all of that to react to the risk of a deranged person with a gun.

There are a number of other factors that can be brought up, but the point I’m trying to show is that when you are out in the real world, you don’t automatically survey the environment for threat, check out exit points, work out strategies for extraction and all sorts of other hostile threats and counter actions for them. If you are going into a club, in fact if you’re going about your everyday routine, you’re not thinking like you’re in a combat zone. You’re not thinking about exit strategies, about possible threats or other hostile intentions by others.

When there were a rash of black men getting shot by the police, and there were cries of racist police, one of the things local police agencies across the country did to show how difficult it was for police to make split second decisions was to take reporters and community leaders onto training grounds to show them how tough it was to make decisions ‘on the streets.’ As hokey and obviously biased as those stunts were in my eyes, it did illustrate that shooting decisions are quick and irreversible. You can’t hit a reset button; you can’t get more lives by getting the golden coin. The split second decision to fire the gun can have life changing consequences. In the cases the police faced with shooting black men, most of those were out in the open, in daylight, with no impairment with alcohol, strobing lights or pulsating music.

Take the argument about guns to another level. In the example I gave about reporters going through those police shooting grounds, police are initially trained for months about gun safety, proper use of the gun and the legal consequences of using the gun. They have annual tests to show they are proficient with the gun. They have the practices on the training field with the gun to make sure their marksmanship is on point. On top of everything else, they have a group of fellow officers that have had the same type of training, so when a hostile situation shows up each officer has an idea of what their fellow officer, their back up, will so in the same situation. The same would go for those who have military service, in the fact they have the same rigorous training, probably more, than an officer does in dealing with a threat.

However, with all due respect, an active military person who trains with a group isn’t the same as a lone active military person in a hostile situation. What I mean is if you have trained with the same group of people for months and you go out on patrol, you have been trained as a unit to look for danger and how to react to that danger as a team, because you have trained with the same people for months if not years. You will know how your fellow active military person will act in a combat situation.

It might be possible if that same active military guy was taken from his group and placed into another group of similarly trained active military people and thrown into an active hostile situation they might be able to subdue the active shooter, but there might be mistakes. If you don’t think so, then, going back to the police. Why would so many officers kill unarmed black men if they have the massive amount of training they have?

If you can have incidents where police who have constant training, partners and other coworkers with the same intense training and they can make mistakes, why would you think it is a good idea for less trained citizens, with varying degrees of training, if they even bother to train at all on a regular basis, have the firepower and more importantly the permission to attack an armed suspect?

Noticed how I worded that because that is the real question we have to ask ourselves when people proclaim that if more people had guns in a situation like the Orlando shooting the death toll would be less. What these advocates are saying ultimately is they want to give ordinary citizens the permission to have a gun so if a hostile incident occurs they can, with the blessings of law enforcement and society, use deadly force to take out the suspect. In this particular case, would you honestly think one of more gun toting club goers is a good idea?

Let me lay this out again. So if I’m at a nightclub with friends, with the flashing lights, the loud music, the mass of people and alcohol flowing with others and themselves, and if a gunman comes into that scene and is shooting, the armchair Monday morning quarterbacks want to say it’s OK for a number of those people who might have guns on them to shoot away. So one person with a gun in a chaotic situation could become a lot of people shooting at each other in a chaotic situation.

How could anything go wrong with that?

There are a lot of super pro-gun advocates out there who may have a good argument in saying that no law would have prevented this one lone gunman from carrying out his massacre. The problem is they’re so hung up on the second amendment right to bear arms they’re willing to sacrifice the needs of the many for the needs of the few. They want the rest of us to accept that Johnny Six Guns, the honest citizen down the street, has a right to buy as many guns and as many types of guns as he wants, all in the name of freedom, protection and the second amendment. It’s not acceptable to them that Johnny might have to wait 15 days to get the gun. They want him to be able to waltz into the nearest Walmart, put down a few hundred dollars and walk out with an AR-15 with no questions asked.

They don’t want to think about the reasons why Johnny Six Guns may want to have multiple guns. They don’t want to ask the question why Johnny Six Gins would want an AR-15. They will always argue, in any mass shooting case, that no matter the law a bad person will always get their hands on guns, thus it doesn’t make sense to them to hinder the rights of law abiding Johnny Six Guns because the crooks, no matter what laws we put on the books, will be able to get a gun.

My argument would be that we shouldn’t make it easy for criminals to get assault weapons that can kill 10 of people in a second. So what if the law abiding citizen has to wait 15 days or more to get an assault rifle, and I want to make clear I’m talking about assault guns, not hunting guns, not pistols; I’m talking about military style guns which, in a perfect world, would be desired by gun collectors to place in their homes for display. They aren’t using them for self-defense or for an imminent threat. Let them, and the criminals, wait for some time before purchasing the weapons. If you really believe that it won’t prevent a tragedy like the massacre in Orlando, then why can we not have a law that makes people wait? The gun collector and Johnny Six Guns are law abiding people and we’re only asking for a delay in the purchase. They will ultimately get the gun.

Why not have something in place, at the very least, will demonstrate that if a person is determined to do a massacre we make them work for it. In that case, if they are captured and brought to trail, there is no question in anybody’s mind that the individual was determined to do the vile action.

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