Monday, June 15, 2020

South Philly Wins Court Battle To Protect Columbus Statue

By Ralph Cipriano

The rumor was that the 20-foot high marble statue of Christopher Columbus was going to get the Frank Rizzo treatment from Mayor Jim Kenney.

The story making the rounds in South Philly was that the Kenney administration was planning to take down the Columbus statute between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. Sunday. And, to add insult to injury, the city had supposedly hired a non-union contractor to do the job.

So attorney George Bochetto went into Common Pleas Court on behalf of a few South Philadelphia neighbors with a petition for an emergency hearing. On Sunday night, according to Bochetto, Judge Marlene Lachman was ready to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the city from moving the statue until a second hearing could be held at 2 p.m. today. But the city agreed not to move the statue, and told the judge no order was needed.

At today's hearing, according to Bochetto, Judge Paula Patrick told the city that if it wants to move the Columbus statue, they're going to have obey the city's home rule charter, and go before the Art Commission, and hold public hearings on the matter. 

The judge was ready to issue an order requiring the city to go before the Art Commission, Bochetto said, but the city said it would agree to enter into a stipulation within 48 hours to guarantee that. The judge then ordered a stay in the court proceedings pending the judge's approval of a stipulation agreement between the city and the South Philly residents who took them to court. 

"I'm just delighted that we can proceed with these kind of issues in a  fair and deliberative way so that everybody has an opportunity to be heard, and we just don't succumb to a mob," Bochetto said.

In court, Bochetto said, the city solicitor contended that he had written assurances that the Kenney administration wasn't planning to move the Columbus statue. But Bochetto countered that he had received similar written assurances before the Rizzo statute was toppled in the middle of the night.

In court, the Kenney administration left one escape hatch open --- the same hatch they used to take down Big Frank. If the Columbus statue suddenly became a "threat to the public health, safety and welfare," the mayor could sign an emergency order calling for the "immediate removal" of the statue.

In other words, all you needed to throw out due process was a lynch mob and a Progressive mayor like Kenney willing to cave. It's a formula that could have easily resulted in the whacking of Christopher Columbus. In the case of the 9-foot tall bronze Rizzo statue, the police were even ordered to stand down so that protesters could inflict a final assault on the Bambino before he was toppled.

According to Bochetto, the judge stated that she didn't want anyone to "unilaterally bully their way" into deciding this issue.

A spokesman for the city did not respond to a request for comment. Apparently, they save their comments for their Progressive friends at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

But Bochetto had plenty to say.

"The judge essentially told the city you're not going to remove this statue unilaterally, you're going to have to go through the Art Commission process," Bochetto said. The judge, he said, also ordered the city to take reasonable steps to protect the statute, which on social media had been targeted for attacks by protesters.

The city has proposed building a wooden box around the statue to protect it, Bochetto said, but he thought it would be a better idea to build a plexiglass box around the statute, so it could still be seen.

The Columbus statue was donated by the Fairmount Arts Commission to the city in 1982, when it was brought to Marconi Plaza. Previously the statute, originally sculpted in 1876, was displayed in Fairmount Park. 

"We just want some kind of due process where our voice will be heard, and the opposition will also be heard," explained Rich Cedrone, president of the Friends of Marconi Plaza. "We don't want to get involved in any violence."

If the Art Commission decides the statue has to be moved, Cedrone said, he would respect that decision. "We just want the statue taken down the right way. We don't want it vandalized, we don't want it destroyed."

Fran Kane, an assistant business agent for Ironworkers Local 405, said he had been told that a non-union contractor was going to take down the Columbus statue imminently.

The local union was ready to set up a picket line if the city went through with it. But the picket line wasn't necessary after Bochetto went to court and won.

Kane said it would be a big job to remove the Columbus statue because it consists of four or five enormous chunks of aging marble that are "fragile and brittle," and weigh several tons. And if the statue has to be moved, Kane said, he didn't want to see the job bungled the way city workers did when they toppled and damaged the Rizzo statue.

Another supporter of the effort to protect the statue was former state Senator Vince Fumo.

"People have to understand that all ethnicities have their own historical markers that memorialize the struggles of their parents and grandparents when they came to this country," Fumo said. "And if other people don't like it, well you can't please everybody."

