Candidates Parker, Oh: Restore Rizzo statue

Happy Columbus Day. Yes, I said it..

Men of controversy: Christopher Columbus (left); Frank Rizzo
Mayor Jim Kenney acted outside his authority by killing Columbus Day and declaring it Indigenous People’s Day. Contracts with city unions make Columbus Day a paid holiday, so it is “official,” while Indigenous People’s Day is not.

Should there be a IPD? Why not?

But using it to cancel Columbus Day is a calculated insult to most Italian Americans, who are told Columbus was a bad guy. But the sad truth is that Indigenous People raped, killed, and enslaved one another. Yes, even before Europeans arrived. 

Sitting on his perch of self-anointed moral superiority, Kenney tried to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus from Marconi Park, until stopped by a lawsuit filed by George Bochetto.

And this was not the first authoritarian action from Woke-addled Kenney, who earlier acted outside his authority — and very cowardly — by having the statue of Philadelphia’s first Italian-American mayor, Frank Rizzo, removed in the middle of the night and carted off  to a site Kenney refuses to divulge.

Yes, Columbus and Rizzo were controversial, but should not have been canceled because of complaints and grudges by a vocal minority, without a public hearing. Kenney awarded critics a heckler’s veto. That is not how a civil society, and a democracy, is supposed to work.

The majority of complaints about Rizzo, about his alleged “racism” and “brutality,” arose during his tenure as police commissioner, when, coincidentally(?) Philadelphia was one of the safest cities in America. 

This is not to excuse police misconduct. But police misconduct was true before and after Rizzo was police commissioner.  There were bad-conduct incidents under John Timoney, Charles Ramsey, Danielle Outlaw. 

But the statue Rizzo is wearing a suit, not a police uniform. It was designed to honor him for his two terms as mayor.

After Rizzo’s death in 1991, before the statue was commissioned, then-Councilman Kenney actually proposed renaming the Municipal Services Building to honor Rizzo. So what perverse thinking led him to remove the statue in 2020? 

And why didn’t the chicken-legged Kenney remove Rizzo’s portrait from among all the mayoral portraits hanging in City Hall? It’s still there. Why?

And why is the statue of slave-owning William Penn still allowed its place of prominence atop City Hall, for all the world to see? And how many city institutions are still named for Benjamin Franklin, another slave owner?

Was “racist” Rizzo worse than men who actually enslaved other human beings?

The attack against Rizzo was spearheaded by self-righteous bullhorn harridan Helen Gym, the former City Councilwoman and would-be mayor. 

A native of Spokane, WA., Gym didn’t arrive in Philadelphia until almost a decade after Rizzo’s second term as mayor had ended. So she had no first-hand knowledge of Rizzo. All she knew was what she was told by her Left-leaning friends and from a media that basically loathes Rizzo.

The Inquirer still makes mention of Rizzo in news stories as a racist bully as if that were undisputed fact.

It is disputed, even by some members of the Black community, who remember one of Rizzo’s mayoral runs was endorsed by the Black Clergy of Philadelphia & Vicinity. Rizzo’s African-American friends included heavyweight champ Joe Frazier, broadcaster Mary Mason, and West Philadelphia community leader and activist Novella Williams. These were people who knew Frank Rizzo, unlike most of his critics. But they are gone. 

Just prior to the statue’s removal, city Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis said the statue would be moved to a different location. No one took that to mean a warehouse.

People should be viewed in historical context, with what I call social appropriateness. Rizzo and Columbus should be viewed in the context of their times. 

So here are my challenges to mayoral candidates Cherelle Parker and David Oh: 

1- Restore the Frank Rizzo statue to public view.

2- Have one of Philadelphia’s excellent law schools convene a moot court for Christopher Columbus, and broadcast it on public television.

Here are the details for each proposal:

The Frank Rizzo statue does not have to return to its site in front of the Municipal Services Building. 

It could be “bid” on by various neighborhoods — hello, South Philly — but the location would have to be secure, because the statue had been the victim of vigilante vandals in the past. Not just the statue, but the Rizzo mural in the heart of South Philly, which Mural Arts Philadelphia removed, surrendering to the fascist mob with paint buckets. Gutless MAP is dead to me, now.

When the statue is brought back, a plaque would be added to Zenos Frudakis’ 9-foot bronze artwork, explaining the controversy around the former mayor.

