Philadelphia removes statue of ex-Mayor Frank Rizzo

A statue of the controversial former mayor of Philadelphia, widely seen as a symbol of the city’s racist history, was removed early Wednesday after being vandalized during protests over George Floyd’s death.

Crews arrived in front of the Municipal Services Building at 1 a.m. and used a crane to lift the 10-foot, 2,000-pound bronze sculpture off its base.

An hour later, the monument honoring Frank Rizzo was gone.

Jim Kenney, the current Philadelphia mayor, celebrated on Twitter.

“The statue represented bigotry, hatred, and oppression for too many people, for too long. It is finally gone,” he said.

Before becoming mayor, Rizzo served three years as Philadelphia’s police commissioner, beginning in 1968. His tenure was marked by police brutality, intimidation and the targeting of black people, according to news accounts from the era.

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He next served two terms as Philadelphia’s mayor from 1972 to 1980, strongly opposing desegregation in public schools and housing.

Rizzo ran for a third term, encouraging supporters to “Vote White,” but he ultimately lost the race to William J. Green III, a Democrat.

Rizzo died on July 16, 1991.

His friends and family, who remembered him as an outspoken public servant who championed the city, had the statue commissioned as a gift to Philadelphia in 1999. It was paid for by numerous private donors.

Created by sculptor Zenos Frudakis, it depicts Rizzo waving, as if he were stepping off a curb and acknowledging a crowd of supporters.

Combined ShapeCaption
A statue of the controversial former mayor of Philadelphia, Frank Rizzo was removed early Wednesday after being vandalized during protests over George Floyd’s death. The monument, widely seen as a symbol of the city’s racist history, stood in Philadelphia’s Center City, in front of the Municipal Services Building, for more than a decade.

Credit: Special

A statue of the controversial former mayor of Philadelphia, Frank Rizzo was removed early Wednesday after being vandalized during protests over George Floyd’s death. The monument, widely seen as a symbol of the city’s racist history, stood in Philadelphia’s Center City, in front of the Municipal Services Building, for more than a decade.

Credit: Special

Combined ShapeCaption
A statue of the controversial former mayor of Philadelphia, Frank Rizzo was removed early Wednesday after being vandalized during protests over George Floyd’s death. The monument, widely seen as a symbol of the city’s racist history, stood in Philadelphia’s Center City, in front of the Municipal Services Building, for more than a decade.

Credit: Special

Credit: Special

The monument stood in Philadelphia’s Center City for more than a decade and had been targeted by vandals several times through the years during other episodes of social unrest.

The National Guard oversaw its removal early Wednesday.

In cities across the nation, Confederate monuments that symbolize the nation's racist history have also been removed or defaced amid the unrest over Floyd's death.

Explore» MORE: Protesters in some cities target Confederate monuments

Kenney’s office released a statement saying the statue will be placed in storage for now until the Department of Public Property comes up with a plan “to donate, relocate, or otherwise dispose of it.”

Two reporters with The Philadelphia Inquirer won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of stories that exposed the Philadelphia police for its use of an “interrogation system in which suspects were handcuffed to metal chairs and beaten with lead pipes, blackjacks, brass knuckles and furniture.”

William K. Marimow and Jonathan Neumann said homicide detectives, under Rizzo’s watch, had “come to accept breaking the law as part of their job.”

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