A statue of Frank Rizzo, former Philadelphia mayor and police commissioner, has been removed by the city after it was defaced with paint, set ablaze and adorned with rope as protesters attempted to remove it themselves, reports NPR.
The sculpture was taken away on a truck on Wednesday by the city of Philadelphia from its post in front of the Municipal Services Building across from City Hall. Rizzo had a history of aggressively policing Black people and the LGBTQ community in the 60s and 70s and urging his constituents to “vote white.”
Statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo, who urged Philly residents to always “vote white” and led a campaign of police brutality against minorities, is now finally gone!
— David Leavitt (@David_Leavitt) June 3, 2020
Initially, the statue was set to be removed next year as part of a renovation plan, which Mayor Jim Kenney now calls a mistake because the city “prioritized efficiency over full recognition of what this statue represented to Black Philadelphians and members of other marginalized communities,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Those plans were changed and urgently moved up as a response to demonstrators' actions and frustration.
Beautiful thing! In my old hood of Philly, they burned and are pulling down the statue of racist mayor Frank Rizzo. My friends and I had several run ins with cops under him! Good riddance! #phillyprotest
— Eric V. Clark ???????????? (@eclark1st) May 30, 2020
“The statue represented bigotry, hatred, and oppression for too many people, for too long. It is finally gone,” Kenney said.
He said the removal of the piece is “the beginning of the healing process of our city.”
“I think that the protests over the last week — and hopefully we’re winding down — have shown us the anger and the distress of people of color in this country,” Kenney said Wednesday morning. “And that statue was representative of that era. It had to go away in order for us to understand where we need to be going forward.”
The Frank Rizzo statue needs to be torn down and this is why: A thread. Frank Rizzo was a racist and actively engaged in upholding systemic racism. While police commissioner and then Mayor of Philly, Rizzo was a staunch opponent of desegregation of philly schools, 1/5 pic.twitter.com/DeJRUvHy9X
— Dina Abdel (@DinaAbdel2) May 31, 2020
Zenos Frudakis, the artist who created the sculpture, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the mayor did the right thing in removing his piece and said he was relieved.
“I’m a human being before I’m an artist. The human being part of me was saying ‘I don’t want people hurt.’ It’s not about my sculpture, my ego,” he said. “I don’t want the sculpture damaged, either. To take it out safely and quietly was the right thing to do.”
Frudakis said the statue was a “manifestation of oppression” for many people.
The National Guard protected the fenced-off area as the two-ton figure was taken away by a crane, reports CBS 3 Philly. The statue, which has been standing since 1999, is being placed in storage by the Department of Public Property. If not donated or relocated, it will be disposed of. The Rizzo family, which paid for and gifted the statue to the city, hopes to keep it for themselves.
A mural of Rizzo in the Italian Market remains vandalized with a large smear of brown paint, which has yet to be addressed by the mayor, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
After serving as police commissioner for three years, Rizzo served two terms as mayor, reports The Hill. During his tenure as mayor, he opposed desegregation of Philadelphia’s schools and new public housing projects.