Attorneys for a mother who was violently arrested by Philadelphia police and then had her young son paraded on social media have told BuzzFeed News that she is now experiencing “a lot of trauma.”
Rickia Young was the driver of an SUV in a now-viral video during protests in Philadelphia ignited by the death of Walter Wallace Jr., a black man who was shot by police officers on Monday afternoon.
The footage taken on Tuesday night shows scores of police officers descending on the car, smashing the windows, and violently pulling out both Young and her nephew, who was also present.
Moments later an officer can be seen taking Young's 2-year-old child out of the car while Young and her nephew were subdued.
Following her arrest, Young’s son, who is partially deaf, was photographed being cradled in the arms of a white woman police officer.
This image was then used by the largest US police union, the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), on their various social media channels with a caption that Young’s attorney, Riley H. Ross III, said “completely misrepresented facts and reality.”
The union claimed that the young boy was found “wandering around barefoot” before being saved by an officer.
The false post was shared more than 700 times within 30 minutes of being posted on Facebook. Other posts repeating the lie have been shared tens of thousands of times.
“This child that is in the arms of this police officer is terrified because the police swarmed on the vehicle that he was in, smashed the windows, yanked his mother and his cousin out of the car,” said Ross, “And he's 2 years old and has no idea where his mother is.”
The false post was subsequently deleted after a request for comment from the Inquirer newspaper.
On Friday, the FOP released a statement saying that they had deleted the post once they had learned of “conflicting accounts of the circumstances under which the child came to be assisted by the officer.”
The Philadelphia Police Department declined to comment.
But Young’s attorneys are not satisfied.
“We haven't even heard as much as an apology from the Fraternal Order of Police,” said Ross, who believes that the posts were part of a political agenda ahead of the presidential election next week. The FOP, which boasts over 355,000 members across the country, recently announced its endorsement of President Donald Trump and has described police as the “only thing standing between Order and Anarchy.”
“They're trying to give people a sense that they're the protectors and it's not lost on us that this has just come days before the election,” said Ross. “It's not lost on me that this is a black child being held by a white woman. It's not lost on me that there are racial implications about violent riots, complete lawlessness."
“The implication that you're supposed to take away from this message is that people were just running in the streets, not caring about this little baby, and the police were the only ones that did care, and that the police are the only ones that can protect you from anarchy, when we know in reality that the police actually created the anarchy, they created the lawlessness as it relates to our client.”
Kevin Mincey, another attorney representing Young, said that the toddler was eventually returned to the car seat covered with broken glass.
“They left them sitting in a car seat filled with glass for an undetermined amount of time until his grandmother came and claimed him,” said Mincey. “So again, it's just another example of them trying to say that these officers were there to protect but they cared so little about this baby that they left him sitting in a pile of glass in the car seat.”
Young was eventually released without charges, but she is now struggling to reassemble her life, having lost the damaged vehicle which contained all her personal items, including her son’s hearing aids. A GoFundMe has been established to assist her.
Ross and Mincey said Young was dealing with mental trauma and physical pain from her arrest. “She had a swollen trachea, she had blood in her urine, swelling on her body, in her face and her lips, bruising on her body,” said Mincey, adding that another medical examination would be needed. Her son also needs a medical check, Mincey said, as he was found with “welts on his forehead.”
Ross said that they would be pursuing justice for the Young family.
“We want accountability for the officers that assaulted Rickia, that pulled her out of the car, that beat her. We want accountability for the officers that kept her separated from her child and caused the trauma to that child,” he said. “And it goes for the Fraternal Order of Police that posted this message and anyone else that's posting this message.”
This is not the first time a major police union has come under fire for misrepresentation of a situation.
In June, two major unions in New York spread a baseless rumor that employees at fast-food chain Shake Shack had intentionally targeted officers and poisoned them with a chemical substance. An investigation found this to be untrue.