October 23, 2017
Even if they wanted to, people walking past Philadelphia’s Municipal Services Building couldn’t avoid seeing it.
That’s right: The rather disturbing, 15-foot-tall “Trumpy the Rat” inflatable monument made its way to town on Monday afternoon to celebrate the birthday of the late former Mayor Frank Rizzo.
Just before 11:15 a.m., John Post Lee – a New York City art dealer who was born and raised in South Philadelphia – arrived at Thomas Paine Plaza.
Soon, he hooked the rodentine protest piece up to an electronic pump and over the course of mere minutes, it grew to full height, becoming the talk of Center City on many a level.
To hear Faye Anderson of Avenging the Ancestors (ATAC) tell it, she randomly bumped into Lee near New York City’s High Line last week and told him about the ongoing controversy regarding the future of the Rizzo statue. (ATAC is a broad-based coalition of African-Americans, including historians, attorneys, concerned citizens and elected officials.)
That encounter led to an idea: Let’s bring the “Trump Rat” to Philly on Rizzo’s birthday to make the political point that the two men were pretty similar in how they comport themselves as public leaders.
“There are parallels between Ratso (Rizzo) and Trump that cannot be denied,” said Anderson, who lobbied for the Rizzo statue’s removal, as the inflatable took shape. “Rizzo paved the way for Trump.”
For his part, Lee said it’s not a particularly political person. He’s more of a “humanist and progressive.” That said, he maintained that Trump’s election put the country “in a horrible place and a new low point in American history.
“As bad as George Bush 1 and 2 were, they were at least presidential. What’s happening now is just grotesque,” said Lee, 58, who attended Friends Select School. “(Rizzo) was corrupt, and Trump is corrupt beyond belief.”
So earlier this year, he launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised $10,000.
The “Trump Rat” was then created by Inflatable Images in Brunswick, Ohio and has made several noteworthy appearances in other cities throughout the year.
When one couldn’t be produced in a timely manner, the rat was deflated, moved and then reinflated on the John F. Kennedy Boulevard sidewalk.
In its first spot on the Plaza, it faced the side of the Rizzo statue. Now, it was directly in front of it.
While Lee was loathe to wade into the whole Rizzo statue-removing controversy, he said, “we need less divisiveness” in the world.
Some passersby shared anti-Trump sentiments aloud. Others just walked by shaking their heads.
For her part, 73-year-old Jo Long of Mt. Airy bridged the ideological gap to a certain extent.
“Even though I don’t like him, this is blasphemous,” she said. “As president, he should be respected.”