A white teen is getting a lot of praise online for calling out her mother after she was seen in a now-viral video hitting a Black cop.
The video caused outrage for several reasons. The Black woman, serving on the Metropolitan Police force, was working to contain a violent pro-Trump group the night before the terror attack on the Capitol Building.
ON THE CODE SHE DID WHAT SHE HAD TO DO???????? MINK MINK
— ⁶Kid (@deep_dab) January 6, 2021
The woman, identified by her daughter as Therese Duke, hit Black officer, 28-year-old Ashanti Smith, in the face during the rally and was punched by Smith in response. The crowd of white men around them then felt comfortable attacking the police officer, physically dragging her before throwing her to another group of officers. It is unclear if any of the people who assaulted the officer have been charged.
But 18-year-old Helena Duke went viral herself for retweeting the video with a stinging barb.
"Hi mom remember the time you told me I shouldn’t go to BLM protests bc they could get violent…this you?" she wrote on Twitter, adding on another tweet to prove that it was in fact her mom who hit the cop.
hi mom remember the time you told me I shouldn’t go to BLM protests bc they could get violent…this you? https://t.co/9ZkbAq0ehO
— Helena Duke (@duke_helena) January 7, 2021
The teen spoke to BuzzFeed News about the situation, telling them that her mom lied and said she was taking her aunt to get a procedure done. Instead, her mom, uncle and aunt went to a "Stop The Steal" rally in Washington, D.C.
"My initial reaction was more like, oh my gosh, I was right. I was actually right about them being there. It was very surreal because it was an insane video, first of all, and then it was the revelation that, oh, that’s my mother. That’s her," Helena told BuzzFeed News, adding that the video was sent to her by her cousin.
"Before President Trump was elected, she was a Democrat for the majority of her life. And then, I don't know what happened. Something switched in her brain, and she went through a very dramatic change to very far right. I obviously feel very sad that they have to go through it, too, but that I'm not alone, and that they’re not alone," she added, referencing other kids who either contacted her or took to Twitter after noticing their parents at any of the violent Trump rallies that took place last week.
BuzzFeed News reported that over the past few years, it has become common for white people to grow distant from family members who are now obsessed with President Donald Trump and adhere to conspiracy theories like QAnon.
The situation has gotten even more dire for those who noticed family members participating in the attempted coup on Congress last Wednesday.
Helena's tweet now has more than 400,000 likes and her mother has demanded she remove the tweet.
"We are not proud of how things went in DC. I know you are upset but putting us in danger isn't going to solve anything. Please…I am Begging you to remove," her aunt told her in texts seen by BuzzFeed News.
Helena said she was thrown out of her mother's home when she participated in the protests against racial injustice and police brutality last summer, telling BuzzFeed that her mother made many bigoted statements about Black Lives Matter.
"She told me she thought Black Lives Matter was a violent organization and they would be inciting violence. I always felt almost heartbroken over how they viewed the world and how skewed it was and how they wouldn't allow me to express my views," Helena said.
"But showing that they can act in such a horrible way is just really appalling to me. I am honestly very disappointed to have to be part of this family that is so…just, very not welcoming or supportive. I don’t feel safe being part of this family."
A woman who identified Helena as her "love" even chimed in.
— chase????✨ (@chase_ycooke) January 8, 2021
Helena has since started a GoFundMe in order to pay for her expenses and for college now that she is on her own. It has so far raised more than $37,000.
"At the moment I have no idea how I will be paying for college as I have little financial support. I have a dream of one day becoming a lawyer but I need help to get there. I hope to attend college and then go into the peace corps," she wrote on the GoFundMe page.
"Eventually I hope to enter into law school. I want to make the world a better place I just need some help."
She also spoke with Teen Vogue and explained the situation further and stated why the video upset her so much.
"During the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, I was told by my mother that I wasn’t allowed to go because she believed BLM was a violent organization…and the fact that she ended up going to a violent storming of the Capitol, harassing a woman and getting punched in the face, but when I went to peaceful protests, nothing happened to me," she said.
Helena went on to say that the children of Trump supporters should stick to their guns and not allow their parent's actions or thoughts to define them.
"I would say, keep your beliefs strong. A lot of parents do raise their kids to be strong and independent, and from my personal experience, once you are strong and independent and know who you are, parents are like, ‘That’s not what I wanted; that’s not who I wanted you to be,’" she said.
"And when you’re not who they wanted you to be, they take back what they taught you and don’t know how to accept you any longer. It’s very disheartening, but the ability to stay strong and stay true to who you are is insanely important and will carry us. This generation will change the world if we stay this way."
NBC Washington has reported that Helena's aunt has been charged with simple assault and assault on an officer. But the police also charged Smith, the Black officer who punched back, with assault.
In an interview with the news outlet, Smith said the situation was terrifying and she thought she had to defend herself.
“It was a large group of protesters coming down, and they were screaming racial slurs and screaming, 'F Antifa, F Antifa.' They didn't have masks. They proceed to try to take my mask off of my face. I was on Instagram live just to protect myself and also show everyone what was going on,” Smith said.
“Three gentlemen, they grabbed me, but at the time, one of them hit, me and then they dragged me to the police line,” she added, noting that she has been put on leave while the department investigates what happened.
It is unclear if Helena's mother has also been charged for punching Smith. Smith has started a GoFundMe page to help pay for her legal expenses in the case.
The Boston Globe reported that since the video gained so much traction online, Helena's mother has been fired from her job at UMass Memorial Health Care.
The company released a statement on Twitter.
“Over the past 24 hours we have received numerous expressions of concern through social media regarding a UMass Memorial caregiver who may have been involved in this week’s violent events at the nation’s capitol,” the statement said. “That employee is no longer a part of our organization.”
— UMass Memorial (@umassmemorial) January 8, 2021
Helena also wrote on Twitter that she would live to speak to Smith about what happened.
the harassment is blatantly obvious in this video. If anyone has Ashanti’s contact info I really want to reach out to her https://t.co/H4k1bLeL8F
— Helena Duke (@duke_helena) January 11, 2021
Smith has since raised more than $122,000 after explaining what happened on GoFundMe.
"I honestly feared for my life. The video makes me look like I am the aggressor, but it does not show what happened prior to my defending myself," she said.
"People shoved me, tried to take my phone and keys, yelled racial epithets at me, and tried to remove my mask. I asked them to social distance and stay out of my personal space due to COVID 19. They refused, and I was afraid of being hurt and harmed. After being assaulted, I defended myself."