Police in Philadelphia pulled a black toddler from a car and then claimed he was lost as part of “propaganda”, attorneys representing the child's family have said.
On Wednesday, the National Fraternal Order of Police posted a photo of a child on social media, saying that the toddler was lost during the riots and using the photo to commend the state's officers, The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported.
“This child was lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness,” the now deleted post reportedly read.
However, attorneys of the small child's family, who have filed a civil rights case regarding the incident have labeled the post “propaganda” and said that the boy was pulled by police from his mother's vehicle during her violent and unfounded arrest.
“It’s propaganda,” attorney Riley H Ross III told The Washington Post.
“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. That little boy is terrified because of what the police did,” he said.
Rickia Young, a 28-year-old home health aide, had been travelling home in her SUV after picking up her teenage nephew from a friend’s house, her attorneys, Mr Ross and Kevin Mincey told The Post.
Ms Young unknowingly took a turn onto a street where police and demonstrators were clashing amidst the protests over the shooting of Walter Wallace, and she was ordered to turn around, the report said.
The state has seen successive nights of rioting after police shot to death a 27-year-old black man armed with a knife whose family said he was in the midst of a mental health crisis.
As she tried to turn her car in the street, Philadelphia officers surrounded the SUV, broke its windows, and pulled Ms Young and her 16-year-old nephew from the car, her attorneys told the newspaper.
A viral video of the incident has shown officers throw Ms Young and the teenager to the ground and then grab the toddler from the back seat, The Post reported. Ms Young and her nephew sustained injuries during the confrontation.
“Her face was bloodied and she looked like she had been beaten by a bunch of people on the street,” Mr Mincey told the outlet. “She is still in pain.”
Aapril Rice, the 30-year-old woman who filmed the incident and watched it unfold from her rooftop and told The Inquirer that watching a police officer take the baby was “surreal” and “traumatic.”
A day later, the police union made the post on Facebook, which was reportedly deleted not long after The Inquirer contacted the FOP about the post. The FOP did not respond to a follow-up when contacted by the newspaper.
“We are not your enemy,” the union said in the post of an officer holding the toddler. “We are the Thin Blue Line. And WE ARE the only thing standing between Order and Anarchy.”
Police held Ms Young for several hours during which she was separated from her son, but eventually released her without charges, her lawyers said.
The Post said that Ms Young’s grandmother finally located the child on request from his mother, who was still in police custody.
“She wasn’t out looting or out doing anything,” Mr Mincey said. “She wasn’t even charged with a crime.”
Mr Mincey said the child was found sitting in his car seat in the back of a police cruiser with two officers in the front seats and that his child’s car seat was still scattered with glass from the smashed SUV windows.
When contacted for comment on the arrest of Ms Young the Philadelphia Police Department told The Independent that they were aware of the incident and that it is actively being investigated by their Internal Affairs Division.
The FOP did not immediately return a request for comment regarding the Facebook post.