Update, Dec. 10:
Some folks walking by the Rizzo statue in Center City noticed it appeared to be defaced once again Tuesday morning, a day after graffiti had been removed.
The bronze likeness was covered in some sort of white substance and about a dozen police officers were seen in Thomas Paine Plaza, one tipster told Billy Penn.
But it wasn’t paint this time, according to a police spokesman. It was ramen noodles.
Police said a mentally disabled individual threw the noodles and gravy on the statue. They were apprehended by police, but will not be charged with any crime. The spokesman said officers cleaned the statue themselves.
Philly’s most polarizing public art installation, a waving statue of former Police Commissioner and Mayor Frank Rizzo, will not be moved until 2022, a city spokesperson told Billy Penn.
That’s at least half a year later previously thought. In October, the Philadelphia Tribune reported the bronze likeness would be moved in the summer of 2021 as part of a revamp of Thomas Paine Plaza, where it’s currently displayed.
Attention ricocheted back to the sculpture this week when it was discovered defaced with writing for at least the second time in as many years.
“It’s obviously a very contentious statue. It’s coming down when we redo Paine Plaza,” Kenney told WHYY on Monday. “People should not deface anything. But it’s coming down, it’s just a matter of when it comes down.”
The latest vandalism was the word “FASCIST” scrawled in white on Rizzo’s jacket. People spotted it as early as Friday, according to social media posts. It was widely reported Monday morning, along with another odd find: a sticker from Carson Wentz’s AO1 Foundation was pasted on the statue’s outstretched hand.
The charitable organization, a Christian initiative that provides food and activities for underprivileged communities, released a statement saying it “was not involved in this act, nor does it condone any acts of vandalism.”
The mystery anti-fascist perpetrator remains at large, according to police.
Critics have for years called for the sculpture to be moved to a less prominent position, one that attributes less celebration to the brutal and sometimes ruthless tactics Rizzo deployed as city leader.
In 2017, Mayor Kenney announced he would move the likeness from its position in front of Philly’s Municipal Services Building, promising a six-month search for a new location. That was the year the statue was egged and defaced with spray paint. A Frank Rizzo mural in South Philly has also been vandalized a number of times.
The timeline for that search was later extended until summer 2018, and then pushed back again when Kenney tied the move to a pending renovation of Thomas Paine Plaza, where the statue stands.
That’s still the case, per Kenney spokesperson Lauren Cox. The city expects to have a design team in place at the start of next year and will allow about 18 months for design, plus six additional months of bidding and contracting, Cox said.
“The Mayor’s commitment to removal has never wavered, and the adjusted timeline was in no way a political decision,” Cox said via email.
It only took workers from CLIP, the Community Life Improvement Program charged with cleaning up neighborhoods, about an hour to remove this round of graffiti, Cox said. The city incurred no additional clean up costs aside from the CLIP employees’ regular salaries.
Rizzo was Philly’s top cop from 1967 through 1971, and is known for his tough-on-crime tenure. He served as mayor from 1972 until 1980, and died in 1991.
His reign was markedly anti-Black, according to a vocal group of social justice organizations, including the Philly REAL Justice Coalition. That group helped spearhead calls to remove the sculpture in 2016, amid a surge of efforts to get local governments nationwide to rethink and remove statues memorializing confederate military leaders.
Asked on Monday if he was saddened by the repeated defacement of the Rizzo statue, Kenney demurred.
“Not really,” he said. “I mean there are worse things happening in the city than somebody painting on a statue.”