Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Councilman Squilla, 47 Italian-American Organizations File Civil Rights Suit Against Mayor Kenney Alleging Ethnic Discrimination

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

You could call it the revenge of the Big Bambino; and Chris Columbus too.

In U.S. District Court this morning, City Councilman Mark Squilla joined a coalition of 47 national, state and local Italian-American groups in filing a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia and Mayor Jim Kenney.

The lawsuit, authored by Philadelphia lawyer George Bochetto, charges that by unilaterally dumping Columbus Day as a city holiday, and replacing it with Indigenous Peoples' Day, Mayor Kenney is guilty of  discriminating against Italian-Americans, and violating the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. 

The lawsuit further argues that the mayor's executive order to cancel Columbus Day as a city holiday was not only in violation of city, state and federal law, but was just the latest in a "long line of divisive, anti-Italian American discriminatory actions" previously undertaken by Kenney. 

In addition to canceling Columbus Day, the lawsuit states, Kenney has stereotyped Italian-Americans in public rhetoric as "Cousin Guido" and "vigilantes."

He's put the South Philly zip code where most Italian-Americans live last on the list when it comes to distributing city-wide COVID vaccines, the lawsuit charges. And for the final insult, Kenney, without any kind of due process, vengefully targeted the Rizzo statue and the Columbus statue for destruction. 

"Mayor Kenney previously took unilateral actions against two iconic Italian American statues prominently displayed for decades within the City of Philadelphia," the lawsuit states. 

"First, the removal of the Frank L. Rizzo statue (in the middle of the night) from the plaza at the Municipal Services Building. And, second, the attempted removal of the 140 year-old Christopher Columbus statue from its longtime home at Marconi Plaza."

"No other statues in the city (amongst the many hundreds)," the lawsuit notes, "have been targeted by the Mayor."

Bochetto's lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of Councilman Squilla and 47 organizations that comprise the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, Inc.

They include the Sons of Italy, the National Italian American Foundation, the Italian Welfare League, the Italian American Legal Defense Fund Inc., the American Italian Renaissance Foundation, the Columbus Heritage Coalition, the Italian American Alliance, the Italian American War Veterans of the U.S., the Justinian Society of Lawyers, and the National Italian American Bar Association.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the 1492 Society, which sponsors the annual Columbus Day Parade in Philadelphia that was also canceled by Kenney; and Jody Della Barba, the late Mayor Rizzo's former secretary who is the parade organizer and secretary of the 1492 Society.

In a press release accompanying the 37-page lawsuit, Councilman Squilla explained why he took the extraordinary action of filing a civil rights suit against the incumbent mayor from his own political party.

 “Upon learning that the Columbus Day Holiday was changed, I immediately reached out to Mayor Kenney for an understanding of his decision process, but never received a response," Squilla said.

"As a City of immigrants, we need to celebrate all ethnicities and their contributions to Philadelphia and our country. I am disappointed that Mayor Kenney removed a holiday that celebrated Italian American heritage, without a process."

"Indigenous people are deserving of a day to celebrate their culture and contributions to the City and nation," Squilla said. "However, this change has created tension between two immigrant populations, rather than promoting inclusivity and citywide reforms that serve all of our diverse communities that will encourage unity, not division.”

A spokesperson for Kenney declined comment.

In the same press release, Basil Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents, said, “We as Italian Americans in this Country believe that each and every ethnic group deserves the opportunity to celebrate its heritage and historical achievements, but we also believe it is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution to allow one ethnic group to do so (Indigenous People) while denying another group the right to celebrate its heritage (Italian Americans), as Mayor Kenney chose to do."

"This lawsuit, supported unanimously by every major Italian American Organization in this Country, is intended to guarantee ALL ethnic groups the opportunity to celebrate their individual and distinct heritages and historic accomplishments,” Russo said.

“We believe this lawsuit will have nationwide significance in putting to an end the reckless “Cancel Culture” advocated by extremist in many of our major American cities.”

The lawsuit asks the court to declare Kenney's Executive Order 2-21 that canceled Columbus Day as a city holiday void and unconstitutional. The lawsuit further seeks to enjoin Kenney and the city from taking any further action to cancel Columbus Day, and asks the court to declare Italian Americans a protected class entitled to equal protection under the Constitution.

Finally, the lawsuit asks the court to award the plaintiffs' legal fees, court costs, as well as any further relief that the court "deems just and equitable."

