Jim Kenney finally did it.
After years of debate, the mayor sent out a crew in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday to uproot the imposing, controversial, 10-foot-tall sculpture of former Mayor Frank Rizzo that has dominated the steps in front of the Municipal Services Building since 1998.
The removal comes on the heels of several days of protests in Philadelphia—and across the nation—following the police killing of George Floyd, a few days after protesters in Philly vandalized and tried to pull the statue down, and—as one local reporter pointed out—just after a publicly-condemned move by the Police Department to tear-gas protesters on I-676.
The fate of the statue is yet to be seen. Mayor Kenney told reporters on Wednesday that he doesn’t know what will become of it. And he’s not sure what, if anything, will replace it.
A few hours after it came down, a South Philly woman poignantly delivered a bouquet of flowers to lay where the statue once stood, telling Inquirer reporters that she, “brought [them] from my garden to replace anger and hate with beauty.”
We’re personally fans of the giant afro-pick sculpture by Hank Willis Thomas that was installed there temporarily as part of a Mural Arts project in September 2017.
But what do other Philadelphians think? We put out a call for suggestions, and the responses are too great not to share. Check out some ideas below, and feel free to weigh in on social media, or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll continue updating this list as the ideas roll in.
What should replace the Frank Rizzo statue …
To instill hope
- Statue of… children of different races holding hands. Children are not born with hate in their hearts, maybe us adults can learn from them. (Lisa Ann)
- Hope struggling for peace! (Donald Coppersmith)
- A piece on peace from [artist] @rendawriter (@mouse.photography)
- A welcoming space, maybe art that is created without hurting the environment or is already out in the world along with sustainable green space. (@wendygoldbird)
- It’s the municipal building, so something symbolizing all of us working together for the betterment of our city. (@wmillcreek_rec)
To represent those under-represented
- Since many of the statues in this city represent military men and there are only a few of women or People of Color, why don’t we lean that way? There are so many to choose from who represent love and strength it really shouldn’t be that hard. (Melissa Sharp Terrels)
- This is an opportunity to commission more public monuments made by and honoring Philadelphia’s BIPOC and LGBTQ communities. (Mike Kaiser)
- Move the Octavius Catto statue over there for now. (Robert Reid)
- Lenni Lenape (Ginny McCracken)
- Marian Anderson (Liz Johnson)
- Harriett Tubman, who spent time in Philadelphia (Jeannine Cook, owner of Harriett’s Bookshop, and Marian Fischer Pearlman)
- Vincent Leaphart, AKA John Africa (Larry Shaeffer)
- John Coltrane (@Mollzdawg)
- Cecil B. Moore or Thomas Paine! He was a true radical and it’s already named after him (@Wbj._.jr)
- Patti LaBelle (@ms_mccool)
- George Floyd (@jhomamah)
- Will Smith (@zakroff)
- How about a place designed specifically for outdoor, planned, public debate about the current issues fashioned after Cira Green. An amphitheater, if you will. It could be surrounded by commemorative busts of people who have worked for equality among all Americans. (Joel Hause)
To commemorate Philly history
- A MOVE memorial, so we never forget that this city and its racist police force dropped a bomb on its own citizens. (Maggie Gummere)
- Why not use this as an opportunity to make the plaza a tourist destination and an extension of Dilworth and JFK Plaza and include features that will help strengthen the social fabric? (Sean Bryce)
- I say move the kite statue there…I only get to see it when I go to Jersey!! (Frejo Steinberg-Mertz)
To do something totally different—that is, nothing
- Just let it be an empty, commonplace set of stairs. Anything that does will always be tired to the Rizzo statue thus keeping the memory of it alive. (@mouse.photography)
- Take the money and put it towards education. (Fran Donato)
- Nothing—that sends a message that City government is for the people, and nothing should stand in the way of that. (Amanda Green)
- Replace it with a simple plaque explaining what was there before and why it had to be removed. (Lois Zuest)
- Enough with monuments. How about redesigning the plaza to function better and integrate more green space. (@threeevergreen)
To poke fun
- A crying Rizzo supporter (Bradley Ryan)
- A marble pizza or cheesesteak. The kids at PAFA could make it a senior year project, chiseling it by hand like the ancient Egyptians, and then dragging it in teams on ropes and rollers down Broad and installing it up the steps. (Thomas Droppelmann)
- Easy: (and then pasted a photo of a Bruce Lee sculpture (Jim Nicholson)
And, of course …
- Another Rizzo Statue. Don’t be a piece of shit Liberal. (Serenity Jones)