Rickia Young And Family Still Bear Scars From Philadelphia Police Assault
It was just this past October when the monsters attacked Rickia Young, but it feels like a lifetime ago. She had just gotten her two-year-old son to sleep in the back of her car and was driving home through west Philadelphia when she encountered police officers wearing helmets and carrying shields and batons.
A few hours earlier, the police had fatally shot a Black man, Walter Wallace, and a community's despair and frustration led to unrest, which in turn was met with more violence from law enforcement.
Young tried to turn her SUV around, but two dozen officers swarmed her vehicle, and her 16-year-old nephew, whom she'd just picked up, shouted, “Lock the doors!" But it was too late.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported:
Officers ordered, "Open the fucking door!" and "Get out of the fucking car," Young said, before they bashed the SUV with batons, shattered the back windows, yanked open the front doors, and ripped her and her nephew out, throwing them to the ground and beating them.
Young screamed for her child as she watched the police yank the two-year-old from the back seat, like a sack of groceries they didn't care if they damaged.
The child was petrified, Young says, an obvious fact that anyone who considers Black children human would understand. He remains so even now.
Today, her son bites his nails, pulls at his hair, and jumps in his sleep. And when asked about the police, Young said, he bangs his little fist and repeats what he heard: "open door" and “fucking door."
The police beat the hell out of Young and her nephew, who required surgery to repair the shattered bones in his hand. Young suffered internal injuries and a swollen trachea. Months have passed since her assault, but her left arm is still in a sling because of excruciating shoulder pain.
Young and her family are Americans and they committed no crime.
While she was being handcuffed, Young was sprayed with a “chemical agent" that made feel like her face was “melting." Lying on the sidewalk, she asked for water, napkins, anything to wipe the chemicals from her face.
"An officer said to me, 'You can breathe hard all you want, I'm still not taking off these handcuffs,' " she recalled. "And I just kept asking, 'Where's my son? Where's my son?' Nobody would answer me."
Because the police are trained to become sociopaths or — in many cases — trained to remain sociopaths, they assume any demonstration of human suffering is actually a master-class performance worthy of Meryl Streep.
When Young was pulled off the ground and tossed into a police van, officers told her her son was going to a “better place," and they didn't mean Chesterbrook but the Department of Human Services, the child welfare agency. Only a monster would say this to someone unless they're speaking to the mother from Flowers in the Attic. Those kids would've been better off at DHS.
Young wasn't strapped into the van so she received the Freddie Gray “rough ride" special. Fortunately, she survived, but it's clear the police were out for blood because other people who looked like Young had harmed some cops during the unrest. Young however had done nothing to any officer other than be Black at the wrong place and time.
Young's son wears a hearing aid, which the police left behind in the SUV that remains impounded. Young and her lawyer are working to get her car back on the legal principle that she didn't commit a crime.
The national Fraternal Order of Police shared on social media an out-of-context photo of Young's son with a police officer and grossly claimed the officers had "rescued" and comforted the two-year-old child they'd actually tormented. (The woman officer “embracing" the child wasn't wearing a mask, even though Philadelphia police have been required to do so since April.) This was the bullshit caption that ran with the photo:
This child was lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness. The only thing this Philadelphia police officer cared about in that moment was protecting this child. We are not your enemy. We are the Thin Blue Line. And WE ARE the only thing standing between Order and Anarchy.
When Young's mother actually rescued the two-year-old child, there was still glass in his hair from when the police broke into the SUV. There was anarchy on the streets of Philadelphia that night, but the police were willing participants. Young's family was caught in the crossfire of gang violence but one of the gangs wears uniforms and has the state's protection.
Young hasn't been able to return to her essential work as a home healthcare aide because of her injuries. She lost her other job at a concert venue because of the pandemic. It's been a year.
"It's not all bad cops out here," she said. "But that night, in my eyes, every single last one of them were evil."
Young wants every officer involved in her assault fired, and while that seems a “well, duh" response, it's not always that simple. An internal investigation is ongoing. Maybe the police hope if they stretch this out long enough, people will forget, which is why I keep writing about it. I'm never going to forget.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."