Black Lives Matter Activists Put KKK Hood on Frank Rizzo Statue

Protesters want the city to tear down the statue of the former mayor.

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.”

Last week, Erica Mines of the Philly Coalition for REAL Justice created a petition seeking the removal of the statue, which is the only prominent likeness of a former mayor in the city. Since that time, Rizzo supporters have signed a separate petition asking that the statue remain where it is. Both petitions have close to 1,000 signatures. Mayor Jim Kenney has said that he’s willing to talk about moving the statue, but that the decision won’t be made by a few people overnight.

“The fact that the mayor was even willing to entertain tearing this down shows a lot about his administration,” Khalif said. “No other mayor has ever done that and tackled that situation.”

The statue was commissioned and paid for by Rizzo’s family, but it is owned by the City of Philadelphia and stands on public property. Khalif said he’d like to see it thrown in the Schuylkill River.

Leonard Brown, a passerby, said he remembered Frank Rizzo and former City Councilman and Congressman Lucien Blackwell getting into political fights, but didn’t believe Rizzo was a racist.

“My whole approach is, when is everything gonna stop, on both sides?” said Brown. “Yes, I know, I’m an African-American, and I know through the past a lot of things happened to people of color and stuff like that, but when is it going to be time that we move forward? Every life matters.”

Another woman who would only identify herself as Robin said she remembered being frightened by Rizzo when he was mayor and she was a young child.

“Should the statue be here? Based on what I remember as a Philadelphian? Not here,” she said.

Maybe it should be moved to South Philly, where Rizzo was from, she said.

At one point, a Duck Boat full of tourists drove past. As passengers turned around to snap pictures, the announcer was heard saying, “Oh, Frank,” and explaining that Rizzo was a former mayor before the vehicle drove off.

Cops slowly gathered by the statue, and eventually removed the hood from it. Then people slowly dispersed.

Additional reporting by Brian Thomas.

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