Two New Jersey men were arrested during a roughly three-hour protest outside Sesame Place late Saturday afternoon, the latest show of public support for a New York woman whose cell phone video of a park employee in a character costume apparently rejecting two Black girls went viral.
The protest was the first at the popular theme park since the July 16 incident where Brooklyn resident Jodi Brown alleges a park employee dressed in a “Rosita” costume rejected hug requests from her 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old niece, who are Black, during a character parade, but interacted with other white guests.
Calls went out on social media Friday for protestors to gather at the park at noon Saturday. However, only two people, representing the Delaware NAACP, showed up at that time. They were outnumbered by police and media.
Around 2:30 p.m., about two dozen protesters arrived and set up at the crosswalk leading to the front entrance of Sesame Place on North Buckstown Road, according to a press release from Middletown police.
The park had prearranged a staging area for the protesters near the park entrance with cold water available, but protesters refused to gather there, police said.
The two unidentified New Jersey men who were part of the protest then repeatedly stepped into moving traffic on North Buckstown Road in an attempt to obstruct traffic, causing vehicles to swerve and stop to avoid them. They also attempted to block the crosswalk where park guests were crossing to get into the park, police said.
The men allegedly refused repeated police officer requests that they not block the crosswalk and traffic, but they refused to stop, police said. The men also were yelling expletives in front of children and telling police they would not stop attempting to block traffic, the release said.
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Middletown police did not provide names of the men arrested, but described them as a 50-year-old man from Newark and a 46-year-old man from Camden. They were were charged with summary offenses for obstruction of highways and disorderly conduct and released, police said.
After the arrests, police said the remaining protesters continued a peaceful demonstration for several hours.
A nearly four-minute expletive-filled video showing protesters in the crosswalk outside the park entrance was livestreamed on social media.
The video shows the legs of guests in the crosswalk and a confrontation with Middletown police officers, but a minute into the video the camera lens is blocked. Voices can be heard chanting “No justice, no peace,” and yelling derogatory comments toward police.
The original, 9-second video capturing the apparent snub on July 16 has been viewed more than 880,000 times on social media since it was posted and generated a public outcry and calls for a boycott of the park. It also prompted other Black parents to post videos they say show costumed characters at 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 its insensitive handling of Brown’s accusations. The Congressional Black Caucus on Saturday issued a statement requesting a meeting with the president of Sesame Place to discuss changes, plans of action and training the park plans to implement.
Also, attorneys representing Brown announced at news conference that they have been in discussions with SeaWorld executives about changes to its operations to prevent future incidents. Brown and her supporters are also demanding the park terminate the employee who snubbed the girls.
In public statements, Sesame Place has repeatedly apologized to the Brown family, called the incident “unacceptable” and pledged to review its practices and polices and implement mandatory bias training for all employees. It has not stated whether it has disciplined the employee, who it said was “devastated” to find out what happened.
The company has also offered to meet in-person with Brown and her attorneys to deliver a personal apology and an “acknowledgement that we are holding ourselves accountable for what happened.”