When Children Force Us to Remember What We’d Rather Forget

Photo Credit: Peter Morgan | AP Photo

If you’re a newcomer to Philadelphia, chances are you’ve walked by the Municipal Services Center and paid very little attention to the statue that stands in front of it.

The statue is one of Frank Rizzo, the city’s former mayor and police commissioner. Because incidents like the death of David Jones at the hands of Officer Ryan Pownall during a traffic stop were pretty commonplace during Rizzo’s watch, there have been more than a few calls for his statue to go the way of many Confederate monuments.

In the Rizzo era, police brutality was more commonplace than it should be. The best-known account of this was the time Rizzo’s officers strip-searched members of the Black Panther Party in front of a Philadelphia Daily News photographer. It wound up on the front page.

It’s Philadelphia’s history of police abuse that has led to the creation of a historical marker commemorating the May 13th, 1985 confrontation between Philadelphia police and the Black nationalist group MOVE. Unfortunately, it’s a marker without a home at the moment. Read more »

Black Lives Matter Activists Put KKK Hood on Frank Rizzo Statue

Photo by Jared Brey

Photo by Jared Brey

On Friday morning, two Black Lives Matter activists stood on the steps of the Municipal Services Building across from City Hall, climbed a step ladder behind the 10-foot-tall statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo, and placed a white Ku Klux Klan hood over his head.

It was a small demonstration — more reporters than activists — but the message was loud and clear.

“He was a racist bigot,” said Asa Khalif, after he placed the hood on Rizzo’s head. “He was the king of bigots, and this is his crown, the KKK mask, and I think it’s a hell of a match.” Read more »

Should Philly Take Down Its Statue of Frank Rizzo?

Frank Rizzo statue | Photo bt Jared Brey

Frank Rizzo statue | Photo by Jared Brey

Over the last few years, cities and institutions around the country have been struggling with questions about whether to remove public art that depicts racist historical figures and rename buildings dedicated to them. Is it now Philadelphia’s turn to enter the fray?

Last week, Erica Mines, an activist who’s been involved with the Black Lives Matter movement in Philadelphia, created a petition asking the city to take down the 10-foot-tall statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo descending a staircase across from City Hall. Read more »

Frank Rizzo Mural in Italian Market Tagged With Anti-Police Graffiti

Rizzo vandalism

The Frank Rizzo mural was vandalized again in recent days.| Photo by Jared Brey

In 2012, the Italian Market’s giant mural of former Mayor Frank Rizzo was tagged with graffiti calling him a fascist. Today there’s a new tag that says, “F*** Racist Pigs. End Cops 4eva.”

Rizzo was mayor of Philadelphia from 1972 until 1980. Prior to that, he spent four years as Police Commissioner. His entire career was controversial, and many people—not just the painters who recently vandalized the mural—believe he had racist and fascist tendencies.

Rizzo was the prototypical “tough” cop. Once, he told police officers to “get their black asses!” during a raid on a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee protest, according to Rizzo biography The Cop Who Would Be King. (The wording of Rizzo’s statement has been disputed.) Rizzo also said during his re-election bid in the mid-1970s that he would be even tougher on crime and his perceived adversaries in his second term, promising to “make Attila the Hun look like a faggot.” Read more »

Philly Artist Joe Boruchow Calls Out Trump, Rizzo With Latest Work

"Remove Rizzo" posted on a Septa bus shelter.

“Remove Rizzo” posted on a SEPTA bus shelter.

Editor’s Note: Since publication, it has come to our attention that the language in the top half of the original version of this post was similar to that in the post by Conrad Benner that we were aggregating. Philly Mag apologizes to Benner.

Philly artist Joe Boruchow has recently added three new works to his portfolio — and to the streets of Philly, Conrad Benner at Streets Dept. reports. Each are rendered in Boruchow’s signature black-and-white paper cutouts, cut from a single sheet of black paper and wheat pasted to platforms around the city. The latest designs mock Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and protest the statue erected in honor of 1970’s Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo in front of the Municipal Services Building.

“Remove Rizzo” depicts two figures using a rope to drag the statue away from its post on the building’s steps. The piece is accompanied by a short descriptor on Boruchow’s blogRead more »

Frank Rizzo Returns in Remastered 1978 Documentary

Still images from the 1978 movie "Amateur Night at City Hall: The Frank L. Rizzo Story."

Scenes from the 1978 movie “Amateur Night at City Hall: The Story of Frank L. Rizzo.” (Courtesy of Robert Mugge.)

Frank Rizzo is having a moment.

Earlier this year, Philadelphia magazine contributor Jake Blumgart explored the sense of deja vu that people felt while watching Donald Trump‘s bombastic and routinely offensive presidential campaign grow increasingly popular across the country, and found echoes of Rizzo in Trump’s schtick — tough-guy talk and populist messaging that resonates with working class and middle class whites who want a leader who will just tell it like it is.

