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Police union used photo of Black toddler in Philadelphia unrest as ‘propaganda,’ lawyers say

N’dea Yancey-Bragg
 
| USA TODAY

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Protesters square off with police in Philadelphia

Police in Philadelphia arrested at least 91 people during unrest Monday night and Tuesday morning, with three people being cited for failing to disperse and about a dozen being charged with assault of an officer. (Oct. 27)

Lawyers representing a Philadelphia mother claim the story behind a photo shared by the country’s largest police union of an officer holding a Black toddler in Philadelphia is a “total fabrication.”

The Fraternal Order of Police shared the image Thursday of the child clinging to a Philadelphia police officer, according to screenshots shared by attorney Riley H. Ross III and a report from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“This child was lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness,” the union said in the now-deleted post. “The only thing this Philadelphia police officer cared about in that moment was protecting this child.”

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Ross, who represents the boy’s mother Rickia Young, said on Twitter the photo was actually taken moments after police smashed the windows of the family’s vehicle, ripped Young from the car and assaulted her. Ross told USA TODAY he was in disbelief when he saw the story shared by the FOP.

“The fact that they were using this child, this terrified child as a propaganda tool is really disgusting,” Ross said. “They used this child in order to promote a narrative that in a city of lawlessness that the police were the only lines of defense.”

Ross’s partner Kevin Mincey said that in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Rickia Young took her 2-year-old son to pick up her teenage nephew. On the way home, Young turned onto Chestnut Street which police had blocked off due to protests over the death of Walter Wallace Jr., 27, a Black man who was shot by police after his family called for mental health help. 

Officers told Young to turn around and she attempted to make a three-point turn.

Protests: Philadelphia prepares for another night of protests over Walter Wallace killing after second night turns violent

“While she was doing that, officers swarm the car started swinging their batons at her windows, smashed the windows, hit her, hit her son, dragged her and her nephew out of the car and assaulted them,” Mincey said.

He said the photo was taken as they removed the toddler from the vehicle.

The confrontation was captured in a now-viral video taken by Aapril Rice who told the Inquirer seeing the child picked up by officers was “the most traumatic part for me.” A police spokesperson told USA TODAY that Internal Affairs is investigating the incident and that the officers involved will be placed on administrative duty until the investigation is completed.

Mincey said Young was separated from her son, taken into custody and eventually transported the hospital due to bruises and bleeding. She was able to call her mother while in custody, who after several hours found the child sitting in the back of a police cruiser with two officers in front. Mincey said glass from the SUV’s broken windows were still in the car seat.

Young said the sun had risen by the time she was released without being charged, according to Mincey.

After the Inquirer first reported the FOP’s social media posts on Thursday, the group removed the posts. The FOP did not return USA TODAY’s request for comment.

The family’s lawyers said they are still trying to find their belongings including the vehicle and Young’s son’s hearing aides. Ross and Mincey said they are currently exploring options for legal action potentially against city of Philadelphia, the police officers involved and the FOP.

“We’re not closing the door on anything,” Ross said. “We want to make sure this family gets justice.”

Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg

Source : USA TODAY | World News

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