ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — The owner of a local storage business who dressed a monkey statue in an anti-Obama T-shirt said Wednesday the statement was not racially motivated.
“It was not meant to be racial," business owner Rick Bond told Patch.
Bond, a former councilman and police officer, placed the statue in front of his Cedar Grove business, Don-Ric Self Storage at 405 Little Falls Road but removed it Tuesday afternoon after people started complaining.
“I absolutely never thought of it as racial,” Bond said. “It’s ridiculous.”
The monkey statue sported a T-shirt saying “OMG Obama Must Go.” The statue was in front of Bond’s business for at least a few days.
Bond would not say who dressed the statue, but added it was previously dressed in a Mets jersey. He said the statue was put up to scare away geese from coming close to his business.
Because the statue is near Route 3, it caught the attention of several passers-by, some of whom posted photos of it on their Facebook pages.
But some residents said the statue was racist and depicting the president as a monkey was inappropriate.
Bond did not respond to these remarks Wednesday, but added, “The less I say, the quicker this will go away.”
He refused to comment further and drove away.
But Bond’s explanation didn’t sit right with some critics.
Duncan Francis, a former Cedar Grove resident who grew up in the area, said he was very angry about the monkey statue.
“I’m outraged as a citizen and want to hold whoever is responsible for this racist act,” Francis said.
He said he found out about the statue and T-shirt on Facebook.
“There was some Facebook commentary by people opposed to Obama’s policies objecting to the statue's racist undertones," he said.
Francis said he’s an Obama supporter, but “you don’t need to be an Obama supporter to be outraged.”
Tucci called the display “appalling.”
Montclair resident Keith Brown, 34, agreed.
“It’s hurtful,” Brown said, “You think about where we are as a people and how far we’ve come and then you see something like this (so close to home).”
Brown said he works in Cedar Grove and, though he’s not involved with the Obama campaign, he has attended many pro-Obama rallies in his hometown to show his support.
“It’s messed up, regardless of how you feel about Obama,” said 15-year-old Sam Nelan, who reported seeing the statue dressed in baseball attire between two and three weeks ago.
“There’s not too much I remember about [Bond],” Township Manager Tom Tucci recalled about Bond. “He only served for a short time. I’m not even sure if it was a full term.”
He said Bond did not seek re-election after his one term ended.
Peter Beton of Verona, who described himself as a ‘Massachusetts Republican,’ said, “Obama hasn’t done anything he said he was going to do … but some idiot put that [statue] up.”
“It’s a little much, a little discriminatory,” said Jessica Mondelli, 26. “He has the right to display it, though.”
“I feel like businesses would try to stay out of anything political,” said Lauren Saxer, 23, “unless they’re trying to attract a specific group.”
Thomas Reynolds, the president of the Montclair chapter of the NAACP said Tuesday the incident “smells like racism.”
“It’s incredible to think someone would’ve put up a statue of a monkey with a white man in the White House,” he said, “and I hope the person would take a second look at the messages he’s putting out.”
Reynolds added Wednesday, “Anyone who doesn’t realize what that (monkey statue) means isn’t just insensitive,” especially when they don’t realize how it can be taken as racial.
Reynolds said Bonds needs to study American history to understand why African Americans consider this wrong.
There’s a difference in putting up a statue to chase away birds, Reynolds said, and doing something anti-Obama.
Newark Patch Local Editor Paul Milo contributed to this report.