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Police officers congregate an hour before a citywide curfew, on October 28, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images)

'Truly Sociopathic Behavior': After Mother Beaten by Philly Cops, Fraternal Order of Police Use Photo of Terrified Toddler as Propaganda

"The underlying story of Philadelphia police conduct is shocking enough, but the added layer of intentional lies and deception... is unbelievable."

Julia Conley

The conduct of Philadelphia police officers and the nation's largest law enforcement association this week amounted to what one journalist called "an extraordinary mix of police violence and disinformation," after it was revealed Friday that officers beat a young mother who had accidentally driven into a protest and then snatched her toddler from the car and later used his image in pro-police propaganda.

Along with several posts urging voters to support President Donald Trump, the Fraternal Order of Police on Thursday night posted a photo of a toddler who the union falsely claimed had been found by Philadelphia police "wandering around barefoot" amid the "lawlessness" of the fourth night of demonstrations over the killing of Walter Wallace, Jr. 

But the union soon deleted the post after being confronted by the Philadelphia Inquirer and lawyers for the two-year-old boy's mother, Rickia Young, said the officers forcibly removed the toddler from his mother's vehicle after smashing the car's windows and violently arresting Young after she accidentally drove into an area where protesters were being confronted by lines of riot police.

The reality of what the photo shows, tweeted HuffPost reporter Ryan J. Reilly, offers "a tremendously valuable lesson in why you always need to treat initial police narratives with intense skepticism."

According to attorneys Riley H. Ross III and Kevin Mincey, Young attempted to turn around immediately after she turned down a street where police were clashing with protesters Thursday night, while her son and teenage nephew were in the car with her. 

While she was trying to make a three-point turn as directed by officers, the police suddenly surrounded her SUV, smashing Young's windows while the toddler sat in the back seat. The police violently dragged Young out of the car, beat her with batons, and then threw her to the ground.

A nearby resident, Aapril Rice caught the police violence on video:

While Young was left with a bloodied head and badly bruised left side from the police attack and was detained and separated from her son for hours, a female police officer was photographed holding the toddler in what was later used for what Ross called "propaganda."

"Using this kid in a way to say, 'This kid was in danger and the police were only there to save him,' when the police actually caused the danger," Ross told the Washington Post. "That little boy is terrified because of what the police did."

The child was also hurt during the attack and was taken to Children's Hospital to be treated for a head injury after being reunited with his mother. According to the Post, the family still has not been able to locate the SUV or their belongings, including the toddler's hearing aids, which were inside.

Observers on social media expressed shock at the story, with filmmaker Peter Ramsey tweeting that accounts like that of Young and her child are evidence of a police force that is "begging to be defunded."

"This is state sanctioned terror," tweeted Vox journalist Kainaz Amaria.


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