Progressives celebrated Wednesday after Philadelphia officials in the early morning removed a statue of racist former mayor Frank Rizzo from in front of the city's Municipal Services Building but made clear that the symbolic gesture, while welcomed, was not a substitute for police reform.
"This is a clear indication that direct action works," activist group Philly for REAL Justice said in a statement posted to Facebook. "And while we are glad that the symbol is removed, we will continue to fight until the white supremacy that allowed Rizzo to come to power in the first place is eradicated."
The statue, Mayor Jim Kenney said on Twitter, "represented bigotry, hatred, and oppression for too many people, for too long."
In a press conference Wednesday morning, Kenney told reporters that the statue's presence in front of a building where Philadelphians paid their taxes and tickets was understandably offensive and that it had been past time to take it down.
"In hindsight, I wish we had done it earlier," said Kenney.
“The [Frank Rizzo] statue is a deplorable monument to racism, bigotry, and police brutality for members of the Black community, the LGBTQ community, and many others," Mayor Kenney said in a statement Wednesday following the statue's removal.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer (@PhillyInquirer) June 3, 2020
The Rizzo statue stood in front of the city government building for nearly twenty years before its removal. Rizzo, Philadelphia's 93rd mayor who served from 1972 to 1980, was a racist bigot whose reign of terror in charge of the city targeted black, brown, LGBTQ, and other marginalized residents.
Among Rizzo's inflammatory, bigoted remarks through his career was an exhortation to residents to "vote white."
"Frank Rizzo was, to put it as kindly as possible, a pig," political scientist and Philadelphia resident George Ciccariello-Maher told Common Dreams. "He represented, and continues to represent, Philadelphia's deep-seated white supremacy."
Protesters in Philadelphia during the ongoing uprising sparked by the killing of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers on May 25 targeted the statue over the weekend. The city prioritizing cleaning the statue in what was widely seen as a message to protesters.
Unfathomable the first thing the City did this AM was clean the Rizzo statue. What a slap in the face to how much pain everyone is feeling today @PhillyMayor and @PHLCouncil. pic.twitter.com/sURLUvzV3k
— kacey musgraves fan account (@ericopinion) May 31, 2020
Philadelphia city council member Kendra Brooks on Wednesday thanked the mayor for removing the statue but noted that there was more to be done, citing Kenney's city budget proposal that increasing spending on the police department by $14 million.
Thank you, @PhillyMayor, for removing a statue that symbolized police violence and the criminalization of the Black community in Philly.
Now, it's time to reevaluate increasing the police budget by $14M and consider redistributing those resources to support communities. https://t.co/GtyB38aJyx
— Councilmember Kendra Brooks (@KendraPHL) June 3, 2020
"The proposed $14 million increase, especially at the expense of other services, is not only going to impact poor communities' ability to lift themselves out of the economic downturn, but it's also going to criminalize us," Black Lives Matter Philly organizer Devren Washington told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Black neighborhoods, especially."