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Group wants Confederate flag-painted horse returned to Saginaw Zoo carousel

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A small group of people gathered outside the Saginaw Children’s Zoo Monday to protest the removal of a carousel horse painted with the Confederate flag.

“They want their right to freedom of speech,” said a man, wearing a ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ t-shirt, who declined to give his name. “We want our right to freedom of speech”

They complain people who object to the confederate battle flag are given more of a say over where it can be display than those who support the flag.

Organizer Lisa Ellis says she was upset when she learned of the decision of the zoo administration to remove the wooden horse from the carousel last month.

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
“Children don’t see anything racist or bigoted about it,” says Gerald Willis, “They want to ride the brown horse, that’s it.”

“I don’t understand what the big deal is about it,” says Ellis. “It’s part of history. It’s our history. It’s American history.”

But since the murders of nine people in a South Carolina church by a man who often expressed racist views and posed with the Confederate flag, there has been pressure to remove the flag from public displays.

Last month, zoo officials removed the wooden horse, painted with the Confederate flag and the initials ‘CSA’.  They say a decision about what to do with the horse will be made after the current season is over.

Master carver Gerald Willis helped build the carousel nearly 20 years ago. He’s sad to see a controversy where he thinks none needs to exist.

“Children don’t see anything racist or bigoted about it,” says Willis. “They want to ride the brown horse, that’s it.”

Willis hopes the horse will be restored as is. But he says if the zoo director decides to repaint the horse with a different design, he’ll accept it.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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