So there were a whole bunch of white men in uniform acting inappropriately in NYC on Saturday December 13th and for a change, it wasn’t the NYPD. It was Santa Claus. Thousands of them.
Last Saturday, New Yorkers had a choice.
1) Join the ‘Millions March’ and protest against the racism ingrained in America’s police and legal institutions.
2) Dress up as Santa Claus, get smashed and act like a dick.
3) Do neither, and attempt to go about your day in New York City. If that involved going anywhere near Manhattan, your day likely included whinging about how both events completely ruined your day. Welcome to New York. There’s always an event.
4) Stay home, hide and pretend that racism doesn’t exist, and that Santa Claus isn’t a drunk white arsehole.
I’m not sure about the official numbers, but I was at the Millions March, and the crowd did stretch over a mile. Police estimated it at under 30,000, while the events organisers put the number at over 50,000.
Most significant protests over the last few decades are about something other than the police, however the police are always in attendance. Considering this protest was in large part about the police, I’m going to go with the protestors estimate.
I did see a guy standing on a car and attempting to count the protestors, and he seemed to point his pen at everyone that I saw, so maybe someone should’ve asked him?
The ‘Millions March’ was part of a string of demonstrations around the country, following the grand jury decisions not to indict the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, which sit at a seemingly endless list of similar incidents.
During my several hours at this protest I did not witness any violence. There were reports of a few of isolated incidents that occurred later in the evening, but considering the number of people, and that the group providing the security were the ones the people were protesting against, I think this almost complete lack of violence is remarkable.
The general feeling at the protest seemed to be that American society is so inherently racist that this is a problem it’ll take years to fix, but we need to start right now. By making mammoth and system wide changes in procedure and perspective, at the same time as everyone considering their own personal prejudices. The continuing reluctance of every police force in America to even admit that there’s a problem, let alone do anything about it, prove just what a huge problem it remains.
The problem of racism is currently being disregard by those in authority in the exactly the same way as those who first pointed out that the world was flat were put to death as heretics, while everyone else continued to worry about falling off the edge, and the Native Americans were overjoyed that nobody was bothering them. Yet.
On the same day as the Millions March, there was Santacon. An annual bar crawl where participants dress as Santa or some associated Xmas character, and get drunk. Now they don’t have to get drunk, and they are advised by organisers not to get drunk, but they do.
It is a bar crawl after all, and not getting drunk on a bar crawl is like going to a strip club for the food, or a McDonalds for the food, when everyone knows the only real reason to go into a McDonalds is because you desperately need to use the bathroom. It’s the same with Starbucks, and most office jobs.
As well as disgracing themselves, these rampaging and very naughty Santas no doubt terrified any youngsters in New York City soaking up the Xmas Spirit.
‘Mummy, why is Santa Claus in the gutter covered in vomit?’
‘Daddy, what is Santa doing to that Elf and where are their pants?’
‘Why is Santa sleeping on the the subway floor?’
‘Why isn’t Santa wearing a shirt?’
‘Aunty, why does Santa smell like Daddy on Friday night?’
‘Uncle, why are those Santas punching each other?’
There’s a good reason that every year business owners, community boards and residents all try to shut Santacon down.
It supposedly raises money for charity, and last year brought in around $60,000. No doubt a fraction of the amount spent on cheap santa suits, overpriced drinks at the bars frequented by these sad excuses for Santa, and greasy food the following day to placate huge hangovers.
Oh and there were far more arrests associated with Santacon than the protests. No official numbers yet, but estimates are many times the single digits of the Millions March.
Check out the rules of Santacon here: https://www.santacon.info/about.html
They’re pretty funny, and make little sense. Such as the rule that prohibits getting drunk, but if you do, the next rule advises you to make sure you get arrested, have it recorded and posted to YouTube. Which I’m sure is meant to be a joke, but a quick scan of YouTube shows evidence of plenty taking this joke way too far.
The organisers of Santacon in New York did attempt to scale it back due to the Millions March Protest, and back at its inception, Santacon had entirely different aims. It started twenty years ago in San Francisco as a piece of performance art that was supposed to poke fun at the rampant consumerism now associated with Xmas. Lofty goals indeed, and it’s a pity that Santacon has devolved into a drunken mess. Like most Xmas Day celebrations and holidays in Western society, if we’re going to be brutally honest.
To those who chose to attend Santacon on the day of the Millions March protest, well that says plenty about you as a person. You had a chance to do something good and decent. Instead you chose to line up at a series of bars, with your sole goal to get messy by early afternoon. Just, why? I don’t get one single part of it. I suppose anyone who chose to stay home or away from the protest are nearly as bad.
Back to the protests, and although predominately non-violent, it’s important to reflect on the general essence of any demonstration. People who feel that the system is continually failing them and that change is needed will voice there concerns, usually peacefully to begin with, through methods such as protests.
If the system continues to ignore their reasonable requests for justice, they will become increasingly frustrated. When their peaceful pleas for action achieve nothing, they will try something else, and the repeated failure of next steps may leave some rightly feeling that violence is their only available option.
Or maybe they turn to drugs and alcohol to soothe their tattered minds. Depending on the season, they might even dress up in order to really get into the spirit of their depression. If it’s Xmas – maybe they even dress up as Santa Claus.
So is it possible that Santacon wasn’t just a bar crawl? That it’s a deeply personally expression of protest by those who’ve already become completely fed up with this inherently racist system?
Unfortunately, I doubt it.
Really, to believe that, you also need to still believe in the real Santa Claus.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian
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