PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - Controversy over confederate statues across the country is making some people here think about our monuments in Philadelphia. Specifically, a mural and statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo. The "tough on crime mayor" in the 70's and 80's had a turbulent relationship with the African American and LGBT communities.
“This view is Philadelphia for me." From her 5th floor office at city hall, Philadelphia councilwoman Helen Gym says the view is perfect with one exception: the statue of Frank Rizzo across the street.
"He is the symbol of racism and a racist past that we are working very hard to try to move beyond," Philadelphia city councilwoman Helen Gym.
In the wake of Charlottesville, Gym is calling for the statue of the polarizing former mayor to be taken down.
"Memorials aren’t just about seeing time frozen in some past. It’s about who we chose to honor today," Gym said.
Rizzo, the tough talking former cop from South Philly, has long been criticized for his volatile relationships with African Americans and LGBT communities.
"They want to re-write history. They want to reinvent history to make my grandfather out to be this racist, I know that he wasn’t," Rizzo's grandson Joe Mastronardo said.
He's worried what might happen if the statue is removed.
"That's a potentially harmful situation for lots of people and it’s completely unnecessary," Mastronardo said.
Rizzo isn’t even safe on his home turf anymore. We’ve learned the Mural Arts project is also considering removing the 3-story mural of Rizzo from South Philly’s Italian Market. Officials say "Perhaps it is time to have a conversation about whether this mural should stay or be replaced by something else." They also say Rizzo is the most vandalized mural on display.
"My grandfather has a lot of people who love him. White, black everything," Mastronardo said. "So I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of people that are not happy with that. They take that personally. They know that my grandfather gave his life to this city. Philadelphia was my grandfather's life."
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney released the following statement regarding the statue:
“We think now is a good time to have that conversation about the statue’s future. We need to figure out the proper forum for that conversation in a serious, structured way, but now is the right time.”