How might that look? 

Like the George Washington’s house on Independence Mall, an open-air pavilion that shows the outline of the original buildings with storyboards telling the story of the nine slaves in the household. It allows America to look its past in the eye, unflinchingly, and understand the embarrassing truth. A teaching moment. 

The lion’s share of the credit for that improvement goes to firebrand lawyer Michael Coard and the Avenging the Ancestors Coalition.

Coard opposes cancellation.

“With rare exception, I don’t support the removal of historically horrible racists’ names from buildings or institutions, or the removal of statues or monuments of historically horrible racists,” he wrote.

“Instead, I support what I call subtraction by addition. In other words, the deification of those historically racist luminaries will decrease with the increase of historically factual descriptions.” Which is exactly what he accomplished on Independence Mall.

And that is what I propose for the Frank Rizzo statue.

At the very least, it belongs on public display in a local museum. 

Do I expect either Parker or Oh to take up this idea?

No, I don’t. Rizzo has been made toxic by those with the biggest megaphones.

Even though Parker is a Democratic moderate, and Rizzo was a twice-elected Democratic mayor, and she is for stop-and-frisk (which many on the Left say is racist), she would not step up to do it.

If Oh did it, he’d be called “racist” by the Inquirer, whose own publisher stunningly announced last year that the newspaper itself is racist. So why worry?

If Oh could summon the grit to do it, all he would lose are the votes he would never get anyway, while he could gain the support of many in the Italian-American community, plus people like me who oppose cancel culture, Woke thinking, and the undemocratic way in which the statue was discarded by political hypocrites.

As to Columbus,  Inquirer columnist Marcus Hayes just made reference to him as a “genocidal maniac” in a column calling for the Phillies to remove pitcher Curt Schilling from its Wall of Fame because Hayes doesn’t like Schilling’s often-awful political opinions. 

People like Hayes kept Schilling out of the MLB Hall of Fame, using the so-called “character clause” as a fig leaf. 

Did Schilling rape a nun? Get caught driving drunk? Enhance performance with drugs? No — he’s a Trumpster who has defended the Jan. 6 rioters and has passed along some possibly anti-Semitic social media comments. [Personal disclosure: I am Jewish.] That doesn’t change his 216-146 won-loss record, 3.46 earned run average, 3,116 strikeouts.

As I recall, Phillies great Steve Carlton had a bunch of off the wall ideas. Is he next? Once you start canceling, like eating peanuts, it’s hard to stop. 

Back to Columbus. 

He sailed for Spain during the era of Conquistadors, when European nations roamed the world “claiming” other peoples’ territory for white monarchs in distant lands.

Should we judge Columbus by today’s legal and cultural standards, or by the conduct of other European explorers and conquerors? 

By some accounts, he was not the worst of the worst.

While most of current opinion has been turned against Columbus, I would put him on trial, with pro- and con historians presenting facts, and lawyers examining aggravating and mitigating factors. 

The people of Philadelphia would be the jury: Leave the statue alone, tear it down, or amend it, as was done with Washington’s house.

In the meantime, happy Columbus Day, and Happy Indigenous People’s Day.


Stu Bykofsky’s work is published at 

22 thoughts on “Candidates Parker, Oh: Restore Rizzo statue”

  1. Sadly, the Rizzo statue is in a bad state, lying on a flatbed somewhere from what I’ve heard in a very obscure place at the very south end of the city. Kenney isn’t the only one who knows the location hopefully when he’s gone from office the statue can be repaired and find a new home somewhere.

    1. Actually, Nunzio, that is incorrect, it has been verified that the statue is in fact in good condition, yes in a private warehouse in another area of the city. Keep posted on good news coming about the statue.

  2. Stu,

    Thanks for a column of thought. Unfortunately, we now live in a society in which thought, listening, and civility are totally undervalued, and almost gone.

    We have become a group of thoughtless Philistines. I suppose it’s too much work for people to listen and think before they speak.

  3. Bring back Frank Rizzo’s and Kate Smith’s statues. Enough with the retroactive cleansing of the past.

  4. Sorry to see you rambling off a bit at the end for talk of Schilling and the Baseball HOF, where yes, character is an issue. I thought your thoughts on Rizzo and the statue were actually spot on. We can’t erase our history just because we didn’t like it. As a teenager during the Rizzo years, I was not a particular fan of his, but he did a lot of good things for the city. If there are those that want to honor him with a statue, be my guest. Why not one of Richardson Dilworth as well? I have no idea if he was a good or bad mayor, but he was the first one I remember as an under ten year old.

