An image of a Universal Orlando employee dressed as Despicable Me villain Gru has sparked a lawsuit against the theme park. The villain is posing with two young girls of color and is shown flashing a popular white supremacist gesture in the image. The lawsuit made it to court on June 23, 2021, in Orange County, Florida. The lawsuit includes the photos from the February and March 2019 visit with the character who is clearly making the upside-down “Okay” gesture with his hand, which has been popularly adopted by white supremacist groups to promote their hateful causes.
The victims of the Universal Orlando racist incident were young girls. One was a six-year-old biracial girl, while the other victim was just a five-year-old girl who identifies as Hispanic. Either way, the actor who played Gru made it very clear that he was part of a white supremacist group by flashing the gesture as part of the photographs with the little girls.
“He openly and pointedly displayed towards them a universally-known and universally-used hate symbol that indicates white power,” the lawsuit states. “This white power hand signal has become openly and widely used to express hatred towards a segment of the population based upon a person’s race, color, and national origin, and it has prevalently and commonly been known as a hate symbol for years.”
After being employed by white supremacist groups for some time, the “Okay” gesture was officially added as a form of hate speech in 2017 by the Anti-Defamation League.
The incident was made even more horrible because the little girls were so excited to see the character at the theme park. According to the little girl’s parents, the six-year-old biracial girl rushed up to the Gru character because he was one of her favorite cartoon characters from the movies. She posed with a picture with the actor back in February 2019.
The actor put his arm around the biracial girl and made the racist hand gesture above her shoulder – letting it linger so it would be picked up in the photo and seen by her family. The actor wanted people to know about his allegiance to white supremacist causes and abused his status as a theme park worker to spread the message of hate.
The little girl was eager to show her photo with Gru to her friends, but her parents did not let her do that because “a man did a bad thing to her because he did not like her because of her race and color,” the lawsuit says.
One month later, the actor playing Gru did the exact same thing when posing for a photo with a five-year-old Hispanic girl. The lawsuit claims that both incidents are part of a larger problem and show that Universal Orlando did nothing to stop the spread of white supremacist hate inside their theme park.
So far, the theme park has not published the actor’s name nor confirmed whether it was the same person in both images.
Nevertheless, the children were left suffering from “‘mental anguish, loss of dignity, loss of innocence, emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, and loss of enjoyment of life” because of the racist gesture.
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