A gorilla statue’s presence and then its sudden removal from a park playground have taken up a disproportionate amount of time and energy from city officials in Corsicana, Texas.
On Tuesday night, Mayor Don Denbrow said in a statement that the caged gorilla statue affectionately known as “Dobby” would be hauled away from Corsicana’s Community Park after “a few citizens” complained that the statue was racially insensitive.
Corsicana resident Betty Lambert told the Corsicana Daily Sun that she sees both sides of the argument surrounding the statue.
“My grand nieces love Community Park. The gorilla cage was a favorite,” Lambert told the newspaper. “I am sympathetic to the idea that it could be thought of as a metaphor for the institution of slavery. I support the removal of the gorilla on the grounds that it could offend members of our community. At no time did I ever think of it as anything other than King Kong.”
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Debrow said in his statement that Dobby was originally caged because of concerns about the safety of the children at the park.
“It was not possible to leave the gorilla without the cage due to safety reasons,” Debrow said in the statement. So the gorilla had to go, prompting one man to reportedly stage a protest by refusing to come out of the cage until the city promised to return the statue. And an “In Memory of Dobby” Facebook page sprang up and attracted 1,100 likes in just over a day.
Corsicana, which sits about 55 miles south of Dallas, has a population estimated at just under 24,000 by the U.S. Census Bureau.
But one of Corsicana’s four City Council members, Jeff Smith, said Dobby’s supporters would not let this (fake) gorilla go the way of Harambe, the (real) gorilla famously killed at the Cincinnati Zoo when a child fell into his enclosure. The “in Memory of Dobby” Facebook page uses a photo of Harambe at the top of its profile.
“We have news! Update on the gorilla,” Smith said in a Facebook post Wednesday night, not even a day after the Dobby statue was taken out of its cage. “He will be placed back in the park as soon as weather permits!”
Smith told McClatchy the decisions to remove Dobby and then to bring him back were “100 percent the Mayor’s.” He said in a previous Facebook post, “We all understand that this situation was rushed into.”
Denbrow sent an updated statement to the Daily Sun on Wednesday that read in part: “It is the City’s goal to depict all the animals in Community Park in a free environment that is safe for children. Other animals will be added including a free-standing gorilla and a tiger.”
A makeshift memorial was held for the departed statue Wednesday night, and if Smith is right, it looks as if public support for Dobby may win out in this bizarre episode.