Two New Jersey men were arrested during a roughly three-hour protest near Sesame Square late Saturday afternoon. The latest display of public support for a New York City woman whose mobile phone video of a park employee in character costume apparently rejecting two black girls has gone viral. .
The protest was the first at a popular theme park since a July 16 incident in which Brooklyn resident Jodi Brown claims a park employee dressed in a Rosita costume turned down requests for hugs from her 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old niece. who are black during the parade of characters, but interacted with other white guests.
On Friday, calls were made on social media for protesters to gather in the park on Saturday afternoon. However, only two people showed up at the time, representing the Delaware NAACP. The police and the media outnumbered them.
Around 2:30 p.m., about two dozen protesters arrived at the crosswalk leading to the main entrance to Sesame Place on North Buckstown Road, according to a Middletown police press release.
The park had a pre-arranged area for protesters near the park’s cold water entrance, but protesters refused to gather there, police said.
Two unidentified New Jersey men who had participated in the protest then repeatedly interfered with traffic on North Buckstown Road in an attempt to obstruct traffic, causing cars to swerve and stop to avoid them. Police said they also tried to block a pedestrian crossing that park visitors would use to cross the road to enter the park.
The men allegedly refused repeated police requests not to block the pedestrian crossing and traffic, but refused to stop, police said. The report said the men also shouted obscenities in front of children and told police they would not stop trying to block traffic.
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Middletown police did not name those arrested, but described them as a 50-year-old man from Newark and a 46-year-old man from Camden. They were charged with summary offenses for road closures and disorderly conduct and were released, police said.
Police said that after the arrests, the remaining protesters continued to demonstrate peacefully for several hours.
A nearly four-minute video filled with expletives showing protesters at a pedestrian crossing at the entrance to the park was broadcast live on social media.
The footage of the guests on the pedestrian crossing and the confrontation with the Middletown police are visible on the video, but after a minute the camera lens is blocked. Voices are heard chanting “No justice, no peace” and shouting derogatory comments at the police.
The original 9-second video, which depicts the apparent disdain on July 16, has been viewed more than 880,000 times on social media since it was posted and sparked public outcry and calls for a boycott of the park. It also prompted other black parents to post videos that they say show costumed characters in the park ignoring their children but interacting with children of other races.
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The park and its owner and operator SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment have faced widespread criticism for what some groups have described as insensitive handling of Brown’s accusations. The Congressional Black Caucus on Saturday released a statement requesting a meeting with the president of Sesame Place to discuss changes, action plans, and educate the park’s implementation plans.
In addition, lawyers representing Brown announced at a press conference that they are discussing changes to SeaWorld’s operations with SeaWorld management to prevent future incidents. Brown and her supporters are also demanding that the park fire an employee who was dismissive of the girls.
In public statements, Sesame Place repeatedly apologized to the Brown family, called the incident “unacceptable” and promised to review its practices and policies and provide mandatory bias training to all employees. He did not say if he punished the employee, who he said was “devastated”, to find out what happened.
The company also offered to meet with Brown and her lawyers in person to offer a personal apology and “acknowledge that we are responsible for what happened.”
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