U.S. Disneyland workers say proposed July reopening may be too early


Unions representing 17,000 workers at Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N) Disneyland Resort in California have told the state’s governor they are not convinced the theme park will be safe enough to reopen by the company’s July target date.
In a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday, the unions said they had been in discussions with Disney since mid-March when Disneyland was closed to help curb the coronavirus pandemic. The resort in Anaheim, in southern California, houses the Disneyland theme park and the California Adventure Park, both of which the company aims to reopen July 17.
“Unfortunately, despite intensive talks with the company, we are not yet convinced it is safe to reopen the parks,” the letter from the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions said.
A Disney spokesperson said Friday the company had put the safety of workers and guests “at the forefront of our planning.”
“We look forward to continued dialogue with our unions on the extensive health and safety protocols, following guidance from public health experts,” the spokesperson said.
The California Department of Public Health said theme parks would be able to welcome guests when the state reaches Stage 3 of its phased reopening plan. It is currently in Stage 2.
The agency said it would release guidelines on how to minimize coronavirus spread at theme parks, but said there was no timetable yet for when the guidance would be issued. Disney plans to reopen Florida’s Walt Disney World on July 11 with extensive measures ranging from requiring masks and temperature checks to suspending activities such as parades that create crowds.
The Disneyland unions said the company had accommodated some concerns. But there were “numerous questions Disney has not answered, including any serious discussion of ‘testing’ - which has been the cornerstone of plans for other areas of the entertainment industry reopening,” the unions said.
“Therefore, at this point, we do not know if the resort can be operated safely,” the letter said.
Thousands marched through U.S. cities on Friday in Juneteenth observances marking the abolition of slavery more than a century and a half ago, an occasion freighted with special resonance this year amid America’s reckoning with its legacy of racism.
Capping nearly four weeks of protests and national soul-searching aroused by the death of a black man, George Floyd, under the knee of a white police officer, demonstrators took to the streets from Atlanta to Oakland, California, blending the Juneteenth holiday with calls for racial justice.
With many formal Juneteenth events canceled due to coronavirus concerns, activists instead organized a host of virtual observances online, as well as street marches and “car caravans” through several major cities.
While the gatherings were largely festive in mood, in keeping with Juneteenth traditions, they were also animated by demands for reforms to end brutality and discrimination in U.S. law enforcement.
Organized labor joined in the movement, with union dockworkers at 29 West Coast cargo ports marking the occasion by staging a one-day strike. Numerous major U.S. corporations declared June 19 a paid holiday this year, some for the first time.
Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and 19th, commemorates the U.S. abolition of slavery under President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, belatedly announced by a Union army in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, after the Civil War ended.
Texas officially made it a holiday in 1980, and 45 more states and the District of Columbia have since followed suit.
Four Democratic U.S. senators planned to introduce a bill to declare Juneteenth a federal holiday.
“Juneteenth is the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the US. And it should be recognized as a federal holiday,” Senator Tina Smith, one of four, wrote on Twitter.
One focal point of Friday’s events was Atlanta, a center of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, where about 1,000 people gathered at Centennial Olympic Park downtown for a peaceful march on the state capitol building.

A woman raises her fist during events to mark Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in Texas, two years after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves elsewhere in the United States, amid nationwide protests against racial inequality, in the Harlem neighbourhood of Manhattan, in New York City, New York, U.S., June 19, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Emotions were running high in Atlanta, where Rayshard Brooks, an African American, was fatally shot in the back by a white policeman in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant on June 12, reigniting outrage still simmering from Floyd’s death on May 25 in Minneapolis. The Atlanta policeman was dismissed from the department and charged with murder, although his arrest came more quickly than that of the officer ultimately charged with murder in the Floyd case.
Many Atlanta marchers carried signs proclaiming “Black Lives Matter,” or “Get your knee off our necks,” and “I can’t breathe,” referring to Floyd’s dying words.

‘CIVIL RIGHTS ISN’T OVER’

Marcher Antonio Jeremiah Parks, 27, of Atlanta, said the civil rights movement had not yet fulfilled its promises.
“Civil rights isn’t over,” said Parks, who is black and works at a homeless shelter. “We still feel the pain of slavery. It’s not healed, and won’t be until we’re treated the same.”
Leia Shanks, 34, who is white and works in retail, said, “We need to stand against racism, and even though it’s 2020, what’s happening now isn’t right.”
In New York City, a few hundred protesters, most of them wearing masks against the spread of the coronavirus, gathered outside the Brooklyn Museum.
“African-American history is American history. Black history is American history. We need to be heard, we need people to see us. ... we need to be understood, we need to be seen as equal,” Maxwell Awosanya said as he handed out free snacks and water to the swelling crowd of protesters.
A diverse crowd, including parents with children in strollers and a large contingent of people on bicycles, marched in downtown Brooklyn, chanting “No justice, no peace” and “Say his name, George Floyd.”
In Texas, where Juneteenth originated, Lucy Bremond oversees what is believed to be the oldest public celebration of the occasion each year in Houston’s Emancipation Park. This year a gathering that typically draws some 6,000 people to the park was replaced with a virtual observance.
“There are a lot of people who did not even know Juneteenth existed until these past few weeks,” Bremond said.
Some 1,500 protesters gathered at the Port of Oakland to join local dockworkers in a work stoppage. The crowd was due to march to downtown Oakland, with many of the dockworkers driving in a caravan along the way.


