The statue was removed after it was graffitied and set on fire during protests this weekend

By Rachel DeSantis
June 03, 2020 02:01 PM
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Credit: Jim Kenney/Twitter

A statue of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo that the city’s current mayor slammed as representing “bigotry, hatred and oppression” has been removed after more than 20 years.

The statue, which stood in front of the Municipal Services Building main entrance across the street from City Hall, was taken down in the middle of the night early Wednesday, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

“The statue represented bigotry, hatred, and oppression for too many people, for too long. It is finally gone,” Mayor James Kenney wrote on Twitter.

He also shared a before picture, showing the bronze statue standing tall, and an after, which showed the blank space it once occupied.

Rizzo was the Philadelphia Police Department’s police commissioner from 1968-71, then served as mayor from 1972-80.

He was described as a “champion of conservatives who aggressively policed black people and gay people” by The New York Times, which also wrote that his tactics bordered on “dictatorial.”

As police commissioner, Rizzo would round up gay people at night, and would force Black Panther members to “strip down in the streets,” according to the Times. He even encouraged his supporters to “Vote White” as he sought a third term as mayor.

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The statue of Rizzo was erected in 1999, though Kenney has been pledging to move it elsewhere for the past three years, according to the Inquirer. Late last year, he said it would be moved sometime in 2021.

Recent protests against police brutality and systemic racism, however, left the statue covered in graffiti — and on Saturday, protestors reportedly tried to set it on fire.

Frank Rizzo statue
| Credit: Matt Rourke/AP/Shutterstock

“The statue is a deplorable monument to racism, bigotry, and police brutality for members of the Black community, the LGBTQ community, and many others. The treatment of these communities under Mr. Rizzo’s leadership was among the worst periods in Philadelphia’s history. The battle for equal rights and justice is still being fought decades later, and our city is still working to erase that legacy,” Kenney said in a statement to the Inquirer.

He continued, “We now need to work for true equity for all Philadelphia residents, and toward healing our communities. The removal of this statue today is but a small step in that process.”

Philadelphia, like many cities across the U.S., has been the site of protests over the last week following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.

ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.