A Philly court supervisor was fired after video showed him tearing down signs and saying he doesn’t care about black lives

Julie Shaw/Staff
Michael Henkel of South Philadelphia.

A Philadelphia Family Court supervisor was fired Monday after video surfaced of him tearing down Black Lives Matter signs from a fence at a South Philadelphia park and saying he didn’t care about black lives.

Michael Henkel, 61, of South Philadelphia, had worked as a writ-server supervisor. After video was shared widely on social media of him taking down the signs at Columbus Square, at 12th and Reed Streets, the First Judicial District terminated his job.

In the video, after a woman is heard yelling out to him, “Black lives matter,” Henkel responds, “Not to me they don’t.”

The 34-second video posted on a woman’s Facebook page Sunday afternoon attracted more than 800 comments and 2,000 shares by noon Monday. The woman who posted the video could not be reached Monday. Her post was removed from public view early Monday afternoon.

The video was also shared on Instagram on the @nogunzone account.

In a statement Monday, Marty O’Rourke, a Family Court spokesperson, said Henkel “is no longer an employee.”

“His termination was based on multiple violations” of the state court system’s Code of Conduct and its Non-Discrimination and Equal Employment Policy, O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke said Henkel “had no involvement with cases” but did supervise employees. He did not immediately provide further details.

“The court takes the incident very seriously and believes Mr. Henkel’s behavior as shown in the video is egregious and totally unacceptable for an employee of the courts,” the First Judicial District said in a statement.

City payroll records show Henkel was hired in 1992 and had a $71,591 annual base salary. Henkel could not be reached for comment Monday.

In the video, a woman is heard telling Henkel that the signs that he was tearing down were not his property. He replied, occasionally using expletives, “I know. It’s the city. I pay for this. … Yeah, my taxes pay for this place, yep.”

Added Henkel: “So I can do whatever I want. … I’m always around here, too.”

“Great. I live right here,” the woman said, adding, “Black lives matter!”

To that, Henkel said: “Not to me they don’t.”

Leslie Chapman, 42, who lives several blocks from the park, said Monday that one of the torn-down signs was hers. She said the signs were put on the fence as part of a Friday afternoon, kid-friendly march. The march was organized by Passyunk Square neighborhood leaders and the Philadelphia Student Union.

Chapman’s cardboard sign, which had been tied to the park’s metal fence with string, read, “Black Lives Matter,” and had a drawing of a rainbow on it.

Courtesy of Leslie Chapman
Leslie Chapman, of South Philadelphia, created this sign that said "Black Lives Matter" and put it on a fence at Columbus Square. It was torn down.

Friday’s march was racially diverse and peaceful, she said. Seeing the man on the video tear down the signs from the march “ruined that beautiful memory,” she said. Chapman said there are probably kids who made other signs and who walk by that park, and would have been excited to see their signs on the fence.

“For that adult to take that away from children, it’s just really awful,” she said. “The kids probably had a lot of fun making those signs.”

Chapman, who said she is half-black and half-white, said it “just really stung” when she heard Henkel’s remarks in the video.

She said her boyfriend walked by Columbus Square on Monday morning and saw that some of the torn-down signs were taped back onto the fence.

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