Updated: Monday, November 6, 2017, 1:21 PM
The legacy of former Philadelphia mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo has been under a microscope for the last few months in Philadelphia. A debate raged over whether or not Rizzo’s statue deserved to continue to stand in Center City Philadelphia.
For some, the statue pays homage to a man they revere as a champion of law and order and the common man.
For others, the statue brings up memories of a man they feel enacted policing policies that disproportionately targeted African Americans and other people of color.
While not a final conclusion to the debate, November 3 marked the city’s first decision regarding the future of the statue. It will be moved to a new location decided by the Philadelphia Arts Commission, Mayor Jim Kenney’s Administration announced.
Following news of the move, we wanted to hear from you. We asked our readers to tell us what Rizzo’s legacy means to them.
“Frank Rizzo Was Not a Racist”
As Bill Morgan from Pottstown wrote to us, “Frank Rizzo was not a racist. He was a bigger than life character who rose from being a regular police officer, to becoming chief, to becoming mayor for two terms.”
Morgan also addressed Rizzo’s relationship with Philadelphia’s black population writing, “the black neighborhoods loved him because when Rizzo was there, there were no issues. He is one of the few outstanding mayors the city has elected.”
Robert Sumner also weighed in, telling us that “Frank Rizzo was and always will be the greatest mayor the City of Brotherly Love ever had.”
Impact on Commuters
Not everyone thought as highly of Rizzo as Sumner, but in Andrew McCaffrey‘s response to us, he explained how he puts aside his feelings about Rizzo to give credit where he feels it’s due.
“I was not a huge fan of Frank Rizzo,” McCaffrey explained. “But I have to give him credit for one very practical project which continues to benefit hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians each and every day: the Center City rail tunnel connecting Suburban Station with the old Reading Lines Terminal (now Jefferson Station).” In addition to giving credit to Rizzo for supporting this project, McCaffrey shared an idea for what to do with the statue:
“Why not place the statue in the great hall in Jefferson Station, the entryway where the escalators take commuters down to the waiting room area? I’d like to come down that escalator and see the statue of Rizzo, hand up in greeting me to his greatest contribution to our city.”
“A Good Leader to Some”
Not everyone defended the legacy or impact that Rizzo had on Philadelphia. As one of our Facebook commenters, Cheryl Darlene McKenney wrote, “I saw the things he did. He means nothing to me.”
Another commenter questioned the notion that the removal of the statue will mean anything for how Philadelphians view the former mayor. “Why would that change his legacy?” Rob Cane posed.
Instagram user @michs1966 wrote, “he may have been a good leader to some in this city but he wasn’t to many others and it lead to injustice for many years.”
The statue of former Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo in front of the Municipal Services Building will be relocated, according to the office of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney on Friday, November 3, 2017. The statue has stood in front of the Municipal Services Building across from City Hall for nearly two decades. To his detractors, Rizzo oppressed black citizens as police commissioner in the 1960s and became mayor in part by appealing to the racial fears of white Philadelphians. To those who admired him, activists demanding the statue’s removal are maligning a good man who protected all people from crime. Read the full story using the link in the bio field. @mjbryant27 / Staff Photographer #OurPhilly #frankrizzo #rizzo #centercityphilly
A post shared by Philly.com (@phillydotcom) on Nov 3, 2017 at 11:35am PDT
With all of the opposing opinions on Rizzo’s legacy, the man responsible for sculpting the statue is disappointed in the city’s decision to move it, casting it as a missed opportunity to educate people on all of the views that make up the former mayor’s legacy.
“You could put up plaques telling people there are different opinions about him,” the statue’s sculptor Zenos Frudakis told our Stephan Salisbury. “You could put up another sculpture of someone else from a different political place. You know, I could do it. I’d be happy to do it. I’m from a different political place.
“I’m not defending Frank Rizzo as a person, the racial polarizing and all that,” Frudakis added. “This thing could be used for education. But you’ve got to be very respectful when you move it, respectful to the majority of people who voted for him.”
Read more opinions on the Frank Rizzo statue Do not rip Frank Rizzo’s presence from our public consciousness Take down Rizzo statue? Fine, but don’t stop there. Of Rendell, Rizzo, and all this to-do over statues Since Rizzo statue is eating all the attention, let’s use it to harness the fury That Rizzo statue is history! (No, seriously…put it in a museum) Should Frank Rizzo statue stay or go? That’s the wrong question to ask. Remove the Rizzo statue from public property Tear down the Frank Rizzo statue now
Read full story: What does Rizzo statue move mean for his legacy? | Readers Respond