By Christopher “Flood the Drummer®” Norris
8.9.16: Philadelphia – (Politics): The Mayor of Philadelphia had a moment during the Democratic National Convention that went under-discussed by the news media and, as a result, the general public. Since taking to the Mayor’s Office on January 4th, Mr. Jim Kenney has said the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” but never without also acknowledging that the majority of police officers are good people who, because they care deeply about public safety, every day do a dangerous job and deserve our appreciation. But last month, when talking to Mr. Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe,’ Mr. Kenney acknowledged that not only do black lives matter, but historically, in America, they haven’t.
In that interview, Mr. Kenney sounded like the bold man I covered in 2015 on the campaign trail, the guy who admitted to me prior to him speaking at a small South Philadelphia church that we live in an inherently racist society and that black men in the City are being arbitrarily harassed on the streets: “There’s no reason” that young black men are being stopped several times a week, he implied. It was the woke and unapologetic version of Mayor Jim Kenney, not the variation of the career politician who appeared at an April town hall and asked me how I define stop-and-frisk, that went on to use the Frank Rizzo era – Mr. Rizzo, a controversial, brutish and some say racist man who served as Philadelphia Police Commissioner and then Mayor and whose statue is situated across from City Hall – as the metric for which the evolution of Philadelphia policing for the better could be measured.
Mr. Kenney, a lifelong Philadelphian whose first time at City Hall was to witness the promotion of his father in the fire department, wasn’t an ally of Mr. Rizzo and most times he usually sided with those who opposed the polarizing figure. And, it’s because of that vantage point that Mayor Kenney, who last week spoke exclusively to Techbook Online about this subject, not only understands why Philadelphians would view his statue as divisive, but “will certainly look at the petition” launched by activist Ms. Erica Mines that seeks to garner the public support needed to remove the life size sculpture from its home in front of 1515 JFK Blvd.
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“The removal of this statue would be the first step in acknowledging Rizzo’s crime against the African-American community,” wrote Ms. Mines, a member of the Philly Coalition for R.E.A.L Justice, in the petition.
Ms. Mines went on to write: “… The removal of the Rizzo statue would also remove the constant reminder that our city actively supported a racist demagogue and then immortalized him as someone worthy of honor.”
Yesterday marked 38 years since the Philadelphia Police Department, with full support from then Mayor Rizzo, sought to evict the radical group MOVE from its Powelton Village home by putting smoke bombs in the basement, pumping 250,000 gallons of water into the house and unleashing gun fire on the property – the police were fired upon by occupants of the house, reports say, and 16 cops and firefighters were injured; one officer, Mr. James Ramp, was killed, though who shot him was never proved. Despite a lack of clarity on the shooter’s identity – evidence, including the home itself, was intentionally destroyed by the City – The Philadelphia Daily News’ front page the next day read: ‘Oh My God! They Shot a Cop,’ they, of course, being MOVE.
After many hours of a stand-off on August 8th 1978, MOVE surrendered. Upon Mr. Delbert Africa, a MOVE member, emerging from the basement window, a cop grabbed his dreadlocks, dragged him down the street and enabled other officers to stomp the defenseless man in the head and chest – all of this, unbeknownst to the officers, was caught on tape, though the footage was of no consequence to the powers that be, especially Mr. Rizzo, who once said The Black Panthers should be strung up. Nine members of MOVE that day were arrested, all charged with the killing of officer Ramp, and all were sentenced to 30 to 100 years – members of MOVE, to this day, demand the release of those arrested who were branded after 1978 as the ‘Move 9.’
Mr. Rizzo, like Mr. Donald Trump is doing in this election, touted his law and order platform; it was that dog whistle message that got him elected; it was that value that wouldn’t allow him to tolerate the rebellion and resistance of MOVE. Whether Mr. Rizzo – who in a classic photo is seen with a baton stuffed in his cummerbund – was actually a racist will be debated indefinitely, especially by his supporters and critics, but history makes it clear that he wasn’t the type of Police Commissioner or Mayor who would have ever said, without equivocation, that black lives matter.
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Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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