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What does Rizzo statue move mean for his legacy? | Readers Respond

Our readers discuss the legacy of former Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo, following the city's decision to move his statue from its current location.

Philadelphia Police Officers stand guard in front of the Frank Rizzo statue at Thomas Pain Plaza during the “Philly is Charlottesville” march.
Philadelphia Police Officers stand guard in front of the Frank Rizzo statue at Thomas Pain Plaza during the “Philly is Charlottesville” march.Read moreYong Kim

The legacy of former Philadelphia mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo has been under a microscope for the last few months in Philadelphia. A debate raged over whether or not Rizzo's statue deserved to continue to stand in Center City Philadelphia.

For some, the statue pays homage to a man they revere as a champion of law and order and the common man.

For others, the statue brings up memories of a man they feel enacted policing policies that disproportionately targeted African Americans and other people of color.

While not a final conclusion to the debate, November 3 marked the city's first decision regarding the future of the statue. It will be moved to a new location decided by the Philadelphia Arts Commission, Mayor Jim Kenney's Administration announced.

Following news of the move, we wanted to hear from you. We asked our readers to tell us what Rizzo's legacy means to them.

“Frank Rizzo Was Not a Racist”

As Bill Morgan from Pottstown wrote to us, "Frank Rizzo was not a racist. He was a bigger than life character who rose from being a regular police officer, to becoming chief, to becoming mayor for two terms."

Morgan also addressed Rizzo's relationship with Philadelphia's black population writing, "the black neighborhoods loved him because when Rizzo was there, there were no issues. He is one of the few outstanding mayors the city has elected."

“The Greatest”

Robert Sumner also weighed in, telling us that "Frank Rizzo was and always will be the greatest mayor the City of Brotherly Love ever had."

Impact on Commuters

Not everyone thought as highly of Rizzo as Sumner, but in Andrew McCaffrey's response to us, he explained how he puts aside his feelings about Rizzo to give credit where he feels it's due.

"I was not a huge fan of Frank Rizzo," McCaffrey explained. "But I have to give him credit for one very practical project which continues to benefit hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians each and every day: the Center City rail tunnel connecting Suburban Station with the old Reading Lines Terminal (now Jefferson Station)." In addition to giving credit to Rizzo for supporting this project, McCaffrey shared an idea for what to do with the statue:

"Why not place the statue in the great hall in Jefferson Station, the entryway where the escalators take commuters down to the waiting room area?  I'd like to come down that escalator and see the statue of Rizzo, hand up in greeting me to his greatest contribution to our city."

“A Good Leader to Some”

Not everyone defended the legacy or impact that Rizzo had on Philadelphia. As one of our Facebook commenters, Cheryl Darlene McKenney wrote, "I saw the things he did. He means nothing to me."

Another commenter questioned the notion that the removal of the statue will mean anything for how Philadelphians view the former mayor. "Why would that change his legacy?" Rob Cane posed.

Instagram user @michs1966 wrote, "he may have been a good leader to some in this city but he wasn't to many others and it lead to injustice for many years."

Missed opportunity?

With all of the opposing opinions on Rizzo's legacy, the man responsible for sculpting the statue is disappointed in the city's decision to move it, casting it as a missed opportunity to educate people on all of the views that make up the former mayor's legacy.

"You could put up plaques telling people there are different opinions about him," the statue's sculptor Zenos Frudakis told our Stephan Salisbury. "You could put up another sculpture of someone else from a different political place. You know, I could do it. I'd be happy to do it. I'm from a different political place.

"I'm not defending Frank Rizzo as a person, the racial polarizing and all that," Frudakis added. "This thing could be used for education. But you've got to be very respectful when you move it, respectful to the majority of people who voted for him."

Read more opinions on the Frank Rizzo statue