Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Pro-Trump flag displayed and quickly removed at Walt Disney World – September 2018

Bay Lake, Florida

In a busy part of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom theme park in Florida, a man hung a flag for 64 seconds that appeared to support President Donald Trump’s reelection in 2020. He described the move as “gorilla marketing” intended to make a pro-Trump display go viral.

Key Players

Dion Cini is a self-described “ultra conservative” from New York City. Prior to displaying the pro-Trump flag at the Magic Kingdom, he had been a season-pass holder at the park for 26 years. Aside from this incident, he is known for flying pro-Trump flags on the boat that he sails around New York City waterways.

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is a theme park near Orlando, Florida that plays an important role in the Disney franchise, attracting more than 20.4 million visitors a year. It features a daily “Festival of Fantasy” parade, which ends at a railroad station where Cini hung his flag.

Further Details

On September 23, 2018, Dion Cini hung a 15-foot pro-Trump flag from a train station near the main entrance of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The flag read “Re-Elect Donald J. Trump Keep America Great! 2020.” Scott Gustin, a reporter for Tribune Media, tweeted that the flag was aloft for only 64 seconds before Cini and an accomplice, whom he had recruited at the last minute, were stopped by security. Cini instructed the other man to run away when security began to approach them.

Cini estimated that 500 people took pictures of his stunt, which is part of his greater crusade to help pro-Trump displays go viral, such as when someone hoisted a similar flag at a stage production of Disney’s Frozen in August 2018. “My goal is to make each one bigger and better,” Cini told Fox News.

According to The Hill, a Disney spokesperson acknowledged that the event occurred but would not provide further comment. One theme park blogger noted, however, that “While the U.S. Constitution protects the right to protest in public, the Supreme Court held in the 1976 case Hudgens v. NLRB that the First Amendment does not guarantee free speech on private commercial property.” A caveat in a later case, Pruneyard v. Robins, which upheld the 1976 ruling, allowed states to grant more permissive free speech rights on private property that is freely open to the public. But, given that Disney’s theme parks are not freely open to the public, the company has the right to shut down any unapproved activity on the park’s property.

Outcome

Florida man criticised and banned for politicising Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

From local news reports to posts on Twitter, Cini received criticism for bringing politics to the traditionally non-partisan Disney park. According to WDBO, an Orlando-based radio station, the stunt got Cini banned from the park and his season pass revoked.

External References

Disney moves quickly to remove political banner from Main Street, Theme Park Insider

One of the first tweets about the incident.

A description of the event, describing that “It was over before it started”

Man describes how he hung a ‘re-elect Trump’ banner at Walt Disney World, Fox 35

Man Hangs “Re-Elect Trump” Banner at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, IheartRadio

Man Sneaks “Re-Elect Trump” Banner into Magic Kingdom, The Hill

 

Prepared by Gustav Honl-Stuenkel ‘20

Date uploaded to tracker: October 4, 2018