PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The bronze statue of former Philadelphia mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo was removed from the steps of the Municipal Services Building in Center City early Wednesday morning.
The statue was damaged on Saturday when crowds tried to bring it down, and eventually set it on fire. Crews removed the statue from Thomas Paine Plaza across from City Hall around 2 a.m. on Wednesday.
The 10-foot-tall bronze statue was erected in 1998, and in recent years was vandalized.
Groups calling for action on social injustice have been seeking its removal for years.
Rizzo was mayor of Philadelphia from 1972 to 1980, During his tenure, Rizzo was praised by supporters as tough on crime but accused by critics of discriminating against minorities.
Rizzo died in 1991 and the statue went up seven years later, a gift to the city from his family, friends and supporters.
On Wednesday morning, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney spoke to reporters about the statue's removal.
"This is the beginning of the healing process in our city. This is not the end of the process. Taking that statue down is not the be-all and end-all of where we need to go. We have a long way to go. I think the protests over the last week, and hopefully we're winding down, have shown us the anger and the stress that people of color have in this country. That statue was representative of that era and had to go away in order for us to understand where we need to go going forward," Kenney said.
Kenney said this is a victory for everyone in the city.
"Nothing against him personally. I was not a fan of the statue. I've said it before. There's no mayor that has a statue of him or her - of him, there's no hers yet, hopefully some day there will be - and I don't want a statue of me ever anywhere, not that anyone would care to put one up. I don't think that's appropriate and I think it was kind of foisted on the city 20 years ago. We're moving on from that era,"
Frank Rizzo's grandson, Joe Mastronardo says his grandfather's legacy is one to be proud of.
"I know it was a tough time back then. My grandfather was a very tough police officer. If you were criminal he treated you as such. That's what I know," said Mastronardo, "As far as the racism I've never heard that from anyone who knew him."
The statue was set to be moved next year; however, on Sunday, Kenney said removal would be accelerated and completed within a month.
"The way it's engineered, it's bolted into the stairs and under the stairs is the concourse where people go to get permits and pay their taxes and other things. So we didn't want to tear that up until we did the entire place," Kenney said Sunday.
On Tuesday, Kenney signed an order directing the city managing director to immediately remove the statue.
National Guardsmen were positioned around the entire block as onlookers watched the statue be lifted by a crane and placed on a flatbed truck.
The city said the statue will be placed in secure storage by the Department of Public Property until a plan is developed to donate, relocate, or otherwise dispose of it. Officials said no there is no timetable yet to develop that plan. Once there is a plan, it will be presented to the Philadelphia Art Commission for approval.
"We just needed to get it out of the way so we can move forward. If there's someone who wants it, who wants to take it somewhere else, we'll talk," Kenney said.
Mayor Kenney issued the following statement just before 6 a.m.:
"When we first announced our decision to move the statue, we chose to do so in a way that was cost-effective, by linking it to the pending renovation of Thomas Paine Plaza," said the Mayor. "That choice was a mistake-we prioritized efficiency over full recognition of what this statue represented to Black Philadelphians and members of other marginalized communities. The continued display of the statue has understandably enraged and hurt many Philadelphians, including those protesting the heinous murders of George Floyd and too many others. I have seen and heard their anguish. This statue now no longer stands in front of a building that serves all Philadelphians."
The Mayor continued, "The statue is a deplorable monument to racism, bigotry, and police brutality for members of the Black community, the LGBTQ community, and many others. The treatment of these communities under Mr. Rizzo's leadership was among the worst periods in Philadelphia's history. The battle for equal rights and justice is still being fought decades later, and our city is still working to erase that legacy. We now need to work for true equity for all Philadelphia residents, and toward healing our communities. The removal of this statue today is but a small step in that process."