The New York Times made a similar Rizzo-Trump connection earlier this week. And now Rizzo’s posthumous role in this election season is going to take on another dimension with the looming re-release of a long-forgotten documentary from his heyday. Director Robert Mugge filmed the stellar Amateur Night at City Hall: The Story of Frank L. Rizzo in 1977, when Rizzo was in his second term as mayor, and the city was as divided over Rizzo’s character as voters are today over Trump’s.

Read more »

Flyers, Philly Fans Embarrass Selves in Playoff Loss

Members of the Philadelphia Flyers Ice Crew pick up wristbands that were thrown onto the ice during the third period against the Washington Capitals in game three of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center.

Members of the Philadelphia Flyers Ice Crew pick up wristbands that were thrown onto the ice during the third period against the Washington Capitals in game three of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center.

The Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis Blues once played a game on January 6th of 1972. The Flyers, an expansion squad in its fifth season, were two years away from the first of the franchise’s only two Stanley Cups. It was Fred Shero‘s first year as coach. The Flyers were ahead, 2-0, after two periods, when a riot broke out.

Blues coach Al Arbour — the third employed by St. Louis that season — chased after the ref toward the dressing room. He was complaining about the way the puck was dropped on a face-off earlier in the game. As he berated the ref in the exit runway, a fan reached over and poured a beer over Albour’s head. (Stadium beer was cheaper in those days.)

The incident is recalled in fantastic detail in Glen Macnow and Anthony L. Gargano’s The Great Philadelphia Fan Book. The authors even got Ed Snider to comment on the incident.

“Fans started cursing the Blues and throwing things,” he said. “Then Arbour reached over into the seats and some cop hit him over the head with a billy club. Well, that was it. It became instant mayhem.”

The Blues players rushed to the tunnel entrance, defending their coach. Led by Bob Plager, Blues players rushed into the stands and began fighting fans. One-hundred fifty police officers had to be called in to quell the mayhem. Blues defenseman John Arbour, no relation to the coach, needed 40 stitches. Three Blues players, and coach Arbour, were arrested.

“That was the worst case of police brutality I’ve ever seen or heard about,” Blues owner Sidney Salomon told the Daily News. “It was worse than the riot in Chicago at the convention.” Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo was his usual self: “This community will not tolerate hooliganism. We probably didn’t need our police officers in that situation. I believe our residents could have taken care of the matter on their own.”

Snider bailed the Blues players out of jail. As he told the authors of the book, he was angrier at the way his team reacted than with the fans. The Flyers gave up three goals in the third period and lost to the Blues, 3-2. “I was angry,” Snider said. “Not about the fight, so much as the game. Blowing a two-goal lead made me sick.” The embarrassing fight and loss were on Snider’s 39th birthday. Read more »

Donald Trump Is Frank Rizzo, Reborn

Frank Rizzo, 1968, and Donald Trump, 2016. Photographs by Bill Achatz and Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Frank Rizzo, 1968, and Donald Trump, 2016. Photographs by Bill Achatz and Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Rocco DiSipio is a small-business owner in a working-class neighborhood where times aren’t quite as good as they once were. He isn’t used to being interviewed by reporters, but it’s primary season, and journalists want to know what the man-on-the-street thinks of the brash conservative candidate who seems to do everything wrong — and keeps winning anyway.

“This election has some racism,” admits DiSipio, acknowledging that his candidate can be blunt, or worse. His pick doesn’t have the typical qualifications, either, but for DiSipio, that’s part of the appeal. “He’s going to stand behind his word if it kills him. He can flunk at it, but you can’t say he won’t try.” Read more »

From Stage to Screen: Actor Scott Greer to Play Frank Rizzo In Tigre Hill Film

Scott Greer in a publicity photo for Theatre Exile's production of Rizzo | Tigre Hill in a publicity photo

Scott Greer in a publicity photo for Theatre Exile’s production of Rizzo | Tigre Hill in a publicity photo

It’s been quite a week for Scott Greer, the 2014 Best of Philly Theater Talent. On Monday, a rare night off from his critically-acclaimed run as Frank Rizzo in Theatre Exile’s Rizzo, he accepted the Barrymore Award for Best Actor for his gripping work in The Whale, also a Theatre Exile production. Then came word that the rest of the run of Rizzo, which was already nearly impossible to get into, was completely and utterly sold out. And now, Greer tells us that he just signed on to play former Mayor Rizzo in American Zealot, filmmaker Tigre Hill’s biopic about legendary Philadelphia civil rights leader Cecil B. Moore. Read more »

REVIEW: Theatre Exile’s Rizzo

Photo by Paola Nogueras

Frank Rizzo (Scott Greer) and Marty Weinberg (Paul L. Nolan)| Photo by Paola Nogueras

A special theatrical alchemy happens when a great actor plays a bigger-than-life, flawed but charismatic personality. Think of Orson Welles’s Charles Foster Kane, Burt Lancaster’s Elmer Gantry, and Robert Preston’s Harold Hill. A couple of years ago, Bryan Cranston won a Tony portaying one such figure from the real world — Lyndon B. Johnson.

Read more »

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