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A longtime supervisor in Philadelphia Family Court has been fired after a video surfaced of him saying he didn’t believe Black lives mattered as he tore down protest signs near a South Philadelphia park over the weekend.
First Judicial District spokesperson Martin O’Rourke confirmed the man in the video shared on social media as Michael Henkel, a writ services supervisor who had worked for the courts since 1992.
O’Rourke said Henkel was terminated Monday due to “multiple violations of the [Unified Judicial System] Code of Conduct and the Non-Discrimination and Equal Employment Policy.”
“The Court takes the incident very seriously and believes Mr. Henkel’s behavior as shown in the video is egregious and totally unacceptable for an employee of the Courts,” O’Rourke wrote in an email.
Video of the incident garnered widespread outrage on social media, occurring around the time as a standoff at nearby Marconi Plaza. There, police allowed a group to gather with bats and other weapons, reportedly to “protect” a statue of Christopher Columbus. Mayor Jim Kenney decried the activity as “vigilantism.” While officials first said there were no plans to remove the monument, a spokesperson later added that the city was reserving the right to remove it if it “continue[d] to threaten public safety.”
Meanwhile, Henkel was nearby tearing down signage.
When the 33-second clip begins, Henkel can be seen ripping homemade protest signs off a fence near Columbus Square park, at 12th and Reed Streets. The removed signs were put up on Friday afternoon during a peaceful, family-friendly rally in support of Black Lives Matter, which drew over 300 people to the park.
Off camera, a woman tells him that the park isn’t his property.
“I know, It’s the city,” Henkel said. “I pay for this. … Yeah, my taxes pay for this place, yep, just so you know.”
“So I can do whatever I want,” he added.
“You can do whatever you want?” the woman asked. Henkel responded: “You’re fucking right I can.”
As the encounter ends, the woman can be heard telling Henkel, “Black Lives Matter!”
“Not to me, they don’t,” Henkel replied.
City payroll records indicate the Family Court employee earned a $73,016 annual base salary as of 2018. He could not immediately be reached for comment.