Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration surprisingly removed the bronze sculpture that had occupied a prominent place in Center City since 1999. The bronze statue of Frank Rizzo (1920-1991), who served as mayor of Philadelphia from 1972 to 1980 and police commissioner from 1968 to 1971, was removed from the steps of the Municipal Services Building in front of City Hall. The process took about an hour.
The statue was vandalized when crowds tried to topple it and eventually set it on fire. Crews used a crane to lift and remove the 2,000-pound, 10-foot-tall bronze statue. It was removed under the watchful eye of the National Guard and very few onlookers.
Rizzo was mayor of Philadelphia from 1972 to 1980. During his tenure, he was praised by his supporters as tough on crime but accused by critics of discriminating against minorities and being racist.
Rizzo died in 1991, and the statue was erected seven years later. It was a gift to the city from his family, friends, and supporters. Groups calling for action against social injustice have been seeking its removal for years.
After a weekend marked by looting, violence, and destruction in the city, Mayor Kenney said at a press conference that the statue will be moved “in a month or so.”
“The immediate removal of the statue is necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Philadelphians and city employees,” said an order signed by the mayor.
Kenney called the choice not to eliminate the figure sooner “a mistake” and pledged to heal the community.
A Fresh Start
Talking to reporters, Kenney said this is a win for everyone in the city.
“Nothing against him personally. I wasn’t a fan of the statue. I’ve said it before. I don’t want a statue of me anywhere, not that anybody cares about putting it up. I don’t think it’s appropriate and I think it was something imposed on the city 20 years ago. We’re moving on from that era,” he says.
“This is the beginning of the healing process in our city. This is not the end of the process. Tearing down that statue is not where we need to go. We have a long way to go. I think the protests of the past week, and hopefully, we’re ending, have shown us the anger and the stress that minority communities have in this country. That statue was representative of that time, and it had to go so that we understand where we need to move forward,” Kenney said. We just needed to get it out of the way so we could move forward. If there’s someone who wants it, who wants to take it somewhere else, we’ll talk.”
The city said the statue will be safely stored by the Department of Public Property until a plan is developed to donate, relocate or dispose of it. Officials added that as yet there is no timeline for developing that plan. Once there is a plan, it will be presented to the Philadelphia Arts Commission for approval.