On Jan. 27th, Mayor Kenney issued Executive Order 2-21 that canceled Columbus Day, which, according to the lawsuit, is a "historic holiday under Pennsylvania and Federal law." In the same executive order, Kenney replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day.

"While both groups’ ethnicity deserve recognition, Mayor Kenney may not take action that discriminates against Italian Americans to exalt another ethnic group in its place," the lawsuit states.

By replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day, the lawsuit states, "Mayor Kenney and the City are thus explicitly choosing which ethnicities should be credited, supported, and approved by the City government, and which ethnicities should be shamed, disdained and canceled."

"The United States Constitution forbids such governmental behavior."

Kenney's executive order dumping Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples' Day violated the City Charter, in addition to other city laws that were part of standard democratic process, the lawsuit states. 

But in pursuing his vendetta against Columbus Day, the lawsuit argues that Mayor Kenney behaved like a dictator.

"Mayor Kenney unilaterally issued Executive Order No. 2-21 without regard for the multiple restrictions of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter applicable to the designation of holidays," the lawsuit states.

Kenney's executive order to ban Columbus Day as a city holiday was done "without regard to the separation of powers that it and state law provide, without regard to Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act," the lawsuit states, "and without regard to the Home Rule Act prohibiting the City from taking any action 'contrary to' state law."

"Mayor Kenney made no proposal to City Council about canceling Columbus Day, nor ever sought its approval" from the Civil Service Commission, the lawsuit states.

In canceling Columbus Day as a city holiday, the lawsuit states, Kenney "never provided the public with the requisite notice and opportunity to be heard, never considered (or explicitly ignored) Pennsylvania state law (which expressly designates Columbus Day as a holiday across the Commonwealth), and never engaged in activity integral to a functioning democracy."

The lawsuit said that Kenney's discriminatory actions against Italian-Americans includes the recent distribution of the COVID vaccine. 

According to the lawsuit, "Mayor Kenney blatantly discriminated against Philadelphia’s First Councilmanic District (largely populated by Italian Americans) by purposely depriving them of COVID relief vaccinations when making city-wide allocations."

On February 19, 2021, the City, at Mayor Kenney’s direction, released the first 20 Philadelphia zip codes eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine," the lawsuit states. "The zip code 19148 – that is home to the largest concentration of Italian Americans in Philadelphia – was conspicuously omitted from the list

In the distribution of COVID vaccines, the lawsuit states, "Mayor Kenney kicked Italian Americans to the bottom of the COVID-19 vaccination barrel."

The lawsuit also attacks Kenney for his decision to demote a popular police captain who had served South Philly with distinction for decades.

"Mayor Kenney also recently demoted Captain Louis Campione from his longtime assignment in Philadelphia’s First Police District, baselessly accusing him of sanctioning 'vigilantism' when South Philadelphia Italian American residents sought to protect the Columbus Statue located at Marconi Plaza from vandalism by protestors," the lawsuit states.

"Further still, Mayor Kenney has a long history of making public anti-Italian American comments," the lawsuit states. "For instance, in a 2016 rant by Mayor Kenney about immigration and his desire for Philadelphia to remain a 'Sanctuary City,' he stated: 'If this were Cousin Emilio or Cousin Guido, we wouldn’t have this problem because they’re white.' ”

Much of the lawsuit is devoted to Kenney's campaign against the Christopher Columbus statue located in Marconi Square. When Kenney tried to have the statue removed, residents went to court and obtained an injunction to protect the statue.

The actual plot to topple the Columbus statue in the dead of night was outlined in a June 14th conference call in an emergency hearing before Common Pleas Court Judge Marlene Lachman.

Fran Kane, the business agent for Iron Workers Local 405, told the judge that he got a tip from an anonymous city employee that the 20-foot tall marble Columbus statue that weighs several tons was "going to be taken down by a non-union rigging outfit" some time between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. the next morning.

"If they show on site, I plan to put a picket line up," Kane told the judge.

In court, Kane told the judge that two years earlier, his union had offered to take down the Rizzo statue for free, but "all our advances were ignored by the city."

Then, city workers took down the Rizzo statue in the middle of the night, and they botched the job by throwing a halter over the statue, and not doing anything to protect the nine-foot-high 2,000-pound bronze statue from being damaged when they dropped it.

