Black Lives Matter protesters clash with Rizzo supporters

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Dramatic moments as two sides clashed over a 9' statue of former Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo. (WPVI)

Approximately 300 people gathered Monday night at South Philadelphia's Marconi Plaza to rally in support of keeping the Frank Rizzo statue.

But soon things turned chaotic when a handful of Black Lives Matter protesters arrived on the scene with their banners.

Police had to get between the two groups to prevent them from clashing.

"It's a disgrace. How dare them disrespect the Philadelphia Police Department?" Patty Maiellano of South Philadelphia said.

When the Rizzo and police supporters tried to march to the Rizzo statue in Center City, members of Black Lives Matter tried to commandeer the march by standing in front of the group.

Things got heated yet again.

Once again, police used tremendous restraint to try to separate the two groups; at one point, they corralled Black Lives Members to allow the Rizzo/police supporters to continue their march to the statue.

"I think personally that Black Lives Matter is overreacting just a little too much," Rashidah Anderson of Grays Ferry said.

Action News spoke with Jody Dellebarba of South Philadelphia, who was Mayor Rizzo's personal assistant.

"I think it's the most ridiculous thing that's ever been tried in the city of Philadelphia. He was not a racist, number one," Dellabarba said.

Members of Black Lives Matter declined to be interviewed on camera about their demands.

Though, one BLM member, wearing a shirt that read 'Stop killing black people,' said, "I think the shirt says it all."

The bronze statue, unveiled in 1999, depicts Rizzo bounding down the steps of the Municipal Services Building. It was donated to the city.

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 amid a City Hall comeback bid. 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.

Rizzo became commissioner in 1967, memorably responding to a disturbance at a housing project wearing a tuxedo with a nightstick tucked into his cummerbund. He served two terms as mayor as a Democrat before switching to the GOP.

His four-year stint as commissioner was marked by praise for crime-fighting and criticism for rights infringement and was punctuated by some confrontations with African-Americans. In 1967, Rizzo and the police confronted a few hundred black students protesting outside the Board of Education Building. Officers clubbed some of the students after a few climbed atop cars. In 1970, two groups affiliated with the Black Panthers were raided and strip-searched on the sidewalk.

Yet he's also credited with hiring large numbers of African-American officers and promoting several black officers during his stint as commissioner.

The pro-Rizzo supporters did make it to the statue without further incident.

They vowed to fight to the bitter end to make sure the statue is not moved from the Municipal Services Building.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Related Topics:
philly newsblack lives matterprotestrallyCenter City Philadelphia
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