Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

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, staff writer

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.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

Sinema Op-Ed Defending Senate Filibuster Slammed as 'Delusional'

Rep. Mondaire Jones said Sinema is effectively arguing that "we should let Republicans destroy democracy now because at some indeterminate time in the future they may try again."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·


Progressives Say 'Do What the People Want and Tax the Rich' to Pay for Infrastructure

"It is obvious that if we're going to address the needs of working families in this country, we need revenue," says Sen. Bernie Sanders, "and one way that we get that revenue is by demanding that the wealthiest people, the largest corporations are paying their fair share."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


Doctors Without Borders Calls on BioNTech to Share Vaccine Tech With World

"The faster companies share the know-how, the faster we can put an end to this pandemic."

Andrea Germanos, staff writer ·


Over 30,000 US Veterans of Post-9/11 Wars Have Killed Themselves Since 2001

"As we come closer to the twentieth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, we must reflect on the mental health cost of the Global War on Terror."

Julia Conley, staff writer ·


Sunrise Ends 400-Mile Climate March With Arrests at Ted Cruz's House

The Gulf South marchers demand that Congress and the Biden White House pass bold climate jobs legislation, including a bill to create a Civilian Climate Corps.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·