Detroit RoboCop Statue Brings New Form of Public Participation

Crowd-funded plans to build a statue of the movie character RoboCop are moving ahead in Detroit, and the project is redefining public participation in civic ventures.
June 28, 2011, 7am PDT | Tim Halbur
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Thousands of people, mainly from outside of Detroit, contributed more than $50,000 to help build the statue.

"It might not be exactly what the city of Detroit needs, but it is something. Dramatic population losses and evaporating jobs have put the city in a state of gradual decay that shows few signs of stopping. That caricature was even more pronounced in RoboCop the film, where crime was rampant and a virtually indestructible robot was the only thing that could stop the city from self-destruction. Brandon Walley, one of the organisers behind the statue campaign, says the plot still resonates in a city fighting for identity and struggling to persevere. 'I don't want to take it too far, but there are these parallels with Detroit that are interesting,' says Walley. 'This city needs so much. I'll be the first to admit that that money should go somewhere else, but there's nothing wrong with a bunch of people wanting to have fun.'

Most city governments long for this kind of interest in local decision-making, and they're increasingly relying on the Internet to provide such easy access to what's otherwise a timesuck at city hall. A pop culture statue doesn't exactly carry the same weight as a debate over a sales tax increase or a new mega-development, but Walley says it does represent a positive change for the city that locals and outsiders should get behind. As the project is privately funded, privately organised and slated to go up on land owned by Wayne State University, the City of Detroit is officially agnostic.

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Published on Thursday, June 23, 2011 in domus
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