Philly removes statue of racist mayor

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As someone who grew up in a politically active family in Philadelphia in the late '60s and '70s (and later went back to Philly for college), I can only say one thing about the removal of the statue.

Good Riddance.

It would be better for the statue to never have been made, and even better for Philadelphia in the '70s to not have elected him, but Rizzo in Philadelphia at that time, was just like Trump is today: a racist, divisive con artist who would gleefully embrace his own notoriety.

Edit: Just in case folks here don’t know the name, here are some of the highlights of this lowlife:


I remember as a kid visiting relatives in Philly, and seeing the Rizzo signs and stickers everywhere. I asked my mom who he was and she groaned “oh god, he’s just horrible.”


The worst thing about the statue is it was only put up 20 years ago.

Holy shit.

But why am I surprised, really? That seems to be the way it always is - awful racist characters and events get valorized by statuary long after - and long after everyone should have known better. How long before there are Trump statues in public squares, I wonder?


Of course they won’t consider removing any actual living breathing racist politicians, judges, and police but I guess this is something. Not much, but something.


Hell, Strom Thurmond only left the Senate 17 years ago. And the only reason he didn’t stay longer was because he fucking died, at age 100. It’s truly sickening how much some constituencies idolize their white supremacist politicians.


He is still revered in Philadelphia by those of my parents’ generation. They speak proudly of the man who would send goon squads to bust heads all over town. Yes, even whites were terrified of the police in those days. But damn, if you weren’t white, be off the street by dark!

In the end, before his last term expired, he gave all of the police and fire unions all they wanted and more, thereby sending the city into financial ruin that continues today.

The third major city union, the teachers, was not gifted, so’s you know.


For this reason the removal of Rizzo’s statue is huge.

I remember one summer in the late 70s there was a report of police brutality nearly every day in the Inquirer. I think that was the year Rizzo went to Rome and told the police chief there that he could teach them how to “crack heads”.


Imagining where all these Confederate statues and racist statues eventually end up.

Perhaps after these riots, they will build a national “Hall of Racism” or “racism museum” (yeah my wording sucks) where people can gawk at all these tacky and hateful cenotaphs to bigotry. Imagining schoolkids being educated by Obama’s great grandkids walking through as tour guides, as they explain “…and people used to worship these, because they were hateful and ignorant people, but one day, we got them to change”

I can dream, I hope

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There is something similar at Ferris State University, but I’m not these types of statues would fit in their mission.


Where am I going to piss now!

Personally roughed up by Rizzo’s cops a couple of times in the late 70s, but then again who wasn’t.

We have grown though. Our present police commissioner is a African American women named Danielle Outlaw. I am sure Frank is spinning in his grave.


I can’t help to feel a bit ambivalent about this. Only a little bit, and I won’t defend that statue or the ideas it champions in any way but there is small danger here.

Monuments and statues in a nation are physical manifestations of its story and identity. Some of them are the scars, reminders of the stupid stuff that was done in the past. Removing them can look like an attempt to clean up the history books and the memory of the past, whitewashing what was done but should not be remembered.

Philadelphia had a racist mayor and nothing you do will change that. And maybe, somewhere in the future, maybe you want some physical monument of that, so people remember. Certain people need to be remembered once in a while…

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These stories are better told in museums … where context can be provided.

Unrelated, it amazes me that people can’t foresee that they are on the wrong side of history.

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See also: Jesús Gil

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You make a good point, but in this instance, I (respectfully) disagree. There is a difference between monuments and statues and explanatory plaques.

Monuments and statues are erected as accolades to the person’s legacy and lifelong contributions to the betterment of their societies. People who were influential in generating evil and promoting destructive messages should not be honored with statues. Their legacies should be recorded and taught, but should not be honored with permanent life-size structures.

There are no statues of Verwoerd or Vorster in South Africa. There are no statues of Sindikubwabo in Rwanda. There are no statues of Hitler in Germany. And yet every one of those people are well known in their countries, and their atrocities are well documented and properly remembered.

Certain people need to be remembered once in a while…Certain people need to be remembered once in a while…

Like many historical figures, Frank Rizzo should be remembered, but not honored. I would be quite happy to the place where his statue was placed replaced with a plaque containing an explanation of his legacy. I feel the same way about the many statues erected to honor Confederate soldiers and generals in the US.


You can always point them to this three day run of Doonesbury strips from 1972. He has just been elected Mayor from being Police Commissioner. He wasn’t a local racist , he was a national racist…


Was he known for anything other than terrible racism? I’ve never heard about him being anything but a guiding star for racists. What was the justification for honoring him when the statue went in?

As a historian I must take issue with this line of reasoning. The racism that Rizzo (and confederate monuments) represented is not “stupid stuff” in the past, it’s right now in the present. Pretty much all the white supremacists statues that litter our country were put up as a reminder to non-white citizens that they are NOT equal citizens, not to honor the war dead. The confederacy was about slavery and white supremacy. It’s IN the Corner Stone speech and it was enshrined in their constitution (much as slavery was in our constitution until the 13th amendment… and even then… enslavement for crime is okay).

There is a very good reasons Germany didn’t put up celebratory statues of the nazis, because they did not want to glorify them. We need to stop doing the same for our own white supremacist.

Maybe we should stop cutting funding for education, and stop cutting funding for history departments and stop having racist make decisions about textbooks that our children read. THAT is how you remember. A monument is more often than not a means of replicating a particular, uncomplicated national memory. It’s not nearly enough for people to understand our history. We NEED good history education. That’s how we remember, not via monuments that obscure the truth.


Like Donald Trump, Frank Rizzo was a polarizing figure with a large, fanatical base of support. He promoted himself as the tough savior of the city, willing to “crack some heads” and enforce law and order with an authoritarian hand. He won re-election, and even tried (unsuccessfully) to change the constitution so that he could win a 3rd term.

Unfortunately, the graft in his administration (along with the protection of police and firefighters) left the city in terrible financial shape, causing the city to lag behind Boston and New York over the next few decades.

The statue, though it sat on public land, was paid for by private donations. It was placed there to get a reaction. He was well loved by the Italian community, and of course, the police force There had been talk of removing the statue and relocating it South Philadelphia almost from the time it was first bolted down.

One of my hobbies is photography, and I am in that park often.I have taken dozen of pictures on that site, but I refuse to have that statue in any of them.

There is also a mural of him in South Philadelphia, and it is being painted over as we speak. It has been vandalized numerous times over the years, so this isn’t new.

Edit for grammar.