  5. I am Italian American, but not from the City. Neither Christopher Columbus nor Frank Rizzo held any particular attraction for me either way, so this whole thing is basically a big nothing burger for me. I could care less if their statues are kept or removed. Neither action affects my standing as an Italian American, and also, I’m not sure that taking down a statue or renaming a fort constitutes a “cleansing of the past”. The history of Rizzo and Columbus is always there in the history books for reading, should anyone desire to do so. But in the case of the Southern forts, do we REALLY need to honor traitors by having forts named after them? I have no problem removing their names and using names of servicemembers who served their country with honor. Again, the actions of the Confederates are all there in black and white for whomever wants to read about them and understand what they were trying to do and why.

    But Stu does make some good points here are about vocal minorities having sway over what the majority wants. We see this playing out currently in the Congress, where eight morons have been able to bring the entire government to a screeching halt, and in the Senate, where one brainless ex-football coach has crippled the entire military and put the country at risk with his ridiculous, virtually pointless opinions. This country is supposed to be a “majority-rules” deal. So let the MAJORITY make the calls on these things. If they want Rizzo and Columbus to stay put, they should stay put. If they want them to go, they should go. I’ll just stay here and eat my macaroni in peace either way. I do not have a dog in that hunt.

    As for Schilling, yeah, total asshole. But there are a LOT of total assholes in the Hall of Fame. As much as I can’t stand him and his dopey opinions, if the numbers say he should be in there, he should be in there. People like Rose and Bonds are different stories. Bonds was an obvious cheater, and great as he was (steroids do NOT hit for you, and what he was able to do remains incredible), this disqualifies him in my opinion. As for Rose, another complete asshat, he walked by a warning sign about gambling in EVERY major league clubhouse EVERY game and decided they didn’t apply to him. Whether he bet on his on team or not, he broke the rules and got what he asked for. I would “pardon” Shoeless Joe Jackson before Rose. Joe was a pretty ignorant man. He likely did not know what he was agreeing to (signing it with an X!), gave the money back before the ’09 series, and went out and hit .364 in that World Series he was supposed to throw. He has a much better case for reinstatement than Rose does.

  6. If only that crumbbum Columbus had never discovered America.Then noone would have ever known it was here and the native tribes would continue to live in peace and harmony and there would be no Rizzo statue to trigger anyone.

  7. Stu—-
    Great column again. If the city ever decides to commission a statue for Kenney it would be low cost—-just design it after the rear end of a horse.

  8. Just by removing a statue, you cannot cancel History. Not Columbus, not Kate Smith, not Frank Rizzo. You can have you opinions, good or bad, but removing them is wrong. Memories of the war still stood in Germany when I was stationed there in the early 70’s. It dug up old wounds for some, but removing them will never erase them. No one man has the right to remove anything of historical value from any city, or yet from this country that was erected as history. History will not go away. Any one who does is himself a dictator. We all know how that works out.

  9. Here’s a great idea. Let’s take a holiday away from one group and give it to another because we hate when one group takes things away and gives it to another. Liberal Looney Logic at is finest. Rizzo was the first big city mayor to integrate squad cars with black and white cops together. Let’s remove his statue because he was racist. It goes on and on.

  10. Grazie mille, amico! As usual, you have made very good points here. The vitriol surrounding both statues, both men and both of their legacies was painful to witness and to hear. I too, was a teenager and young adult during the tenure of Mayor Rizzo and could not describe myself at that time, as a fan. Nonetheless, there is the recognition that no one is perfect and there were triumphs under his two terms in office as well as failures. He was the city’s first and so far, only Italo-American mayor. And he was one of many Italo-Americans who had larger than life contributions to the civic life and public forum here in Philly. There are hundreds of thousands of Italo-Americans living in the metropolitan area and we deserve full public acknowledgement of and respect for our immigrant grandparents’ struggles, sacrifices and successes. Nationally and locally, our contribution to the American tapestry is enormous and touches everyone. To my knowledge there is no national museum documenting our story here in the U.S.A. and there should be one. Let’s start with giving these statues places in the civic public space where their place in history is rightly recognized.

Comments are closed.