Fumo described the judge's decision as a victory for the rule of law over mob rule and anarchy. The statue has been the site of recent clashes between local residents and mostly white agitators from out of town.

The Inky has made it clear whose side it's on.

"The Inquirer insists on calling us vigilantes," said former Inquirer columnist Christine Flowers, who was one of the residents who has visited Marconi Plaza daily since Saturday.

"Well a vigilante in a three-piece suit, George Bochetto, scores a huge legal victory," Flowers said.

Bochetto's victory was also a defeat for Jim Kenney, the would-be dictator of Philadelphia. But you'd never know it by reading the local Democratic house organ, The Philadelphia Inquirer. 

In the Inquirer's version of the story, it was the magnanimous mayor who initiated a "public process" to determine the future of the Columbus statue by sending a letter Monday to Margot Berg, public art director. There was no mention of the court battle that forced the mayor to send his letter. 

And there was no mention of the judge who had told the mayor that he wasn't the dictator of a banana republic, but that he would actually have to follow the rule of law, as laid out in the city charter. 

In his letter to Berg, Kenney stated that "our history is constantly evolving." And "as more voices emerge, and new and different points of view come to light, we must consider how we honor individuals whose likeness has been enshrined in monuments," Kenney lectured the public art director. "With that understanding I request you initiate as soon as possible the public process through the Art Commission for the possible removal of the statue of Christopher Columbus."

Kenney then proceeded to dispense with the need for any independent deliberations by the Art Commission, because the mayor proceeded to dictate to Berg in no uncertain terms that it was time to get rid of the racist Columbus statue.

For centuries, Kenney wrote, Columbus "has been venerated with the stories of his traversing the Atlantic and 'discovering' the 'New World.' However, his history is much more infamous," Kenney warned Berg.

"Mistakenly believing he had found a new route to India, Columbus enslaved indigenous people and punished individuals who failed to meet his expected service by severing limbs, or in some cases, murder," Kenney wrote. "Surely the totality of history must be accounted for when considering whether to erect or maintain a monument to this person."

"I believe that a public process, allowing for all viewpoints, especially those indigenous people whose ancestors suffered under the rule of European settlers, to be in the best interests of the city," Kenney wrote. 

So as far as the fate of the Columbus statue, it's on to the Art Commission. That's exactly how the city should have handled the removal of the Rizzo statue.

Instead of having our left-wing mayor decide the issue for everybody by caving to mob rule. 


  1. Bravo...Vince has emerged from his bunker to share his well developed thoughts and opinions. If he would evoke the lessons he shared with his History Students as was his penchant when teaching at Bishop Neumann, we may have a better understanding of Lessons with Reason.

    I would not be surprised if Kenney hires the Freeh Group to provide an independent analysis of the Police Department.

    We know how that Shit Show would play with "Investigative Journalists."

  2. This is the same mayor that raises the flag of Communist China. Columbus was great man who did not commit genocide.

  3. The statue was never targeted by protesters. There were fear tactics that made it sound like that but no organizer planned to try and have it taken down. Mobs are down there just getting drunk and harassing regular people

  4. I believe there were threats posted on social media. Certainly there was evidence that the mayor was planning to take it down.

  5. Kenney is bent on toppling Vince Fumo's Legacy and of other great and revered Italian Political Leaders and Icons.

    Taking down the Columbus Statue is his attempt to attack and further his blood feud with Vince. He wants the Living to suffer through his orchestrated contempt and display of a Serial Lust for Power

    The Feud started with the Betrayal and providing evidence against Vince during the Government Witch Hunt.

    Hopefully, Vince is ready to take the gloves off and deliver a bare knuckles South Philly Knock Out Punch.

  6. OMG this web site is fantastic. We finally have an alternative to the one-sided views of the Inky. Keep up the good work!

  7. Maybe Kenney and Krasner can have Jerry Rocks and Kevin O'Gorman sit on the statue and provide security since they are familiar with South Philly when they sat on Bologna's mothers street looking for HIM. #KRASNERSCOPS

  8.'s refreshing to read your work. INQUURER has no diversity of thought. BRAVO !


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