Despite what you may have read on the internet, one of Tucson’s most beloved fast-food landmarks is not about to be torn down by an angry mob of dinosaur deniers.
The snarling Tyrannosaurus rex in front of the McDonald’s at Tanque Verde and Grant isn’t going anywhere, according to Lizzeth Alvarez, area supervisor for Dias Management Inc., which owns the bustling franchise.
“Absolutely not,” Alvarez said. “People really seem to like it. It’s a landmark really.”
Concern for the life-size replica cropped up earlier this month when a post targeting the T. rex on Tanque Verde showed up on the Facebook page of a group called Christians Against Dinosaurs.
According to the page — as well as the group’s website and occasional YouTube videos — CAD is dedicated to the belief that dinosaurs never existed at all but are, in fact, a scam perpetrated by scientists, possibly as part of some liberal plot against religion.
There’s nothing factual about any of this, of course. It flies in the face of mountains of fossil evidence collected, studied and cataloged since the 17th century.
On the other hand, it is on the internet. And since Aug. 15, so, too, is the following post on the Christians Against Dinosaurs Facebook page:
“Please help! This McDonald’s has this dinosaur and refuse to remove it! This is in Tucson, Arizona. Call the manager and demand the removal of this blasphemy!”
The post from a CAD page member named Josh Brown then gives the address and phone number for the offending burger joint.
It can be hard sometimes to separate the faithful from the frauds on social media sites, and this seems doubly true in the case of Christians Against Dinosaurs. Though there seems to be an underlying earnestness to CAD’s website, the majority of people posting on its Facebook page seem to be there to get into arguments, spectate or mock the whole thing.
Attempts to reach those in charge of Christians Against Dinosaurs were unsuccessful. According to several articles written about the group since it first gained fame about five years ago, the movement has no clear leadership or agenda beyond trying to contradict centuries of science, including literal tons of actual, physical specimens.
If taking down fiberglass replicas of dinosaurs is something the group actually endorses, it’s not clear from its messaging.
But CAD poster Josh Brown insists he isn’t joking around. Reached through his Facebook page Tuesday night, he said he lives and works in Tucson, and he doesn’t see anything funny about “lying to our children.”
“It seems to me that every dinosaur story and display or dinosaur themed event is furthering the myth that the Earth is much older than the Bible says it is,” Brown said via Facebook Messenger. “Yes, the dinosaur should go unless they’re willing to compromise with a plaque of some kind stating that it’s a fictional character.”
Dias Management owns 18 McDonald’s restaurants in Arizona, 15 of them in the Tucson area.
Alvarez said staff members at the Tanque Verde location first found out about the possible dinosaur dispute from a few customers who mentioned the post or called in to ask if it was for real.
Some employees wondered if there would be a protest of some kind in front of the restaurant, but Alvarez said she wasn’t aware of anyone even calling in to complain about the dinosaur so far, though several people on Facebook claimed they did.
The T. rex dates to when the restaurant first opened in 1994 — part of an all-around dinosaur theme aimed squarely at kids and inspired by the wild success of the first “Jurassic Park” movie.
Alvarez said the restaurant’s owners have taken to dressing their dino up in different holiday costumes throughout the year. In early May, she said, the statue “got all this extra attention” when they covered its nose and mouth with a giant mask to promote pandemic safety.
Most Facebook users responded to Brown’s call to (tiny?) arms with jokes or messages of support for the Tanque Verde T. rex.
Since he posted about the statue, Brown said he’s been harassed and threatened online. Someone even tried to hack into his personal Facebook account.
He said a lot of the comments directed his way have come from “people who wanted to save the dinosaur or to message me personally and spew insults and threats.”
In a later post to the CAD community, Brown took aim at a different drive-thru dinosaur, this one in front of the McDonald’s off I-10 in Benson. He called it a “conduit of lies and dinoporn that are corrupting our children’s minds.”
Sometime after that, Christians Against Dinosaurs kicked him off its page.
Contact reporter Henry Brean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 520-573 4283. On Twitter: @RefriedBrean