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September 18, 2017

He once ran for mayor, now he has a trial date for allegedly vandalizing Rizzo statue

Courts Vandalism
Frank RIzzo Statue Spray Paint Andrew Parent/PhillyVoice

The statue of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo was spray-painted with the phrase "black power" during the night of Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017.

Long a point of contention in Center City, the battle over the Frank Rizzo intensified last month when City Councilwoman at-large Helen Gym called for its removal from the plaza at the Municipal Services Building.

On Monday, just three days after the deadline passed for public recommendations about the statue’s future, the issue moved inside the Criminal Justice Center.

Wali “Diop” Rahman, a 40-year-old Germantown resident, faces charges including criminal mischief and intentional desecration of a public monument.

The charges stem from allegedly spray painting “Black Power” on the bronze statue of the former mayor and police commissioner on August 17.

The act was caught on video.

Rahman’s case arrived in court for a status hearing on Monday morning. 

While his attorney Michael Coard said Rahman wasn’t yet available to speak publicly on the case, the matter was scheduled for trial on September 27 before Judge Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde, according to court records.

In related news, the 25-year-old New Jersey man arrested for throwing eggs at the statue two days before the spray paint incident was expected to get a trial date of his own after a Monday afternoon hearing.

"It's a sad day in Philadelphia when a racist statue is treated like a victim by the criminal justice system while two heroic anti-racist activists are victimized by that same criminal justice system," said Coard.

If Rahman’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’re a close observer of Philadelphia politics.

In 2011, he launched an independent mayoral campaign for the general election.

Then 34 years old, the grassroots organizer who headed the Uhuru Solidarity Movement fashioned himself as less politician than “freedom fighter.”

His platform centered, in part, on public safety.

"Their solution to the problems is to flood the community with more cops and build more prisons. The reality is that crime doesn't happen in our community because there aren't enough cops. The problem is that people don't have jobs, don't have access to resources, despite what Michael Nutter may say when trying to criminalize our community.

"I just spoke at a halfway house. They weren't asking me where they could get their next kilo of coke. They were telling me we need jobs. We have people in this community who want to work, but a billion dollars are going to police and prisons. …

"If the people of Philadelphia make the decision to elect Wali 'Diop' Rahman as mayor," concluded Rahman, then the construction of the road to social progress and a more just city will have begun."

Rahman drew more than 6,300 votes in the mayoral contest, finishing in third behind incumbent Michael Nutter and Republican candidate Karen Brown.