CORSICANA, Texas — City leaders in Corsicana, Texas, removed a gorilla statue from a city park after receiving complaints that it had racial overtones.

Following public outcry, a city councilman is saying the statue will be returned to the park as soon as possible.

Wednesday afternoon, City Councilman Jeff Smith posted on his Facebook page, “Update on the gorilla: He will be placed back in the park as soon as weather permits!”

The gorilla statue was positioned in a cage in the park, and the city’s mayor said some residents had called the display “offensive.”

The Corsicana Daily Sun reported the removal on its Facebook page Tuesday afternoon, which prompted mostly outrage from readers and drew more than 1,300 comments and 570 shares. A petition was created on the website, and the hashtag #GorillaGate2018 has been attached to the incident.

Corsicana Mayor Don Denbow addressed the removal in a letter sent Tuesday evening to the Daily Sun and posted on the city’s website.

“The City of Corsicana has recently made the decision to remove a display in Community Park,” the letter stated. “It was determined to be potentially racially insensitive. This was brought to our attention by a few citizens. The circumstances were evaluated and determined to be valid. It was not possible to leave the gorilla without the cage due to safety reasons. The statue was top heavy and was caged initially to protect the children. The cage will be left and turned into a climbing feature. The City will look at replacing the display in the future.”

By Tuesday night, the empty cage was the site of a makeshift memorial which included signs, bananas, flowers, candles, stuffed animals and even beer.

The park was struck by vandals overnight who defaced a school bus, rest rooms and the skate park with graffiti such as “bring ape home.”

By Wednesday morning, the removal was reported by multiple television news outlets.

An additional letter from Mayor Denbow was sent to the Corsicana Daily Sun Wednesday afternoon, which stated:

“The City of Corsicana recently made the decision to remove a display in Community Park. The reason for the decision was two-fold: recognizing that the display was offensive to some of our citizens and a concern regarding the safety of the exhibits. 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 to the display including a free-standing gorilla and a tiger. As budget permits, additional recreational options will be added.”

A candlelight vigil was planned for Wednesday night at the site as a “show of solidarity and a statement that the people of Corsicana will no longer back down and look the other way while those in power get to do whatever they please,” according to the event organizers’ Facebook post.

The gorilla has been nicknamed Dobby, and the Facebook page “In memory of Dobby” was created to pay tribute to the removed statue.

Longtime Corsicana resident Betty Lambert commented on the statue’s removal Wednesday in a letter to the editor.

“My grand nieces love Community Park,” Lambert stated. “When they came to visit me (until they grew up) the park was always their favorite stop. The gorilla cage was a favorite. They called him King Kong. I can understand that this display could be construed as a racial point of contention by some. The gorilla is a black ape confined in a unbreakable cage. I am sympathetic to the idea that it could be thought of as a metaphor for the institution of slavery. And now that it is pointed out to me, I see it. 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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