Monday, November 29th, 2021

Hospital stays, lawsuits and calls for police accountability ensued

Rickia Young, a 29-year-old nurse’s aide, clearly remembers the moment police officers swarmed her car in West Philadelphia last year. She heard one window shatter, then another. Not only was she worried for her own safety, but Young said she feared for her toddler son’s life.

“The cops were banging and yelling, ‘Get the f— out of the car!’” Young recalled. “They were trying to bust all of the windows out. I was yelling, ‘My son’s in the car, stop! Stop!’ Then I felt my face on fire from the mace. From that moment, I was fighting to live.”

She was driving through West Philadelphia early on Oct. 27, 2020, to pick up a family friend who was out among demonstrators protesting the killing of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man who had been shot by police responding to a 911 call a day earlier. She was attempting to make a U-turn through the rowdy crowd when Philadelphia police officers approached her car, broke the windows, dragged her from the vehicle and beat her. She became separated from her son amid the attack. The city of Philadelphia recently agreed to pay Young a $2 million settlement for the attack in September. Young, whose son is now 3, has also sued the police union over the photo, which she claims was misleading. The lawsuit is pending. However, she said neither the settlement nor the lawsuit can undo what happened.

“I still ache every day,” she said of her injuries. “I can barely play with my son. If I try to run, my back will hurt. I can barely do everyday things. I can’t even hold a baby for a long time because my arm will give out on me. I never thought in a million years that my body would feel so old so soon. It’s really been hard.”

Later, the nation’s largest police labor union,the National Fraternal Order of Police, posted a Facebook photo showing Young’s son in the arms of a female Philadelphia police officer just after the incident. In the post, officials said the officer rescued the lost child from the “complete lawlessness” of the protest, writing, “WE ARE the only thing standing between Order and Anarchy.”

A now-deleted Facebook post from the National Fraternal Order of Police.
A now-deleted Facebook post from the National Fraternal Order of Police.

Young was never charged with a crime.

Young is among many Americans who say they were severely injured by police in the turbulent months after George Floyd’s death on Memorial Day 2020. Amid what has been called the broadest protests in U.S. history, with thousands of people showing up at hundreds of locations across the country to protest police violence and advocate for Floyd, Wallace, Breonna Taylor and other victims, dozens of demonstrators left marches with broken bones, cuts, bruises and more permanent injuries like blindness.

Protesters march on Oct. 27, 2020 in West Philadelphia after Walter Wallace was shot by police. (Matt Slocum / AP)

Many officers arrived at the protests dressed in tactical gear and deployed crowd-control agents like pepper spray and tear gas, as well as “less-lethal” weapons (known as kinetic impact projectiles) like rubber bullets and bean-bag rounds, on the primarily peaceful protesters.

At least 115 protesters across the country were shot with these crowd-control weapons in the neck or head from May 26 to July 27, 2020 according to a report from Physicians for Human Rights.

Hospital stays, lawsuits and calls for police accountability ensued. A year later, many like Young are still struggling to recover, and others fear there’s no healing for them at all.

Young said she suffered torn ligaments in her shoulder, an injury to her back, bruising on her right leg, and lacerations to her face. She was handcuffed and separated from her then 2-year-old son for several hours.


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