Sometimes, Death sneaks up on you and takes you from behind, and you never even see or hear it coming. Even if you are a veteran police officer trained in observation, evaluation, and response, the final moment that Death brings can come suddenly and without warning.
In fact, as a police officer, when you die on the job this is usually how Death will show up, like a thief in the night.
On Tuesday June 21st, 2005 in the 1200 block of Arch Street in downtown Philadelphia, a rowdy mob of protesters from a variety of radical left-wing organizations were testing the skill, patience, and professionalism of Philly’s Finest.
The mob was allegedly there to peacefully protest during the Biotech 2005 conference taking place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. But this mob on Arch Street had turned ugly and unruly, and began to fight police officers who were simply trying to hold them back and keep them from interrupting the conventioneers’ event.
It was under these circumstances that death crept up on 17-year veteran Philly cop Paris Williams and jumped him from behind, taking one of the most respected and well-liked officers away from his family, friends, and fellow officers at the all-too-young age of 52 years.
On this beautiful day, the last full day of spring, Paris Williams was in the 1200 block of Arch Street and on-duty on the police side of the battle. But he was not a helmeted, baton-wielding, mace-splashing, uniformed police officer on this day.
He had experienced those types of days in the past from time to time, for sure, but he had moved along in his career and was now assigned to the Civil Affairs Unit.
Civil Affairs is the police department’s group of officers who are specifically assigned to help keep the peace during these types of confrontational situations, often acting as a direct liaison between the department, event organizers, and protest group organizers.
They wear ‘soft’ clothes, usually a professional business-look suit and tie, and are generally some of the department’s most even-tempered, long-fused individuals. You need to be when you are put into the heated situations that the unit experiences on a regular basis, and Paris Williams fit the bill perfectly.
In the aftermath of his tragic, untimely demise, Officer Williams’ qualifications for Civil Affairs as a peacekeeper were described on the Philly police officer’s internet message board called “Philadelphia Blue” at Domelights.com by his fellow officers in the following ways:
“a good cop…always willing to help out another”
“touched a lot of people deeply in his profession as a Police Officer and as a friend”
“friendly, funny and always cracked me up…..he was a great guy to work with”
“a gentleman… enjoyed life to the fullest… always had a big smile on his face”
“A good cop and a great guy”
“A huge ear to ear grin…on his face no matter what”
“always amazed at how he could defuse bad situations with his wit and charm”
So because the group from BIO 2005 chose to have their convention in Philadelphia this year, chose to put on industry-related demonstrations inside the Convention Center halls, to entertain the people who serve in that industry along with some of their families, and to enjoy the hospitality of America’s 5th largest city, the City of Brotherly Love, a number of radical groups decided that this was a good chance to bring mayhem to the party.
This is nothing new, of course. Ultra-liberal radicals have shoved their way into the efforts of legitimate, peaceable protests, causing damages, injuries, and death around the world from Barcelona to Seattle, from London to Philadelphia.
At the Republican National Convention in 2000, held here in Philadelphia as well, protest groups such as the Ruckus Society, ACT UP, and the Direct Action Network turned what could have been legitimate, peaceful protests into ugly battles, causing numerous police officer injuries, including to Commissioner John Timoney.
The protesters at the RNC 2000 inter-locked their arms inside “sleeping dragons”, long plastic tubes, to block key traffic intersections and freeway ramps. They threw unidentified liquids into the faces of officers, damaged numerous police vehicles, and committed many other acts of vandalism and violence, most of it planned and intentional.
It was only the incredible planning of the PPD and their aggressive counter-tactics that kept the city and the convention relatively safe during the main convention week.
Then on Tuesday morning, when a fellow officer, Ed Braceland, was assaulted, Officer Williams tried to help control and apprehend his attacker, identified later as Guillaume Beaulieu of Canada. To quote District Attorney Lynne Abraham, “the resulting punching, shoving and pushing…caused Officer Williams to suffer his cardiac event.”
He was knocked to the ground and attacked, and suffered what was later ruled a heart attack. Officer Williams was rushed to nearby Hahnemann Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Beaulieu and four others involved in the melee were arrested and are facing various charges. They are the latest in a long line of confrontational, violent, destructive purveyors of a mob mentality that is intentionally and actively pursued during so many of these high profile events.
Paris Williams is just the latest victim of these outrageous groups, suffering the most extreme result of their numerous anti-social actions. As he waded into the melee on Tuesday morning, on that final beautiful day of spring, trying to help restore peace to the city that he loved and had served so faithfully for so many years, he had no idea that it would be his final act, his final moment.
Peaceful and law-abiding Americans and lovers of freedom and democracy around the world need to understand that these groups are nothing more than radicals with an agenda of destruction and mayhem, and need to stand up in support of their local and national law enforcement agencies whenever a high-profile event comes to their town and draws these criminal elements along in it’s wake.
If we all stand up together and let these groups and their leaders know that they will not be taking over our town, then perhaps we can help another officer avoid the same fate of beloved Philadelphia police officer Paris Williams, that of “Death by Radical Protester.” May God rest the soul of our fallen hero, and may He bless the family and friends left behind.