Crews paint over Frank Rizzo mural in South Philadelphia

Frank Rizzo mural

The Italian Market mural was painted over early Sunday morning. A small portion of the original remains visible at the top right corner. (Chris Norris/WHYY News)

The South 9th Street Italian Market’s mural of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo is now a mostly blank canvas.

Mural Arts Philadelphia on Sunday announced that the mural was painted over with the consent of the property owner. A photo from the scene shows a small portion of the mural’s top right corner, where a parking sign is depicted, remains visible.

“Mural Arts is grateful that we were able to work with the owner toward this positive resolution and look forward to collaborating with the community on a new mural project that can reflect the fabric of S. 9th Street,” the organization said in a statement.

Over the coming weeks, the nonprofit says it will be laying the groundwork for the creation of a new mural that incorporates extensive community engagement.

“We know that the removal of this mural does not erase painful memories and are deeply apologetic for the amount of grief it has caused,” the organization said. “We believe this is a step in the right direction and hope to aid in healing our city through the power of thoughtful and inclusive public art.”

Rizzo, who before he became mayor served as the city’s police commissioner, was known for aggressive policing tactics in Philadelphia’s Black communities.

Mural Arts thanked the public for voicing its opinions and expressed hope that “this may be one more step towards true equality and social justice.”

Anyone interested in supporting the nonprofit’s endeavor may donate here and note “South 9th Street Mural” in the comment box.

The nonprofit’s announcement came days after it formally parted ways with the larger-than-life mural on the corner of Montrose and South 9th streets.

The mural developments came on the heels of the removal of another controversial Rizzo landmark: the 10-foot-tall bronze statue that sat outside the Municipal Services Building across from City Hall.

The former site of the Frank Rizzo statue
The statue of former Philadelphia mayor and chief of police Frank Rizzo was removed from the city’s Municipal Services Building early Wednesday morning amid civic unrest around the killings of unarmed Black men in the U.S. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The mural — much like its statue counterpart — had “again become a target for defacement amidst this national chapter of pain, grief, and anger over the recent death of George Floyd and the systemic racism plaguing our country,” Mural Arts wrote.

Italian Market neighborhood leaders added that there were also concerns for the safety of neighborhood residents during this time of unrest with the mural present.

Earlier this week, Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration removed the controversial statue in Center City, which was defaced during a recent protest.

“The Frank Rizzo statue represented bigotry, hatred, and oppression for too many people, for too long,” Kenney wrote in an Instagram post. “It is finally gone.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney talked about the long-overdue removal of the statue of Frank Rizzo statue in front of the municipal services building. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Speaking with reporters Wednesday morning, Kenney called the move the “beginning of a healing process in our city.”

Supporters said Rizzo was tough on crime, while critics said he targeted and discriminated against communities of color.

Rizzo, who rose to power in the late 1960s, when Philadelphia was becoming an increasingly segregated city, was sued by the U.S. Justice Department in 1979 for “condoning systematic police brutality,” The Washington Post reported at the time.

WHYY’s Emily Scott contributed reporting.

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