Rizzo Statue: Which Activists Matter?

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PHILA.'S statue of Frank Rizzo is a current target of leftwing demonstrators – when they're not targeting each other.

PHILA.’S statue of Frank Rizzo is a current target of leftwing demonstrators – when they’re not targeting each other.

by Tony West
The controversy recently sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement’s call to remove the Frank Rizzo statue has spurred a tempest within a teapot over which protestors are actually allowed to speak for this cause.

The Philly Coalition for REAL Justice Steering Committee has released a statement disavowing any connection with an alleged group, Black Lives Matter Pennsylvania, which is headed by Asa Khalif.

In this release, REAL Justice claims to “stand in solidarity in this effort with Black Lives Matter Philadelphia, Philly South Asian Collective, Workers World Party, International Action Center, Action Against Black genocide and the Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee.”

REAL Justice and its partners, this release continues, “have yet to contact any city officials to engage in dialog” over the fate of the statue. It complains that “other individuals … have taken our petition and coopted the Coalition’s original campaign … as a means of establishing and/or aligning themselves as being part of the Coalition’s overall statue-removal efforts. This has occurred in the form of public statements, social-media comments and demonstrations … which the media is called upon to report.

The release is itself anonymous, even as it singles out Khalif as not representing the Coalition’s campaign.

So who’s on first? “Black Lives Matter” is a somewhat amorphous movement that does draw support from several preexisting leftwing organizations even as it attempts to form its own. The “Official #Black Lives Matter Website, founded by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza,” does list a Philadelphia Black Lives Matter chapter – but not a Pennsylvania Black Lives Matter chapter.

There is an old tradition on the part of the radical left to avoid clearly identified leaders so that all utterances can be presented as the voice of “the people” or a collective. This tradition is enhanced by modern social media: many of the groups mentioned by REAL Justice seem to put forth public contact information exclusively in the form of Facebook pages, on which anybody in the group may post anything.

Asa Khalif does exist on Facebook. He did not respond to a message requesting an interview. REAL Justice listed two emails, neither of which responded to a message requesting an interview; neither did the Philadelphia International Action Committee, which is a long-established organization in this city. The Workers World Party and Action Against Black Genocide both and the Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee and the Philly South Asian Collective all have Facebook pages.

As we go to press, this brouhaha calls to mind the famous exchange in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, a movie that parodied New Left partisan squabbles of the 1970s as anti-Roman rebels divided among the Judean People’s Front, the People’s Front of Judea, the People’s Liberation Front of Judea, Campaign for a Free Galilee, and the Judean Popular People’s Front – putting most of their energy into fighting each other.

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One Response to Rizzo Statue: Which Activists Matter?

  1. I feel that the statue of Frank Rizzo should stay exactly where it is. He was a role model for Italian Americans. His job was not to disparage African Americans. He did his job and his legacy should remain as it is.

    We kill each other on a regular basis. This fratricide is not because of Frank Rizzo.

    Michael E. Bell
    August 22, 2016 at 1:14 pm

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