This column is a partial thank-you to the creepy cowards who vandalized the Christopher Columbus statue at Broad and Oregon and the History of Italian Immigration Museum on East Passyunk Avenue. Because of your vandalism, I met Michael Bonasera, a listener and one of the people who founded and runs the museum.
On our recent tour, Bonasera said: "There is no hate here. There is only love." This museum honors great people of Italian heritage, the Italian immigrant experience, life in South Philly over the years and has a really interesting collection of artifacts and photos.
Yes, they still honor Columbus, along with Amerigo Vespucci and Stephen Cabot, as notable explorers with some degree of Italian heritage. They still are big supporters of the Columbus Day Parade. How dare they do any of this in the New Philadelphia.
It's the New Philadelphia where the statue of former Mayor and Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo must be torn down. Where Center City mobs can shut down the free speech of those they differ with or even chase them out of restaurants.
These mobs are emboldened because they have a mayor who never condemns their tactics and a district attorney who fails to prosecute their criminal acts. These social justice warriors feel like heroes in the New Philadelphia when they attack people who honor Columbus.
In the dead of the night, they moved from an attack on Columbus to an attack on Italians. In front of the museum, the attacker sprayed in white paint: "COLUMBUS=MUSSOLINI= RIZZO= TRUMP= FASCISM."
Did they run out of Italians to cast as fascists or do they know that Trump has some DNA that indicates an Italian connection?
Isn't this activity, including the graffiti on the bricks in front of the museum containing remembrance of ancestors of Philadelphia area Italians, a hate crime? Where is Mayor Kenney vowing that this outrage will not stand? Where are the huge police resources being devoted to catching the creep? Where are people saying that if they get away with this, next there will be physical attacks on Italians? Where groups charting bias incidents against Italians in Philadelphia?
Then there is the Columbus Day Parade. People I met at the museum told me there are worries about all kinds of forces gradually trying to diminish the parade. There is talk of an upcoming rally to make it clear that Italian-Americans in the area see this double standard and hope that people with a sense of justice and rule of law will join them to push back against the mobs.
If you're reading this and thinking this an overreaction, then you haven't been paying attention. This is a test case of whether hate crime laws are not just a scheme to favor certain groups favored by progressives.
Have Italian-American "arrived" in America so much that they no longer need protections?
Or is the argument that anyone in Philadelphia who still supports Columbus or Frank Rizzo will be subject to attack? Is there a growing sentiment that it's OK to run them out of town? Isn't a significant portion of the rationale for hate crime laws is protection against those trying to drive people out of any area because of religion, race, ethnic background, etc.?
For those interested in learning about Italian culture, the museum is at 1834 E. Passyunk Ave. Operators are interested in any materials that you think are worthy of exhibit. You might even meet some real characters like Sal Rosati, a legendary barber, whose artifacts or Joey "Joey Eye" Intrieri who is a renowned boxing cut man and fixture in several Rocky films. I know you'll meet friendly, warm people eager to share their treasures.
During my visit last week, I was honored that the heads of the museum took my photo and biography and placed them on their wall of honor. I'm surrounded by wrestler Bruno Sammartino, NYPD Detective and legendary whistleblower Frank Serpico, Frank Rizzo and Frank Sinatra.
With that posse, I think I'm in great company and safe from the mobs.