For two centuries, the lawsuit states, "Italian immigrants and Italian Americans have embraced Christopher Columbus as a symbol of the courageous voyage their families endeavored when immigrating from Italy to the United States of America."

In 1934, Congress issued a joint resolution making Columbus Day a national holiday, the lawsuit reminds Kenney. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a proclamation recognizing Columbus Day as a national holiday, even though it was actively opposed by the Klu Klux Klan.

"Today," the lawsuit states, "Christopher Columbus and Italian Americans are facing persecution throughout the country at levels not seen since the 1920s when the KKK charged Christopher Columbus
with the same heinous – and
 unsupported– wrongdoings Mayor Kenney and the City of Philadelphia are making in support for their effort to cancel the Columbus Day holiday."

The lawsuit details how in 2018, Councilman Squilla enlisted Robert F. Petrone, a Philadelphia lawyer, assistant district attorney and an expert on Columbus, to research the true historical record of Columbus, and report back to the City Council.

In doing his research, Petrone began with the History of the Indies published during the 1500s by Bartolome de las Cases, as well as a comprehensive history of the first 68 years of Spanish settlements in the Indies. 

Petrone, fluent in Spanish, also had access to copies of the original texts, written in 15th and 16th century Spanish, and he personally "verified the accuracy of the sources' translation to English," the lawsuit states. 

"Mr. Petrone’s reports not only unequivocally demonstrate there is no support in the primary source materials to corroborate the heinous wrongdoings Mayor Kenney and the City of Philadelphia now falsely charge Christopher Columbus with, but also demonstrate that the primary historical sources unanimously bear out that Christopher Columbus was the first recorded civil-rights activist of the Americas," the lawsuit states.

Obviously, Kenney and his fellow progressive social justice warriors at the Inquirer, who rushed in to defend the mayor, and smear Columbus one more time, never read Petrone's report.

But according to Petrone's research, Columbus:

-- "prohibited the mistreatment and the enslavement of the tribal peoples by the hidalgos (low, landed nobles of Spain) during his tenure as governor of the West Indies."

-- "established the first 'underground railroad' of the Americas by traveling around the West Indies on his Second Voyage rescuing [another Indian tribe known as the] Tainos from enslavement by the man-eating Carib and Canib tribes."

 -- "successfully petitioned the King of Spain to promulgate the first civil rights legislation of the Americas decreeing that 'all the Indians of Hispaniola were to be left free, not subject to servitude, unmolested and unharmed and allowed to live like free vassals under law just like any other vassal in the Kingdom of Castile.' ”

"Mr. Petrone’s research found that nowhere in any of the three volumes of History of the Indies is there evidence that Columbus mistreated the Indigenous People," the lawsuit states. 

"Nor does any evidence appear in any of the primary sources," the lawsuit states. "Quite to the contrary, de las Casas’s History of the Indies and all primary sources explicitly indicate that Christopher Columbus repeatedly protected the tribal peoples, even the cannibalistic Caribs who often attacked him and his sailors unprovoked."

"Despite Philadelphia City Council having been provided with Mr. Petrone’s detailed reports that conclude there is no support for the charges the City and Mayor now level against Christopher Columbus," the lawsuit states, "Mayor Kenney – unilaterally – issued Executive Order 2-21 that claimed: 'Columbus enslaved indigenous people, and punished individuals who failed to meet his expected service through violence and, in some cases, murder.' "

"The historic record also demonstrates that slavery and other wrongdoings were practiced in North America long before and irrespective of Christopher Columbus’s arrival," the lawsuit states.

"At no fault of the “Indigenous People” living today, some of their ancestry contains irrefutable evidence of wrongdoing of massive proportions regarding the practice of slavery," the lawsuit states.

For example, the lawsuit states, one tribe known as the Caribs was "going from island to island in the West Indies," capturing another tribe known as the Tainos.

According to Petrone's research, the Caribs were guilty of "murdering and eating the Taino men, castrating and enslaving the Taino boys – and then, when they matured into men, killing and eating them."

According to Petrone's research, the Caribs were also guilty of "eating the rest of the Taino children; kidnapping and raping 'all the [Taino] women they can take,' and then, when the rape victims gave birth, eating the babies as well."

According to the lawsuit, a local doctor said of the Caribs, “They say that man’s flesh is so good, that there is nothing like it in the world."

"As for the Tainos, the source materials indicate Christopher Columbus’s relationship with the Tainos was entirely peaceful," the lawsuit states.

