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Families sue Universal Orlando after mascot uses white power gesture

Josephine 12/07/2021

  Two families are suing Universal Orlando after an actor dressed as the "Despicable Me" character Gru flashed a white power symbol  while posing for photos with biracial children.

  The lawsuit filed on the behalf of two girls, who were 5 and 6 years old at the time of the photos, alleges that they suffered humiliation and mental anguish from the separate episodes at the theme park in Orlando.

  One of the incidents occurred when the 6-year-old girl met the movie character at a breakfast hosted at Universal's Loews Royal Pacific Resort in March 2019, according to the suit filed June 23 in Orange County court.

When she posed for a photo with the actor, he placed a hand on her shoulder while making an upside-down "OK" symbol, which the Anti-Defamation League added to its list of hate symbols.

"He put his hand on her as if he was just doing it regularly, and as I was looking at the camera, he started to put the universal white supremacist hate sign on her shoulder," her mother, Tiffiney Zinger, previously told reporter.

"We just wanted to take them to see the Minions, do something special for our family, and this person ruined that special warm feeling," she said.

  The suit said the child later brought a printed screenshot from a video of the encounter to school for a project — but she was humiliated when she was told that she could not show it in class because of the hand gesture in the image.

  The character made the same symbol with his hand when he met the 5-year-old girl at the theme park in February 2019, the suit said. 

  The suit alleges that the incidents left the girls suffering from mental anguish, loss of dignity, humiliation, embarrassment and other emotional distress — and their families are seeking $30,000 in damages, WKMG reported.

  Universal Orlando Resort previously said it fired the actor, whose identity hasn't been released.

"We never want our guests to experience what this family did," a spokesman told USA Today. "This is not acceptable and we are sorry — and we are taking steps to make sure nothing like this happens again.

"We can't discuss specifics about this incident, but we can confirm that the actor no longer works here."

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