Counter-Protesters Call For Frank Rizzo Statue To Come Down

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The debate over Frank Rizzo’s statue in Center City rages on.

One group of supporters postponed a rally for Monday after Mayor Jim Kenney agreed to meet with them.

However, counter-protesters have gathered to call for the removal of the statue of the former Philadelphia mayor and police commissioner.

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Around 150 people have joined the counter-protest that has caused a traffic jam on JFK Boulevard.

Police also have erected gates around the statue.

On Sunday night, an agreement was struck to hold a meeting between Kenney and pro-Rizzo rally organizers. During that meeting on Monday, the mayor reassured the group that the city statue will not be yanked down without a process.

“They wanted some assurances that [the statue] wasn’t coming down at 3 o’clock in the morning, one night,” the mayor said.

Mayor Kenney says he put their mind at ease, since that’s not how it will happen, if it does. He says there will be a deliberate process.

“As I said to councilmember [Helen] Gym, tweeting is not the best way to have a public policy discussion,” Kenney said, “and I think she’s seeing that now.”

Gym’s tweet, last week, calling for the statue’s removal has touched off a wave of vandalism and protests, including one that stopped Monday rush hour traffic near City Hall and prompted another bike rack perimeter around the statue.

Sources inside City Hall say the city sought to have the rally canceled in fears that it would grow to be violent.

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People who want to see it come down allege Rizzo treated the African-American community unfairly, even brutally, at times.

Philadelphia has long tried to reconcile the complicated legacy of Rizzo, who served as mayor from 1972 to 1980 and who died of a heart attack in 1991. His friends, family and fans remember him as a devoted public servant unafraid to speak his mind. His detractors saw his police force as corrupt and brutal and said Rizzo alienated minorities both as police commissioner and mayor.

In a statement, Councilwoman Helen Gym says the Rizzo statue needs to come down.

“There should be no doubt that the Frank Rizzo statue simply does not belong at the footsteps of City Hall and our municipal government, which exists to serve and protect all Philadelphians,” said Gym. “We must proceed with a dialogue on his rightful place in history peacefully and respectfully.”

The statue has been standing in front of the Municipal Services building since 1999.

KYW’s Pat Loeb contributed to this story.

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