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Frank Rizzo was Philadelphia Police Commissioner from 1967 to 1971 before running for mayor and winning. He held office until 1980. Photo: Amateur Night At City Hall
Frank Rizzo was Philadelphia Police Commissioner from 1967 to 1971 before running for mayor and winning. He held office until 1980. Photo: Amateur Night At City Hall

PhillyCAM revisits the crimes and controversies of Frank Rizzo with documentary

PhillyCAM will be taking a look back at the controversial former Philadelphia Mayor and Police Commissioner with a documentary airing and follow-up discussion.

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Between 2001 and 2011, the series Philadelphia Stories aired on WYBE TV, spanning eight seasons.

Now — as part of the Philadelphia Stories RETROSPECTIVE: A 20th Anniversary Look Back series — a documentary presentation will take a specific look back at the impact of Frank Rizzo.

As the first of a series of conversations and presentations for the retrospective series, Robert Mugge’s 1978 documentary Amateur Night At City Hall will be presented by PhillyCAM.

Rizzo served as Philadelphia Police Commissioner from 1968 to 1971, and as Mayor of Philadelphia from 1971 to 1979, leaving behind a controversial legacy of harm and hateful objectives.

PhillyCAM will present the documentary on Jan. 20. 

Prior to its airing, at 12:00 p.m., PhillyCAM will host a live discussion panel via PhillyCAM TV and WPPM radio (106.5 FM). 

The documentary will then be broadcasted through PhillyCAM TV at 8:30 p.m. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion at 9:45 p.m.

In airing the documentary, PhillyCAM seeks to unpack and address harm committed by the Rizzo Administration through opening a dialogue.

The documentary records key moments in Rizzo’s career as mayor and police commissioner, touching on the controversy and harm of his administration.

Through his time in power, Rizzo instilled fear to carry out acts of discrimination. In turn, he used those tactics to legitimize his harmful agenda.

Rizzo’s misdeeds include the raiding of gay bars in 1968, leading to a vilifying of the LGBTQ+ community and the enabling of police abuse against the community, and many others that weren’t straight or white.

Under these precedents, Rizzo led with fear to falsely arrest members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

In 1978, Rizzo asked Philadelphians to “vote white,” stating that he would like “white people and blacks who think like me to vote like Frank Rizzo.”

The panel discussion from PhillyCAM will discuss criminal justice reform and the lasting effects of Rizzo’s administration. 

“A panel of movement leaders will… discuss how to counteract the oppressive legacy of Rizzo’s law and order policing and what groundbreaking work is being done to reform the city’s criminal justice system. Panelists will discuss their work to end cash bail, end mass incarceration, promote police accountability and remove symbols of oppression like the Rizzo mural in South Philly and statue across from City Hall,” read a press release from PhillyCAM.

The panelists will include Kris Henderson or Nikki Grant of the Amistad Law Project, Candace McKinley of the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, and Reuben Jones of Frontline Dads.

The conversation will be moderated by Dr. Linn Washington of Temple University.

The documentary can be screened through PhillyCAM TV, on Xfinity TV channels 66/966HD, Fios TV channels 29/30 with an audio simulcast on WPPM 106.5 FM. Worldwide on Roku, Apple TV, and streaming online.

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