The 2,000-pound, 10-foot-tall statue of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo is moving, the Kenney administration announced Friday afternoon. No word yet on where the controversial statue, erected in 1999, will be relocated.
Rizzo was a controversial figure in Philadelphia history, lauded by some as a homegrown hero who reformed the city and hated by others who believe he and his policies and actions were bigoted and hateful. This summer was not the first time citizens have debated whether the statue should remain in its current home on Paine Plaza in front of the Municipal Services Building, across the street from City Hall, but on the heels of a violent white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., the conversation took on a new urgency.
Solomon Jones, a columnist and well-known figure in the African-American community, urged the city to remove the statue from public property. "Under Rizzo's direction and approval, Philadelphia police officers stripped Black Panthers naked in the street. They beat black children who were demonstrating for black history classes. They broke nightsticks over a black man's head for running a stop sign," he wrote in his plea to city officials to consider the impact of Rizzo's actions on the black community.
[Read the full column: Remove the Rizzo statue from public property]
Philadelphia writer Liz Spikol agreed:
[Read the full column: Tear down the Frank Rizzo statue now]
Many others, including columnist Christine Flowers, defended the statue — and the man who inspired it. Flowers wrote, "We cannot pretend that Rizzo did not walk these streets, bringing justice to some and sorrow to others. We cannot reduce the most colorful, consequential Italian to call Philadelphia home to an asterisk. Even if we wanted to make him disappear in a fabricated cloud of oblivion, we couldn't."
[Read the full column: Do not rip Frank Rizzo's presence from our public consciousness]
And columnist Stu Bykofsky posited that if the Rizzo statue had to come down because of his past bad behavior, what does that mean for other icons with tarnished histories? "The Ben Franklin Bridge and Parkway? The man who narcissistically named a stove after himself was a slaveholder. The final nail in his coffin? He was a toxic male womanizer. Outta here," Bykofsky wrote. "While we're at it, let's rename Washington Avenue and tear down that statue in front of the Art Museum. George Washington was a slaveholder. Bye-bye, George."
[Read the full column: Take down Rizzo statue? Fine, but don't stop there.]
In a conversation with political columnist John Baer, former Mayor Ed Rendell urged Philadelphians to forget about statues, saying that taking a statue down doesn't "help the life of a single Philadelphian." He said if people want to do something, they should go to Harrisburg and protest for a stronger state hate-crimes law.
[Read the full column: Of Rendell, Rizzo, and all this to-do over statues]
[Read the full column: Since Rizzo statue is eating all the attention, let's use it to harness the fury]
Another idea for the statue: Put it in a museum, suggested national columnist Will Bunch:
[Read the full column: That Rizzo statue is history! (No, seriously…put it in a museum)]
Of course, many, including our Editorial Board, argue that regardless of what happens to the Rizzo statue, this conversation is so much bigger than one man.
[Read the full editorial: Should Frank Rizzo statue stay or go? That's the wrong question to ask.]
While the fate of the statue has been decided — at least partially — the debate about his legacy will surely march on.