PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The debate is raging after renewed calls to remove the statue in Center City of Frank Rizzo as thousands have signed a petition to keep the statue.
Supporters of Rizzo, the former mayor and police commissioner of Philadelphia, are pushing back against Councilwoman Helen Gym’s call to remove his statue from city property. They’ve signed a petition to keep the statue where it currently stands, in front of the city’s Municipal Services Building.
Marc Ferguson, an administrator of the popular Facebook page Taking our South Philadelphia streets back, stopped to check on the statue early Wednesday. Tuesday night, someone vandalized it with eggs and an anti-Trump sign.
Ferguson started a petition on change.org Tuesday to gather support against efforts to take the statue down. Thousands have already signed it and the number of signatures continued to grow Wednesday.
“It’s about principle,” Ferguson said. “There’s so much going on in this country right now, there’s so many divided relations, this is not a symbol of hate.”
Gym wants the statue of the former mayor and police commissioner to be removed. Gym and others are troubled by allegations that African-Americans were routinely targeted and brutalized during Rizzo’s tenure from the late 60’s to 1980.
“There is a longstanding legacy around racism we have to have hard conversations about,” Gym told Eyewitness News on Tuesday.
She added, “This is not about history. This is about who the city chooses to honor in the heart of our city.”
Ferguson said he would love to have a conversation with city officials and is open to having the statue moved, just not destroyed.
“There’s a mural down at the Italian Market, maybe we could put it over there with the mural,” he said. “There’s a little park there. There’s all kinds of options.”
Police have set up a barrier around the statue after the statue was egged. Police took into custody a 25-year-old man from Maplewood, New Jersey, following the incident that happened around 10:45 a.m. He has been charged with disorderly conduct and criminal mischief.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Office of Emergency Management sent up a mobile surveillance system next to it.
Philadelphians are split over whether Rizzo’s statue should go.
“Anything that symbolizes racism? Take it down. It’s real simple,” said Pam Williams of West Philadelphia.
“He was the guy who had to take care of business. At that time, at that era, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, we needed that. We needed that, so I like the statue,” said Melvin Carter of North Philadelphia.
More than 13,000 people have signed the petition so far to keep the statue.