“The treatment of these communities under Mr. Rizzo’s leadership was among the worst periods in Philadelphia’s history,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Workers early Wednesday removed the statue of controversial former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, which was recently defaced during a protest for George Floyd.
As National Guard troops deployed in the wake of recent protests watched, a crane lifted the 10-foot-tall (3-meter-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.
The statue was frequently targeted by vandals and there had been calls in recent years to remove the figure of the former mayor. Kenney had pledged to move the statue to another location in 2021.
In a statement Wednesday, Kenney said he made a mistake waiting.
“The continued display of the statue has understandably enraged and hurt many Philadelphians, including those protesting the heinous murders of George Floyd and too many others. I have seen and heard their anguish. This statue now no longer stands in front of a building that serves all Philadelphians,” Kenney said.
“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,” he said. “The battle for equal rights and justice is still being fought decades later, and our city is still working to erase that legacy. 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.”
Supporters said Rizzo, who also served as the city’s police commissioner, was tough on crime.
But he was racist—he once said the Black Panthers “should be strung up” and campaigned for a third consecutive term with the slogan “Vote White”—and a “law and order” type of leader who generally opposed civil rights activists.
Under his leadership as both police commissioner and mayor, police brutality ran unchecked. From 1970 to 1978, the Department of Justice found that the police shot and killed 162 people.
“The cops were just totally out of control,” Michael Simmons, an organizer who protested Rizzo’s actions, told VICE. “They were really beating and shooting African Americans and Puerto Ricans. It’s like what’s going on now, but it was all taking place in one city. Take Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, the guy in Staten Island, and you put all that shit in one city.”
No word on where the statue was taken.
Additional reporting by Kimberly Lawson.