As protestors across the country topple and deface Confederate monuments, Philadelphia is finally removing a long reviled statue for a man whose racism overtook the city only decades ago: Frank Rizzo.
The statue of former police commissioner Frank Rizzo, which stood outside the municipal services building in Center City since the late 1990s, was finally removed on Wednesday morning after being vandalized by protestors. “I believe this is the beginning of the healing process of our city,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a press conference, the New York Times reports. “This is not the end of the process. Taking that statue down, that monument down, is not the be all and end all of where we want to go.”
The statue was apparently already supposed to be removed and destroyed in 2021, but its removal was a long time coming. Rizzo served as police commissioner in the late 1960s and ’70s, eventually serving as Philadelphia mayor from 1972 to 1980. As commissioner he was a blatant racist, saying that Black Panthers should be “strung up” and tried to force the black liberation group MOVE from its headquarters, a group that would later be bombed by Philadelphia police in 1985, under then-mayor Wilson Goode. Under Rizzo’s tenure, the Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit against Rizzo and Philly police for police brutality, who found that the department’s targeting of Hispanic and black residents “shocks the conscience (Rizzo called it “hogwash.”) As mayor, he urged supporters to “vote white.”
The Rizzo statue was awful and has been vandalized several times since it was erected. Next up: removing the giant mural of Rizzo that still stands in South Philly, which is being defaced by protestors as well. The city’s Mural Arts program previously solicited suggestions of what to do with the mural, but on Wednesday announced that they “do not believe the mural can play a role in healing and supporting dialogue, but rather it has become a painful reminder for many of the former Mayor’s legacy.”
“We think it is time for the mural to be decommissioned, and would support a unifying piece of public art in its place,” Mural Arts wrote on Twitter, adding that they would stop repairing or restoring it.