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November 03, 2017

Rizzo statue to be moved to a new location

Statues Frank RIzzo
Frank Rizzo statue cleaned Patricia Madej /PhillyVoice Staff

The spray-painted phrase "black power" was removed from a statue of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo after a vandal defaced it in August 2017.

The controversial statue of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo will be moved to a new location, city officials announced Friday.

The statue is currently displayed at Thomas Paine Plaza in front of the Municipal Services Building. 

After calls to remove the 9-foot-tall bronze statue intensified following the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, city officials asked residents to submit their ideas for the future of the statue. 

City officials have since identified several potential sites for the statue. But a new location has not yet been determined and the sites were not disclosed. 

"We plan to do our due diligence on these locations before announcing the new site, but the input helped shape some of the options we'll review," Chief Cultural Officer Kelly Lee said in a statement. "Our goal moving forward is to seamlessly relocate the statue to a new, more appropriate public location in the city."

The city will conduct feasibility studies on potential new sites before submitting a proposal to the Philadelphia Art Commission, which will have the final ruling over the statue's future. 

Asa Khalif, a Black Lives Matter activist who has urged the city to remove the Rizzo statue, voiced his approval of the news.

"Glory Hallelujah!" Khalif said after hearing the news. "I'm not surprised. People from all walks of life joined together and forced the politicians to do the right thing. This is a true example of what we can truly accomplish when the people are united."

Joe Mastronardo, a grandson of Rizzo, called the relocation "disrespectful," but said he was not surprised by the decision.

"I knew it was pretty much only a matter of time (that this would happen) because of the people in positions of power here," Mastronardo wrote in an email. "You still have to stand up and resist, though. You can't let them bully you with this liberal nonsense and hypocrisy. You have to stand up for what you believe in. Otherwise, where does it stop?"

In August, as the controversy over the statue simmered, city officials invited the public to submit ideas for its future. 

The city received more than 3,600 submissions during a three-week stretch. The responses ranged from people urging the city to keep the statue at its current location to others who don't want it displayed anywhere.

Detractors of Rizzo argue the statue symbolizes police brutality and discrimination against people of color and members of the LGBT community. 

Rizzo supporters tout his reputation as a law-and-order police commissioner and mayor, maintaining he had a positive influence on the city.

In August, Khalif said activists already had plans to tear down the Rizzo statue.

"We're organizing with other groups to hurry the process up, " he told PhillyVoice at the time. "If politicians refuse (to make it happen quickly), we are going to grab some ropes and tear that f***ing statue down ourselves. Either the politicians do it or we will. When you see us coming for it, it's too late to talk."

The statue was briefly removed in August after vandals spray-painted the phrase "black power." One year earlier, protesters placed a makeshift Ku Klux Klan hood atop the statue's head.

City officials estimate that it will take at least six months for them to prepare a complete proposal for the Art Commission, but additional time may be needed.

In announcing the relocation of the Rizzo statue, Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis said Thomas Paine Plaza – its current location – will undergo a renovation similar to those that have occurred at Dilworth Plaza and LOVE Park.

"This decision comes at a time when we have begun the preliminary stages of planning to re-envision Paine Plaza as a new type of inviting and engaging public space," DiBerardinis said in a statement. "We are working to plan and create a public space more in line with neighboring Dilworth Plaza and the soon-to-be-unveiled LOVE Park."

Staff reporter Brian Hickey contributed to this report.