But much of the annual observance was taking take place on social media, with online lectures, discussion groups, and virtual breakfasts - organized as a safe alternative for a minority community especially hard hit by the pandemic.
“We have been training our staff on how to use technology to present their events virtually and online,” said Steve Williams, president of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.
 Protesters marched over the Brooklyn Bridge, chanted “We want justice now!” near St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, stopped work at West Coast ports, and paused for a moment of silence at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, as Americans marked Juneteenth with new urgency Friday amid a nationwide push for racial justice.
The holiday, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, is usually celebrated with parades and festivals but became a day of protest this year in the wake of demonstrations set off by George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police.
In addition to traditional cookouts and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation — the Civil War-era order that declared all enslaved people free in Confederate territory — Americans of all backgrounds were marching, holding sit-ins, or taking part in car caravan protests.
Thousands gathered at a religious rally in Atlanta. Hundreds marched from St. Louis’ Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott case partially played out, a pivotal one that denied citizenship to African Americans but galvanized the anti-slavery movement. Protesters and revelers held signs in Dallas, danced to a marching band in Chicago, and registered people to vote in Detroit.
“Now we have the attention of the world, and we are not going to let this slide,” Charity Dean, director of Detroit’s Office of Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity, said at an event that drew hundreds and called for an end to police brutality and racial inequality.
Events marking Juneteenth were planned in every major American city Friday, although some were being held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. At some events, including in Chicago and New York, participants packed together, though many wore masks. At others, masks were scarce.
Cranes came to a standstill as longshoremen in more than two dozen West Coast ports stopped work to mark Juneteenth. In California’s Port of Oakland, political activist and former Black Panther Party member Angela Davis thanked the workers for shutting down on “the day when we renew our commitment to the struggle for freedom.”
In Nashville, Tennessee, about two dozen Black men, most wearing suits, stood arm in arm in front of the city’s criminal courts. Behind them was a statue of Adolpho Birch, the first African American to serve as chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court.
“If you were uncomfortable standing out here in a suit, imagine how you would feel with a knee to your neck,” said Phillip McGee, one of the demonstrators, referring to Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes.
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, and it became effective the following Jan. 1. But it wasn’t enforced in many places until after the Civil War ended in April 1865. Word didn’t reach the last enslaved Black people until June 19, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to Galveston, Texas.
Most states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth — a blend of the words June and 19th — as a state holiday or day of recognition, like Flag Day. But with protests over Floyd’s killing and a pandemic that’s disproportionately harmed Black communities, more Americans — especially white people — are becoming familiar with the holiday and commemorating it.
“I feel hopeful and really, really proud to see the community of whites and Blacks joining together and for white people to really understand what the significance of Juneteenth is,” said Elaine Loving, who marched with her two daughters, grandchildren and hundreds of others in Portland, Oregon’s historically Black neighborhood, where she’s lived since 1959.
Some places that didn’t already mark Juneteenth as a paid holiday moved in recent days to do so, including New York state.
The growing recognition of Juneteenth comes as protests have yielded results, including policing reforms in several places. Also gaining momentum was longstanding demands to remove symbols and names associated with slavery and oppression.
Protesters in North Carolina’s capital pulled down two statues Friday night that is part of a larger Confederate monument. Also this week, a crane toppled a Confederate monument that had stood in an Atlanta suburb since 1908 and the U.S. House removed portraits of four former speakers who served in the Confederacy.
In addition to big marches, smaller events were held. In Louisiana, community and environmental groups won a court fight to hold a Juneteenth ceremony at a site archaeologists have described as a probable cemetery for enslaved African Americans. Philadelphia residents staged impromptu celebrations after a parade and festival were canceled because of the pandemic, and St. Petersburg, Florida, unveiled of a blocklong mural that says “Black Lives Matter.”
“We know our lives matter. You don’t have to tell us that. We’re trying to tell the world that,” said Plum Howlett, a tattoo artist who painted part of the mural.
President Donald Trump issued a message for Juneteenth, which he said was “both a remembrance of a blight on our history and a celebration of our Nation’s unsurpassed ability to triumph over darkness.”
Trump had originally planned a rally Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but changed the date to Saturday amid an uproar about his appearance on date of such significance. The city also is where white mobs attacked a prosperous black business district nearly a century ago, leaving as many as 300 people dead.
In New Orleans, where demonstrators were greeted with bowls of red beans and rice, speaker Malik Bartholomew offered a reminder.
“We celebrate Juneteenth in honor of the celebration of freedom, but guess what? We also have to celebrate the fight,” Bartholomew said.