The toddler in this 'sweet' viral photo is actually the victim of a police brutality case

The subject of police brutality has been part of public discourse for years, and since the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum after the murder of George Floyd, it's been under a particularly bright spotlight. But even with ample examples we can point to, sometimes a story still manages to stun with its horrifying blatancy. This is one of those times.

The headline here is that the city of Philadelphia was just ordered to pay a Black mother $2 million in damages for the beating she endured and trauma she and her 2-year-old experienced at the hands of the Philadelphia police in October of 2020. But there's so much more to the story than that.

Here's the background:


According to NBC10 Philadelphia, nursing aide Rickia Young was driving home in the early morning hours of Oct. 27, 2020, after picking up her 16-year-old nephew in West Philadelphia, when she unintentionally drove into a protest over the police killing of Walter Wallace, Jr. (Wallace was shot and killed by police after his family called 911 because he was having a mental health episode and they wanted him to get medical help.)

The police ordered Young to turn back, but as she started to do a 3-point turn, police swarmed her car and smashed her windows out with batons. According to Young's attorney, police pulled Young and her nephew from the car and struck them. Then police pulled Young's 2-year-old from the car and took him away, telling her they were taking him "to a better place."

Young was bleeding and had swelling on her face, body, and trachea. She was able to call her mother, who went to find the 2-year-old. She eventually found him in the back of a police car four miles away, without his hearing aids and with glass shards in his carseat.

So we can agree that's all bad, right? Well, here's where it goes even farther south.

Two days after the incident, the National Fraternal Order of Police—the largest police union in the U.S.—shared a photo of one of the police officers at the scene, holding Young's son, with the following text:

"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."

The irony would be hilarious if it weren't so horrifying.

The post was taken down within a day, but not before it had been shared widely. The following day, the police union wrote that the union "learned of conflicting accounts of the circumstances under which the child came to be assisted by the officer and immediately took the photo and caption down."

No apology. No mention of what had really occurred. No acknowledgment of the trauma that boy had endured watching the police smash the windows of his car before beating his mother in front of him.

According to NBC10, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said that she and the law enforcement community "demand that officers exhibit the utmost professionalism, decorum, and poise while interacting with members of the public." Two officers were ultimately fired over the incident, and 14 additional officers faced disciplinary hearings.

"The behavior that occurred during the interaction between Rickia Young, her nephew, her son, and some of the officers on the scene violated the mission of the Philadelphia Police Department," Outlaw said in a statement. "As a matter of fact, the ability for officers and supervisors on the scene to diffuse the situation was abandoned, and instead of fighting crime and the fear of crime, some of the officers on the scene created an environment that terrorized Rickia Young, her family, and other members of the public."

Hence, the $2 million payment from the city.

Philadelphia Reaches $2M Settlement With, Rickia Young, Mother Who Was Beaten By Police During Unres www.youtube.com

The Philadelphia Inquirer shared a detailed account of what occurred that night, and it's worth a read. Again, the blatancy of the brutality and injustice alone is enough, but to have the photo of Young's son that night used as pro-police fodder by the nation's largest police union just added insult to literal injury. And the response from the union was pretty much the definition of "inadequate."

No one can undo what Young and her son experienced, but the firing of the officers and the payout from the city is at least something resembling accountability.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

Keep Reading Show less