Frank Rizzo’s Statue Was An Ode To White Supremacy — & It Never Should Have Existed

Britni de la Cretaz

While the city slept, crews arrived to quietly take down the statue of Frank Rizzo from Philadelphia’s Municipal Services Building. The statue of the former mayor and police commissioner had been a source of contention between the city and residents of its Black and LGBTQ+ communities, as Rizzo’s tenure had been a reign of terror for Philly’s marginalized citizens. Over the past week, calls for the statue to be removed had again been ignited during the national protests around the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless other Black Americans, when the statue was vandalized and protestors tried to remove it themselves.

The current and ongoing protests against racism and police brutality were not the first time protestors had targeted the statue over the years. “Philly’s long-reviled statue of racist pig Frank Rizzo is GONE!” journalist Kim Kelly tweeted. “Shortly after midnight, city workers quietly arrived to finish the job that protestors had so kindly gotten started for them on Saturday.”

Jim Kenney, the current mayor of Philadelphia, said on Twitter that “the statue represented bigotry, hatred, and oppression for too many people, for too long.” Just three days earlier, Kenney had announced they were prioritizing the statue’s removal, which had been planned but was waiting for a larger renovation to the plaza — a delay Kenny now admits was “a mistake.” 

Crews had prioritized cleaning the statue, which Pennsylvania Rep. Jordan A Harris called “a symbol of oppression and brutality,” the day after a crowd of people spent hours trying to topple it. Black residents were angered by this rush to remove the visible evidence of the pain and outrage of its marginalized residents. Queen Muse wrote in Philadelphia magazine that the move “sent a message to marginalized residents of this city that the issues that undergird their pain are not important” to those in power.

The oppression felt by Philadelphia is rooted in Rizzo’s history in the city. Rizzo was a native of South Philadelphia who served as mayor from 1972-1980. Before that, he was police commissioner beginning in 1967. His time in power is credited with leading to the deep corruption and brutality that has become the police department’s legacy.

Rizzo routinely used slurs against the Black and gay communities and advocated for violence and murder as a way of dealing with “criminals.” He once called for members of the Black Panther movement to be “strung up” and advocated for punishing crime by “spacco il capo” — which translates to “break their heads.” He often came down with lethal and immense force on the city’s Black residents, and its Black activists, in particular.

While people are thrilled that the statue is gone, some have rightly pointed out that the city, and Kenney, in particular, should not receive brownie points for their decision to finally take it down. Queen Muse called the timing of the removal “cowardly,” noting on Twitter that by taking the statue down in the middle of the night, Kenney purposely “ruined” the optics of its removal.

“This is not a show of solidarity with protestors or the marginalized people of this city,” she continued, adding that if it were, Kenney “would’ve done this while they were there so they could share in the joy of the moment.”

Credit for the statue coming down belongs not with Kenney or the city itself, which chose to build a monument to a brutal, racist, and homophobic figure and then waited way too long to pull it down, but with the Black activists who fought for years to have it taken down. In 2016, Philly For REAL Justice launched their #RizzoDown campaign, gathering every Thursday from 4 to 6 PM in front of the municipal building to call for removal of the Rizzo statue and an end to stop and frisk. 

“There is something so soothing about seeing white supremacist iconography and symbols be hoisted by a crane and taken to dark storage,” Abdul-Aliy Muhammad tweeted. “But melt dat shit too.”

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

The Insurrection Act Is A Tool For Racist Violence

Why Ivanka Brought Her Purse To A Tear-Gassing

"The Police Are More Dangerous Than COVID-19"

More From

  • How To Shop 4th Of July Beauty Sales Like A Pro

    We may be trading in beach days for socially-distanced backyard hangs this July 4th, but that doesn't mean that the holiday is without its requisite sale bonanza. In fact, this year's online deals are coming out to play in a major way. Go ahead and treat yourself to that beauty something-something you've been eyeing because chances are it's going to be discounted. We know there's a lot out there, from brands to categories and specific products — so, we went ahead and broke down the deals on everything from skincare to makeup and hair by highlighting the star score from the sale. From 25% off a top-rated lash serum to Ulta Beauty's can't-miss summer event, these are the hottest steals worth carting through the weekend. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. The product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Our Readers' Top Stay-At-Home Buys Are On SaleWayfair's July 4th Sale Is Up To 70% OffThe Most Star-Spangled Fashion Sales

  • What R29 Shopping Editors Actually Bought For Under $100 This Month

    If we had $100 to spend, what would we buy? Our answers to this question look decidedly different than they did at the beginning of March. Finances are tight, and not everyone can afford to drop a Benjamin on non-essentials, we get it. Which is why this month's edition of our Shopping team's MVPs is not a guide to what you should be buying — it's simply a list of items that helped us find a small slice of comfort during these uncertain times. We hope maybe one or two can do the same for you. Ahead, the under-$100 products we actually bought, used, and came to rely on over the past 30+ days: from a new chemistry-based deodorant to a cooling mattress pad discovered on Amazon and a $5 D.C.-cherry-blossom bandana that supports Black artists. Scroll on to web-window shop, feel seen, inspired, fatigued, or just connected — all emotions are valid. And be sure to holler out what you've carted for under one hundo that's made these stay-at-home days feel a little bit better. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?The 29 Items That Shaped April — According To YouFound: The Comfiest Chairs To WFH In12 Workout Items To Buy For A Legit Home Gym

  • The Most Useful Buys Of 2020 So Far — According To YOU

    Our most prized purchases do not define our lives — but, they can serve as effective reminders of the times during which they were made. While living through a most unusual year, we wanted to cast a wider net outside of our usual monthly top-bought product roundups. So we posed a question to our readers, coworkers, friends, and family: What is the single most useful item you've bought in 2020? From the most basic of utility buys (like butter) to bigger non-essential investments (like a foldable electric bike) and everything in between, we've lined up the shopping stars of quarantine. Scroll on for a glimpse into the goods that helped save someone's butt (literally) while WFH, changed another's coffee habit completely, and enabled one runner to comfortably (and safely) maintain their exercise regime. We want to hear from you: Submit your 2020 product MVP here for a chance to be featured in our story! At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

  • Found: The Comfiest Chairs To WFH In

    If your head, shoulders, lower back, and butt aren't currently killing you, then you're probably reading this from the comforts of a supportive seat — and following the uncrossed-legs, 90/90 rule like a posture pro. The transitional road to working remotely has had its bumps, and one that we're currently still navigating is physical body support. To help us win the battle against eventually throwing our backs out while WFH, we went on a virtual quest for the top-rated desk chairs stamped with reviewer-comfort seals of approval. Ahead, the bestselling ergonomic buys that are structured to rescue your tight hips and sore butt bones from their sad sunken-in couch cushions or questionably-old mattress fates. We found everything from the no-frills options that will make you feel like you're back in-office again (seems almost nice at this point, no?) to the fancier styles that will fit right in with your farmhouse decor — and even an insanely tricked out seating situation chosen by hardcore gamers. Welcome to Hype Machine, our hit-list of the top reviewed products across the web — according to a crowd of die-hard shoppers. Call this your 4-star & up only club, with entry granted by our devoted-to-the-goods shop editors. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. The product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?10 Ergonomic Goods That Will Support Your WFH BodyThe Best Eco-Friendly Bedding BrandsDo Posture Correctors Actually Work?