The outcome of the May 16th Democratic primary election in Philadelphia, where incumbent District Attorney Mr. Seth Williams won’t have the support of the Democrat machine and is expected to face multiple challengers, including former City Managing Director Mr. Rich Negrin, will be equally about the campaign he and his competitors ran, as well as the participation and advocacy of the aggrieved, those Philadelphians who’ve felt the devastating blow of injustice from a DA’s office that has a less than a stellar reputation.
Mr. Williams, the first African-American elected to the position of District Attorney, is, in a lot ways, a man without a community: he’s a high-profile Democrat who won’t get the Party’s endorsement this year, and he’s a black man that most pro-black, racial justice organizations said they have no intentions of supporting.
Though Mr. Williams now portrays himself as a champion of police transparency, it was the secrecy and falsehoods around a December 2014 fatal officer-involved shooting, in addition to perceived corruption in areas of finance and disclosure, which seemingly sealed his fate with voters.
But because it’s going to be an open primary – already four Democratic candidates have raised their hand to show interest in the job – Mr. Williams feels confident he can pull off a win. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Mr. Williams, who won the 2009 primary with 41.75 percent of the vote after a handful of candidates split the field, at a recent New York City soiree said regarding his growing list of opponents: “the more the merrier.”
Since the competition will be fierce, and candidates likely won’t dropout despite their mass being a coup for Mr. Williams, the onus for ensuring his defeat will lie at the doorsteps of groups like Black Lives Matter Pennsylvania, the NAACP, P.O.W.E.R, the Philadelphia Black Clergy and the National Action Network, all community-based organizations who in August of 2015 stood together to demand justice for Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown, a 26 year-old black man who was killed on December 15th, 2014, by a police officer while unarmed and fleeing, and to denounce Mr. Williams, who once said he sees his role to be a minister of justice, for his refusal to pursue criminal charges against the shooter, Officer Nicholas Carrelli, a white man – other groups and activists have opposed the D.A in recent years, including those who believe in the innocence of Mr. Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former journalist accused of killing a cop decades ago; the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization of Women, who objected to employees of the DA’s office sharing porn on work computers when employed by the State; and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, who last week criticized Mr. Williams for deciding not to pursue charges against a teenager who assaulted a police officer.
To mark two years since Mr. Tate-Brown’s death, activists on an extremely cold December evening in Philadelphia marched to the DA’s office and promised to be a thorn in his side in 2017, a persistent pain that will only cease upon his ousting. One activist, Mr. Greg Brinkley, who’s among the most vocal of the D.A’s critics, declared “Seth Williams must go!”
I side with Mr. Brinkley on this matter – I haven’t been a fan of Mr. Williams’ D.A’s office since they attempted in 2013 to jail for attempted murder a wrongfully accused black teen who was being pressured to take a plea deal despite the only eye witness to the alleged crime being a blind woman with a history of making false accusations: the teen, Mr. Tomayo McDuffy, was eventually cleared of all wrongdoing – but declarations alone won’t win this race. What will win is strategy, alliances, a vision and reminding the public ad nasueum of Mr. Williams’ transgressions.
Mr. Williams in 2009 promised a new day, but a new day can and does exist within bad realities. Philadelphia needs a District Attorney who will forego seeking a new day and attempt to erect a new reality, particularly for people of color.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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Photo courtesy of the author.