‘It is finally gone’: Philly removes Frank Rizzo statue amid ongoing protests

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)

Updated 4 p.m.

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Workers early Wednesday removed the statue of controversial former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, which was recently defaced during a protest over the killing of George Floyd.

As National Guard troops deployed in the wake of recent protests watched, a crane lifted the 10-foot-tall bronze statue and workers shook it from its stand outside the Municipal Services Building, across from City Hall. It was loaded onto the back of a truck.

Saying he “never liked” it, Mayor Jim Kenney on Monday said he had planned to move the statue later this month. “I can’t wait to see it go away,” Kenney said.

“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.‬”

Donning a Philadelphia Eagles face mask while speaking with reporters Wednesday morning, Kenney called the move the “beginning of a healing process in our city.”

“This is not the end,” Kenney said, pointing to where the bronze statue once stood. “[Removing the statue] is not the be-all and end-all of where we need to go.”

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.

“I remember what it was like then,” Kenney said of Rizzo era. “And in some ways it never changes.”

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 to the protests against police brutality Philadelphia has seen daily since Saturday, the mayor said the recent demonstrations have “shown us the anger and distress that people of color have in this country,” pledging to work with the state Legislature and police union to reform the criminal justice system.

Deandra Jefferson, with Philly for REAL Justice, has been fighting to remove the statue since 2017 when her group launched the “Frank Rizzo Down” campaign.

Jefferson said placing the statue across the street from City Hall, a building that was supposed to be for everyone in the city, felt contradictory to the controversial history he left behind.

“We know about him beating people brutally. We know about the way he treated the Black Panthers,” said Jefferson. “That statue, especially in that place, but anywhere in the city really, just didn’t make sense.”

There was no word where the statue was taken.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

‪The Frank Rizzo statue represented bigotry, hatred, and oppression for too many people, for too long. It is finally gone.‬

A post shared by Jim Kenney (@phillymayor) on

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The Associated Press and WHYY’s Ximena Conde contributed reporting.

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