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The Valley

Suit Accuses Theme Park of Discrimination

Court: Fourteen black plaintiffs file class action against Six Flags Magic Mountain, claiming the civil rights of more than 4,000 were violated.

August 29, 2001|CAITLIN LIU | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A class-action lawsuit filed against Six Flags Magic Mountain alleges that the amusement park illegally discriminated against more than 4,000 black patrons, including a former Olympic bronze medalist.

The lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court contends that employees of the Valencia-area park harassed, falsely imprisoned, assaulted and intimidated individuals of African or African American descent, in violation of California's civil rights laws as well as the state's Business and Professional Code.

It is the latest of several dozen racial discrimination claims filed by African Americans and Latinos against Magic Mountain. One suit has about 30 plaintiffs; another that alleges that a park employee made racist slurs may go to trial today.

Magic Mountain spokesman Andy Gallardo said Tuesday he could not comment on the specifics of the latest suit because park officials had not yet seen it. But he said any allegations of racial discrimination against the park are false.

The "accusations that Six Flags has discriminatory policies are completely absurd," Gallardo said. "All of our security measures are completely justifiable and reasonable and they do not use race in any shape or form."

The lawsuit filed by attorney Jacob George names 14 plaintiffs, including 1984 Olympic bronze medalist Israel Cole, a boxer who won the award for Sierra Leone.

In October 2000, Cole was allegedly assaulted, battered, falsely imprisoned, falsely arrested and threatened by Magic Mountain security workers, the suit contends. The complaint also claims that Cole was subjected to racial slurs, "including disparaging remarks about his African tribal heritage."

Other plaintiffs received similar treatment, the suit alleges. One plaintiff, Leon Griffin II, was allegedly falsely arrested and prosecuted for fighting on the park's premises, according to the suit. The suit states that all charges against Griffin were later dismissed.

The 14 plaintiffs were kicked out of Magic Mountain "solely on the basis of their race," the suit said. It alleges the incidents were part of the park's policies and practices that discriminated against blacks in the last four years.

"Plaintiffs are informed and believe that there are in excess of 4,000 class members," the complaint states, without explaining how it arrived at that figure. George could not be reached for comment.

The suit asks for compensatory damages for lost admission fees, physical injuries and emotional distress as well as punitive damages.

In a separate suit, jury selection is expected to begin today in a case in which Thurman Brown alleges that a Magic Mountain worker taunted him with racial slurs while Brown was on a ride in August 1999. The comments were recorded on a videotape Brown bought from park employees of himself taking the ride, said Brown's attorney, Robert Weinstein.

Gallardo said there is no evidence the recorded slurs were made by a park employee rather than a patron nearby.

Weinstein said he believes the court eventually will consolidate all the discrimination lawsuits against Magic Mountain.

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