But none of that research, commissioned by the City Council, prevented Mayor Kenney from declaring war on the Columbus statue. 

South Philly residents, represented by Bochetto, had to go to court to obtain an injunction to prevent the city from moving the Columbus statue. But a vengeful Kenney subsequently ordered the statue to be encased in plywood, so that no one could see it, while he attempted to have the statue permanently removed from Marconi Square.

After he similarly ordered the toppling of the Rizzo statue in the dead of night, Kenney had Big Frank moved to an undisclosed location.

Bochetto went to court in protest after a passerby snapped a photo of the still-bound statue that, Bochetto wrote, had been abandoned and "left in the back of an open flatbed truck."

"On June 3, 2020, the statue was removed under cover of night, with no [due] process or input from the public or approval from the Philadelphia Art Commission," as required by the city's charter, Bochetto wrote.

"It's absolute lawlessness by the city and complete intransigence to the rights of the citizenry, and we're not going to let them get away with it," Bochetto said at the time. 

"The statue is a unique piece of art with immense sentimental value that cannot be properly compensated by money damages," Bochetto argued in court. "The statute may be damaged or destroyed if the city is not enjoined," Bochetto wrote, and the statue may suffer "significant and irreversible harm due to the city's neglect."

In response, Mike Dunn, a Kenney spokesman, gave an incendiary statement to The Philadelphia Inquirer that should make a useful exhibit in court when it comes time for Bochetto to prove the anti-Italian animus of the Kenney administration.

About the plaintiffs who filed the complaint, Dunn said, "They are bitter and disgruntled because we took it [the statue] down and the statue will never stand on city property again."

Dunn didn't seem to mind that the mayor was acting like a vengeful dictator, and throwing all due process out the window.

"This 'emergency' lawsuit is a frivolous cry for public attention," Dunn said. "The city has more pressing things to worry about -- like dismantling the structural racism that the statue stood for."

In court, when residents sought to have the statue repaired and moved to a private location in South Philly, such as the grounds of St. Monica's Church, Kenney asked a federal judge to have the statue permanently banned from being displayed anywhere in the city, whether it was on public or private property,. but the judge refused to grant Kenney's wish.

As far as Rizzo goes, Kenney's campaign against the statute constitutes a complete reversal. That's because after Rizzo died in 1991, Kenney, then a city councilman at large, was one of the original advocates for building a monument to Rizzo.

A proposed City Council bill from May 9, 1996 also states that Kenney was one of nine original cosponsors of a bill that would have renamed the Municipal Service Building as the "Frank L. Rizzo Municipal Services Building."

The proposed bill was subsequently withdrawn because the Rizzo family decided that the statue, which had just been commissioned, was enough of a public tribute to the late mayor.

The Rizzo statue may be gone, but a popular T-Shirt lives on in South Philly. The T-Shirt depicts Big Frank telling the mayor, "YO KENNEY, YOU'RE A REAL CRUMB BUM."


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Paul. Deanna Gamble, the mayor's spokesperson, refused to talk to me because she heard I was encouraging other reporters to cover this lawsuit.

      They certainly are towers of virtue over at City Hall. I told her I was always enthusiastic about encouraging my fellow reporters to expose hypocrisy. Like the guy she works for.

      Such tender sensibilities.

    2. Hey Deanna, if I could I'd encourage every reporter in North America to write about this lawsuit and expose your always-pandering bloated fraud of a boss for the hypocrite that he is.

      Now you can really be offended!

    3. It's about Time to stop pulling punches and slam Deena's Drug Dealing Financier Dad, Kenny 'the saint' Gamble.

      This Diabolical Fraud has been protected by the Corrupt Philadelphia Media forever.

    4. Speaking of "over city hall", when will we erase the scourge of slave owning, native land stealing, anti-Catholic, anti immigrant Quaker William Penn from the city?
      Ben Franklin?
      Hyman and Simon Gratz?
      Kenney should act on all or none.
      It does appear Kenney has a huge ugly hate bias against American Italians.
      Will it spread?

    5. Lest we forget the injection site fiasco.
      Another sleazy, clandestine, racist assault on the struggling middle and working class American Italian neighborhoods in South Philadelphia.
      Kenney: trying to make hate great again. Keeping hate alive.

  2. It is refreshing to see a community fighting *against* lies, instead of using lies to advance an agenda. Much love and support to the Italian American community of Philadelphia! May you, and the truth that supports you, emerge victorious!

