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Statue of divisive ex-Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo targeted in protests is taken down

"The statue represented bigotry, hatred, and oppression for too many people, for too long," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted. "It is finally gone."

A bronze statue of Frank Rizzo, the divisive former mayor and police commissioner of Philadelphia, which was defaced during a recent protest over George Floyd's death, was removed early Wednesday.

"The statue represented bigotry, hatred, and oppression for too many people, for too long," Philadelphia's current mayor, Jim Kenney, tweeted Wednesday morning. "It is finally gone."

Workers shook the statue from its stand outside the Municipal Services Building across from City Hall and loaded it onto a truck around 2 a.m. Members of the National Guard surrounded the area as the statue was taken down.

The city said the statue will be placed in storage until the city develops a plan to donate, relocate or dispose of it.

Rizzo was the police commissioner from 1968 to 1971 and mayor from 1972 to 1980. He was praised by supporters as tough on crime but accused by critics of being racist. He died in 1991.

The statue, erected in 1998, was frequently targeted by vandals, and there had been calls in recent years to remove it.

Over the weekend, crowds tried to pull it down and set it on fire amid the protests over George Floyd's death last week in Minneapolis police custody.

Full coverage of George Floyd’s death and protests around the country

Kenney said Sunday that the statue would be removed in a month or so. On Wednesday morning, he said demonstrations against police brutality had accelerated plans for the removal.

"It seemed to be the kind of focal point of all protest, so on many different levels, we needed to have it move on," Kenney said.

Kenney said that while some people think of Rizzo as a hero, many others who lived in the city while he was in office see him differently. The mayor said he did not think that the statue was appropriate and that he believes "it was kind of foisted on the city 20 years ago."

"In the course of the last week, it was clear that we needed to show a symbolic effort to tell people we're moving on and we're going to do better," Kenney said.

He said he would characterize the statue's removal as a victory for the city.