The nation’s largest police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, posted an image to social media Thursday of a white Philadelphia police officer comforting a young Black child, pushing the image as further evidence of police benevolence in the face of demonstrations that have led to violence. Protests in the city this week have resulted in nightly clashes with police after officers shot and killed a Black man, Walter Wallace Jr., whose family said he was in the midst of a mental health crisis when police arrived on the scene. The police union presented the image of the officer this way: “This lost child was wandering around barefoot during the violent riots in Philadelphia. The only thing this Philly police officer cared about was protecting this child,” the FOP tweet reads. “We are not your enemy. We are the Thin Blue Line. WE ARE the only thing standing between Order & Anarchy.”
It turns out the tweet was totally bogus (and later deleted). A similar Facebook post was also posted and subsequently taken down. Lawyers for the young boy’s family say the image does indeed capture a terrifying incident—the moments after Philadelphia police smashed the windows of the mother’s car and dragged her out of the vehicle along with her 16-year-old nephew. The incident took place as the family was driving 10 blocks away from where the Wallace Jr. shooting occurred earlier that day. This was Monday evening, well before the full extent of the protests and police presence would have been common knowledge. Kevin Mincey, a lawyer for the family, explained the context surrounding the photo to the Washington Post:
Not long after midnight on Tuesday, Rickia Young, a 28-year-old home health aide, borrowed her sister’s car, put her 2-year-old son in the back seat and drove across town to West Philadelphia to pick up her teenage nephew from a friend’s house, Mincey said. She was driving back to their home, hoping the purring car engine would lull her young son to sleep, when she turned onto Chestnut Street, where police and protesters had collided. She found herself unexpectedly driving toward a line of police officers who told her to turn around, Mincey said. The young mother tried to make a three-point turn when a swarm of Philadelphia officers surrounded the SUV, shattered its windows and pulled Young and her 16-year-old nephew from the car.
While Young is trying to turn the car around, a bystander video shows more than a dozen police officers attack.
The lawyer says Young was injured in the takedown and was taken to the hospital before being processed at the police station. The nephew and child both sustained injuries. “She wasn’t out looting or out doing anything,” Mincey said. “She wasn’t even charged with a crime.” Young was, however, separated for hours from her child seen in the FOP tweet, until his grandmother was able to locate him.