Philadelphia — A dozen determined demonstrators brought Center City morning rush-hour traffic to a halt on Aug. 10, when they occupied the busy street outside Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams’ office. They demanded that Williams bring murder charges against Philadelphia police officers who murdered 26-year-old Brandon Tate-Brown in December 2014.
Arriving at 7 a.m., Tate-Brown’s family and supporters from the Philadelphia Coalition for Racial, Economic and Legal Justice first massed in front of the doors to Williams’ office and then blocked access to an inside escalator, chanting “Justice for Brandon Tate-Brown!” and “Black lives matter!”
Outside the building, protesters held banners, including one directed at Williams that read: “Seth Williams, reopen the case; your arrogance is injustice! #justice4Brandon.” The protest was led by Tate-Brown’s cousin Asa Khalif, a longtime anti-racist community activist. Khalif challenged Williams to “come outside and answer to the public who pay your salary.”
When told that they would be arrested for blocking access to the building, the demonstrators took their protest into the street, stopping the cars, trucks and buses that regularly ring City Hall during the morning rush hour. Erica Mines with the REAL Justice Coalition called out to people to “stop business as usual in the face of the growing epidemic of police murder of Black and Brown people, now happening at the rate of more than three per day.”
Even after a prolonged struggle pressured the Philadelphia Police Department to release the names of officers responsible for shooting Tate-Brown during a routine traffic stop, both Williams and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey have refused to file charges against the officers. Tate-Brown’s family and supporters have uncovered video and other evidence proving that the officers lied about the incident and subsequently amended their original statements to fit with what the videos revealed.
The Aug. 10 action coincided with hundreds of other protests scheduled to take place across the U.S. in a 1-year commemoration of the murder of Black youth Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. The REAL Justice Coalition has also called for a late afternoon rally at Broad and Erie streets in North Philadelphia.
WW photo: Joseph Piette