  3. Ralph, 3 slaughtered in Virginia the other day, 5 from philadelphia were arrested for the killings, do your research, those 5 were krasner releasees

  4. Thank God for the people who fight back!! My father came to this country from Italy when he was 21 and taught himself the English language married my mother became a citizen and worked 7 days a week to support her and their 9 children. He deserves to be recognized for abiding by the laws and doing things the right way!! He was a hard working, law abiding citizen and he and my whole family loved Frank Rizzo. Rizzo was a good man who cared about the decent people and put the criminals in their place! He was the best mayor of all time ! Kenney is just jealous that he can’t be like Rizzo! I fly my Italian American flags proudly everyday!

  5. Kenney's Revenge.

    These Efforts by Jimbo are more about the Ongoing Blood Feud with His Mentor and Padrone, Vincenzo Fumo.

    Columbus and Rizzo represent and substitute for His Deep Fumo Animus.

    Vince should prepare for Kenney dropping a Goode Bomb. You can be sure the Fire Department will arrive late to that Bonfire.

  6. This is so important, thanks to all for doing the footwork, My family and I will join in and stand up for what's right and for all our Italian Americans who helped build this country and fough for our freedom.....Kenney you are a crumb bum

  7. Ralph, It would be a Safe Bet that PhillyMag no longer Supports Your Efforts.

    They managed to ridicule the Columbus Lawsuit and the Decrecchio and Food Distribution Corruption Case and Guilty Plea very strongly.

    I would rather swim in the Schuylkill rather than cross a Bridge to PhillyMag.

  8. Jim Kenney is a COWARD!
    Larry Krasner is a COWARD!
    Lil Ms. "NoLaw" is a dead braincell COWARD!

    Those with their mentality are Hypocrits and COWARDS!

  9. Love the Italians. Great people. Outstanding contributions to our Nation and the world. Kenney is a pussy. Kick his ass !

  10. Thank you mark squilla and everone who is standing up to Kenny ., he is truly is a coward

  11. Always like Big Trial, but it has just become opinion stories. I don't disagree with the opinion, but I wanted to read news without slant. Can't complain about other media when your bias is so clear. Go back to being a reporter and not a columnist.

    1. Must disagree. Big Trial gets better every story. Also, what you'd refer to as bias is actually the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but truth. Ralph has the right idea: Go back to the Stink-quirer. You're their type, and they're nothing but 'opinion stories.'

    2. Yet,this is a blog.
      Your comments should be directed to the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and Child Sex Abuse Cover Up's The Inquirer, which is allegedly the local paper of record...

    3. Perhaps it's Kenney's lack of melanin and white privilege that makes him fragile, weak, inferior, and unstable.
      Many college educated NBA multimillionaire players believe in their own superiority, based on their high levels of melanin.

    4. Ha! I didn't know this! Flippy Floppy Jim Kenney!

      A proposed City Council bill from May 9, 1996 also states that Kenney was one of nine original cosponsors of a bill that would have renamed the Municipal Service Building as the "Frank L. Rizzo Municipal Services Building."

    5. Opponents to gross injustice, like these American Italians, abide the laws and got to court.
      Perhaps their interests would be better served to line the streets, stop traffic, disrupt with civil disobedience.
      That is how things are today.

  12. You're really being disingenuous.

    The vast majority of this story quotes heavily from the lawsuit itself, as well as court records. There is a definite point of view, but it's hard not to take a stand against a mayor who discriminates among ethnic groups, acts unilaterally like a bully, and has nothing but contempt for due process.

    Sorry, but at this stage of my career, I call them as I see them. If that offends you, well you can always go back to reading the Inquirer.

  13. Jim Kenney=Hitler
    First Hitler targeted Catholics and Jews.
    Same strategy.
    Jim Kenney's full of vile, pernicious hate which he and the Inquirer promote as justice and unity, which is what Hilters do.

  14. A Famous Pundit once said,"...when opening the Inquirer every morning the 1st Section that I turn to is the Obituaries. If My Name is not Listed I know it will be a Good Day."

    Reading Your Posts, Ralph, reminds me of those Days when the Obits You wrote were so compelling.

    The Political Class that captivates Your Interest, All reek of a Rotten Corpse that someday will be buried and the Populace of This City will celebrate Their Demise and may emerge from The Nightmare we are left to endure.


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