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."
.@GLFOP has now deleted their propaganda posts on Facebook and Twitter, but offered a tremendously valuable lesson in why you always need to treat initial police narratives with intense skepticism. pic.twitter.com/hxOLbu36KH
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) October 29, 2020
1/ This post by @GLFOP is a lie. My firm @MinceyFitzRoss represents this boy and his mother. This photo was taken moments after police attacked their vehicle, busted out the windows, ripped the mother from her car and assaulted her. pic.twitter.com/6dmDfoBe2B
— Riley H. Ross III (@AttorneyRoss) October 30, 2020
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:
Here’s the vid. pic.twitter.com/nhFXBjwBrg
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— [indistinct chatter] (@mattyford) October 29, 2020
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."
Truly sociopathic behavior. Philadelphia police broke car windows. Pulled a 2 y/o Black toddler out & away from his family. Injured his mom. Then police union posted a photo of the child. Claimed officers were protecting him after he got “lost.” Propaganda:https://t.co/QdXDZau0U3
— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) October 30, 2020
Philly police stole a toddler and tried to play like their rescued him. After dragging the parents out of a car and beating them. I am disgusted. Beyond disgusted. https://t.co/IQC9lpKY7K
— eva maria (@imyagirleva) October 30, 2020
This reporting gave me chills. The underlying story of Philadelphia police conduct is shocking enough, but the added layer of intentional lies and deception by the Fraternal Order of Police is unbelievable. https://t.co/2oCRtT09c0
— Erin *VOTE* Lloyd (@mserinlloyd) October 30, 2020
"This is state sanctioned terror," tweeted Vox journalist Kainaz Amaria.