Protesters urge DA Williams, ‘the Darth Vader of politics,’ to resign

 A small group of protesters outside the entrance to the Philadelphia district attorney's office call for the resignation of Seth Williams. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A small group of protesters outside the entrance to the Philadelphia district attorney's office call for the resignation of Seth Williams. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

With Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams under federal indictment for alleged corruption, everyone from Mayor Jim Kenney to FOP President John McNesby has demanded his resignation.

But people like Greg Brinkley and Asa Khalif said it first.

For four years, the long-time community activists have protested outside his Center City office, blocking traffic and shouting into bullhorns that Williams disgraced his office and should step down.

They said it again Monday morning, ignoring the pouring rain to stand in front of rush-hour traffic and trying to get past a line of unyielding cops blocking entry to the DA’s Office. Police and press far outnumbered the protesters, who spent about a half hour yelling for Williams’ departure.

“Seth Williams, you crossed the line, you committed a crime, now you must resign!” activist Chris Norris of Techbook Online shouted, as he drummed a steady beat on a cowbell.

Black Lives Matter activist Khalif hollered similar sentiments into a megaphone: “You are a common criminal, you are anti-black, and we want you the hell out of our community, and the hell out of our office. Seth must go! Seth must go!”

The scene seemed like deja vu for anyone who remembers one of the group’s first marches against Williams.

That was a similarly rain-soaked day in August 2013, three months after Williams approved charges against Tomayo McDuffy, who was 17 when a blind neighbor told police he broke into her home but fled when her dog called police. McDuffy spent five months in jail before Williams dropped the charges, after the Philadelphia Daily News poked holes in the case.

Activists rallied against Williams again the following year on behalf of Darrin Manning, then 16, who needed surgery after a female police officer ruptured his genitals during an aggressive stop-and-frisk. Williams’ office charged Manning with assault and resisting arrest, but didn’t charge the officer, enraging activists.

And in 2015 and 2016, activists  protested again and again – often outside Williams’ office – over the December 2014 death of Brandon Tate-Brown. Two Philadelphia police officers got into a violent brawl with motorist Brandon Tate-Brown during a routine car stop in Mayfair, and the fight ended only after one cop shot Tate-Brown to death. Williams declined to charge the officers, despite pressure from the NAACP, black clergy and others.

Khalif called Williams “the Darth Vader of politics.”

“We had eight years of anti-blackness,” he said. “Having a black face in a high place does not secure justice and fairness for black and brown people and poor people. Every case that this man has allowed to prosecute – and cases that he didn’t allow to go to prosecution – must now come into question.”

Protester Walter Hudson, who chairs the South Jersey-based National Awareness Alliance, agreed: “If part of the house is dirty, the whole house is dirty. Seth Williams has put a stain on the DA’s office and the people that are underneath him. He needs to go.”

Williams has steadfastly declined to resign, even after a gifts scandal ended in federal indictment last week. Watchers say his notorious money troubles suggest he’ll stick it out, so that he can continue collecting his $175,572 annual salary.

Michael Diamondstein, Williams’ current attorney, declined to comment on the protest and Williams’ plans.

 

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.