ORLANDO, Fla. – Two families are suing Universal Orlando after separate incidents during which an actor playing the “Despicable Me” movie character Gru made a racist hand gesture while posing for photos and video with biracial children.
The civil rights lawsuit was filed on behalf of two girls, who were 5 and 6 years old at the time of the photos, in the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court in Orange County on June 23. The complaint lists Universal Orlando as the defendant.
The “OK” hand gesture has been defined as a sign used to indicate “hate” by the American Anti-Defamation League. The lawsuit listed several high-profile hate crimes during which the suspects displaced the hand gesture, including the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
According to the lawsuit, one documented incident occurred on March 23, 2019, when a 6-year-old girl referred to as J.Z. in the document attended a breakfast at Universal’s Loews Royal Pacific Resort and posed for a photo and video with a person dressed in the Gru costume. The actor placed a hand on her shoulder while displaying the “OK” hate symbol, according to the photo provided by the families. The hand gesture was on display for an extended period of time on the biracial child’s shoulder, lawyers for the family wrote.
The 6-year-old later printed out a screenshot from the video to bring to school for a project and was humiliated when she was told she could not display it for her class because of the hand gesture in the images, according to the lawsuit.
In February 2019, a person dressed as Gru did the same thing to another 5-year-old girl, referred to as H.R. in the lawsuit, at the Universal Orlando theme park.
A spokesperson for Universal confirmed in October 2019 the actor was fired but did not disclose the name of the employee.
The families say Universal Orlando has refused to disclose the actor behind the Gru character and for civil rights violations.
Both families are claiming the girls suffered mental anguish, loss of dignity, humiliation, embarrassment and other emotional distress due to the incidents.
The lawsuit claims Universal Orlando violated the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992.
The families are seeking more than $30,000 in damages.