Suspect arrested for painting ‘black power’ on Rizzo statue

Updated: 10:30 a.m. Philadelphia police have arrested a man suspected of spray-painting the phrase “black power” across the statue of former mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo Thursday night.

The bronze likeness has been the target of a growing chorus of critics calling for its removal because of Rizzo’s controversial record on police brutality, especially in communities of color.

The latest act of vandalism the statue has attracted was caught on camera and later posted on Twitter by Alive In Philly around midnight Friday.

The message was discovered late Thursday, sprayed in white paint on the statue of Rizzo, who critics say reigned over the city when police brutality was the accepted norm. Renewed outcry over the statue swelled this week after deadly violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, during a march of white supremacists protesting the removal of a Confederate statue there.

Police haven’t yet identified the man arrested for spray-painting the Rizzo statue, which another critic egged on Wednesday. The egg vandal, from Maplewood, New Jersey, was charged with disorderly conduct.

 

Asa Khalif, an organizer with Black Lives Matter, has long rooted for the statue’s removal. But he said he and his group had nothing to do with this week’s vandalism.

“My call has never been to vandalize it, because vandalizing it doesn’t mean anything,” Khalif said. “They’re just going to clean it up, and it still stands there. My call is to tear the statue down. I’m not going to backtrack on that. Either the politicians will tear it down, or the people will.”

To protect the statue during a march against white supremacy in Philadelphia Wednesday, police officers encircled it with metal barricades and stood watch. But the barricades had been removed by the time the “black power” spray-painter struck.

Earlier this week, Councilwoman Helen Gym said on Twitter that the statue should be removed, and Mayor Jim Kenney, a fellow Democrat, agreed it’s time to discuss its future.

The statue’s sculptor, Zenos Frudakis, also welcomed talks about taking the statue down and spoke with WHYY reporter Joe Hernandez for a Q&A earlier this week.

But by early Friday morning the statue had already been cleaned. Again.

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The statue was power-washed early Friday morning. (Naomi Starobin/WHYY)

Rizzo’s son told KYW-TV Tuesday that his father was a fair person who treated people equally regardless of race.

Calling for its removal on Thursday was the Rev. Robert Shrine, of the Greater Philadelphia Clergy Union, who posted a Facebook video saying: “It is time that we now view our city as a progressive, reforming city. It is time now that we move forward and begin to dismantle all of the racial, racist, Nazi, neo-Nazi, Ku Klu Klan statues that symbolize the past that should be long-forgotten [and] erased from history … The racial divide continues to broaden, but we can be healers in our nation.”Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, officials with the National Park Service said Confederate monuments at Gettysburg National Military Park, about 130 miles west of Philadelphia, will remain in place.

From the AP:

Katie Lawhon, senior adviser for the park service’s Gettysburg battlefield office, told the Reading Eagle the site-specific memorials are important, and the park service’s job is to historically and objectively tell the stories the monuments commemorate.

The Gettysburg battlefield has more than 1,300 monuments that tell the story of the deadliest engagement in the Civil War. Thirty of them are dedicated to Confederate states, military units and individuals. More than 7,000 soldiers died in the Battle of Gettysburg from July 1 to July 3, 1863.

About 3.7 million tourists visit the area each year, according to a nonprofit that promotes tourism in the county.

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