SANTA ROSA, California -- Shannon Parkhurst was on a walk with her family in her neighborhood on Saturday when she looked up and noticed something disturbing: A stuffed animal monkey hanging by a rope from a tree while holding the American flag.
"We looked up and I was like, 'Are you kidding?' There's a freaking monkey hanging...it looks like a monkey hanging from a noose," Parkhurst told ABC7 News. "It was really daunting and eerie and weird, it is clearly a racial statement."
Parkhurst, whose two-year-old son is biracial, was so rattled by the image that she snapped a couple of photos and shared them on Facebook, Nextdoor and with her close friend and neighbor, Jessica Wycliffe, who then reported it to police.
"Why is it on a lever? Why is it attached to a shed? I have a lot of questions about why," Wycliffe said about the monkey.
Police investigated the incident and told ABC7 News he showed up at the home, where the monkey was hanging and spoke to the residents. He said that, upon inspection, the rope was not a noose. He said the residents offered to remove the monkey, but they are not required to take it down because it is hanging from a tree on their private property.
As of Monday morning, and despite growing concerns from others in the neighborhood who reached out to Parkhurst, the monkey had not been taken down. Instead, Parkhurst and Wycliffe noticed more items were added to it, including a green army man doll and a cardboard cat carrier.
"Seems like they're kind of trolling and making fun of the people calling about it," Parkhurst said.
"I don't know what they're trying to say," Wyliffe added. "Honestly, it kind of freaks me out."
ABC7 News reached a woman by phone who identified herself as the resident of the home where the monkey is hanging. She said they hung it there two weeks ago and that it was "silly" that people reported it.
"It's just a monkey hanging on a rope," she said, laughing. "My husband likes to entertain people."
When asked about the racial connotations, she said that was "not on anybody's thought process."
She also said they have no plans to take it down.
"Why should we?" she replied. "The officer said it was our backyard, and we could do whatever we wanted to do."
The phone call then abruptly ended, and she could not be reached again.
For Parkhurst, her response was even more upsetting.
"What I want the homeowners to know," she said, "Is that if they would have accepted the community's view and accepted how it had been offensive and apologized and taken it down, I would have accepted it and felt so happy that we are growing as a community. Instead, they have added to it."
She said, for now, she plans to avoid walking on the path by their house.
"I don't want my son to think that's OK," she explained. "I don't want him hanging a monkey from a tree with a flag, saying, 'Hey, that's cute and funny,' and not realizing the racial connotations from it."