Cop dead in Philly biotech protest

A very unfortunate turn of events at the protests against the biotech industry confab that just concluded in Philadelphia, organized under the banner Biodevastation to Biojustice. This June 21 account from Philly’s KYW News Radio:

A Philadelphia police officer involved with a scuffle with protesters outside the Convention Center has died of an apparent heart attack. Officer Paris Williams, 52, a 19-year veteran of the force, was among many Civil Affairs officers monitoring the protest outside the “BIO 2005” conference at the Convention Center.

Police Commissioner Johnson says when a scuffle broke out, Williams rushed in: “He went towards the scuffle, he collapsed. Rescue came and immediate transported him to Hahnemann Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:15pm.”

Homicide detectives questioned some of the protesters. Those interviews and the autopsy may determine whether any charges could be warranted.

While Philly police ponder charges against protesters, this June 22 report from the Philadelphia Daily News indicates some police reacted violently:

They [police] pushed forward, forming a human barricade. Some cops swung their bikes at demonstrators to move them away from the fallen officer, hitting some people.

Ian Cox, 16, of Moorestown, N.J., said he was standing taking pictures. “One cop turned and just punched me in the gut,” he said.

This development will likely provide more fodder for the ongoing terrorist-baiting of political protest.

  1. This from GM Watch
    plus the listserv)

    GM lobby seeks to exploit death of police officer (22/6/2005)

    1.Officer dies of apparent heart attack at biotech protest
    2.Biodemocracy statement to the press about the incident


    Philadelphia Police Officer Paris Williams had an apparent cardiac arrest yesterday, apparently while chasing protesters in front of the Convention Center that’s housing BIO’s annual convention.

    According to the Philadelphia Independent Media Center, both demonstrators and police have reported that he was not involved in a minor scuffle involving a small number of demonstrators.

    Biodemocracy 2005 issued a statement saying they were saddened by the news and that, “We were gathered in Philadelphia today to celebrate and protect life, and any loss of life is a tragedy to us all.” (item 2)

    As is normal in such circumstances, the exact events relating to the officer’s death are being investigated, but Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson was reported as saying that although the officer saw the scuffle and went towards it, “I don’t think Officer Paris Williams was involved in the scuffle.” (see item 1)

    Unfortunately, that has not stopped the biotech industry and its lobbyists leaping to exploit the situation. Jim Greenwood, president of BIO, rushed out a written statement about the death saying, “There can be no excuse for violent actions”, while AgBioView ran as its subject line on its daily list bulletin, “Police Officer dies after scuffle with BIO protesters.”

    This industry-connected list has previously accused critics of GM of pretty much everything, from murder to terrorism to genocide.

    1.Officer dies of apparent heart attack at biotech protest
    By JOANN LOVIGLIO, Associated Press Writer, The Associated Press June 21, 2005

    A police officer collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack Tuesday as police skirmished with protesters outside a biotechnology convention, officials said.

    Officer Paris Williams, 52, a 19-year department veteran, was pronounced dead at Hahnemann University Hospital shortly after 1 p.m., Cpl. Jim Pauley said.

    Authorities closed the street in front of the Pennsylvania Convention Center to traffic as hundreds of protesters chanted and pounded on drums. A small number of demonstrators scuffled with police.

    Authorities did not think Williams was directly involved in the confrontation.

    “I don’t think Officer Paris Williams was involved in the scuffle, but anyhow, he saw the scuffle, he went toward the scuffle, he collapsed,” Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson said outside the hospital.

    “We’re not blaming anybody for what happened,” Johnson said. “At this point, unfortunately, we have an officer that died today in the line of duty.”

    About a half-dozen people were taken away by police.

    Groups opposed to biotech research methods, biological weapons, genetically modified crops and other issues had announced plans to disrupt traffic and events in the city throughout the day. About 18,000 people are in the city for the convention, which runs through Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, more than 500 skateboarders who want to reclaim skating rights at JFK Plaza also gathered in the city Tuesday, sometimes taking over intersections.

    Officers on hand at the park near City Hall, which is also known as Love Park, welcomed the skaters but ordered them to keep their boards outside. Officers kept the skaters at bay for more than an hour before their ranks swelled and they stormed the plaza, climbing the well-known Robert Indiana sculpture and cavorting – some of them partially nude – in the fountain.

    By 3 p.m., skateboarders rode freely in the plaza, hurtling themselves off steps and performing tricks.

    Police made no arrests at the park, but did physically remove some skaters. Citing the biotech protests, police Chief Inspector Joe O’Connor said officers were reluctant to enforce the skateboarding ban at Love Park, which normally warrants a citation and confiscation of the skateboard.

    The park had served as a major draw for skaters across the country before city officials banned them in 2001 to prevent damage.

    The skateboarding protest was being held in conjunction with Go Skateboarding Day, a loosely organized international event supported by the International Association of Skateboard Companies.

    AP writers Maryclaire Dale, Paul Elias and Randy Pennell contributed to this report.

    2.Biodemocracy statement to the press about the incident:

    The organizers of Biodemocracy 2005 are sincerely saddened by the news that a Philadelphia police officer suffered a heart attack and passed away today during our demonstration.

    We send our heartfelt condolences to the family of the fallen police officer.

    When those gathered in front of the Philadelphia Convention Center heard the news, we shared a moment of silence and chose to leave the area out of respect for the deceased officer and his family.

    Along with everyone who is in Philadelphia today we are trying to piece together the full story and understand how and why this tragic event occurred.

    We were gathered in Philadelphia today to celebrate and protect life, and any loss of life is a tragedy to us all.