(Photo by James Fields)

By Demetrius Dillard
Special to the AFRO

A recent incident between Ocean City police officers and four unarmed Black teens has garnered national attention as video that captured the melee at the town’s boardwalk appeared to show the use of excessive force.

The four Black males from Harrisburg, Pa., were arrested with multiple charges after Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officers approached them concerning an alleged vaping violation that resulted in 19-year-old Brian Anderson being repeatedly kneed in the side and others being tased. 

Law enforcement used force in response to failure of providing identification, officials said, in addition to resisting arrest.

The occurrence, which transpired on the evening of June 12, has prompted numerous political figures and organizations throughout the state, including the ACLU, NAACP and he Public Defender’s Office, along with local community leaders to demand a thorough investigation of the incident and called for the OCPD to implement the use of body cameras.

The Maryland State Conference (MSC) NAACP also demanded that the officers involved be removed from the posts. The organization joined the United Black Clergy, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Caucus of African American Leaders and others to hold a press conference on June 16 at Lawyers Mall in Annapolis to address what took place in Ocean City. 

Willie Flowers, president of the Maryland State Conference NAACP, urged those in attendance to voice opposition against patronizing the state’s tourist attractions if brutal acts at the hands of law enforcement persist.

“If Ocean City doesn’t want the money of young Black men, and they want to spend their time attacking them, using MMA moves on them when they’re on the ground handcuffed, then maybe we shouldn’t spend our money in Ocean City,” Flowers said.

While Ocean City has a policy that prohibits smoking and vaping in designated areas on the boardwalk, many feel that law enforcement going to the extent of using a taser and kneeing Anderson’s rib cage was an apparent display of police misconduct.

Kobi Little, president of the Baltimore City branch of the NAACP, was one of the dozen speakers at the rally. “It’s high time for us to end the serial killing of Black people,” he said during his time at the podium.

Little and his colleagues will continue to speak out against the issue, standing in solidarity with like-minded community leaders throughout Maryland. 

“We can’t continue this dynamic where people don’t feel safe around police,” Little told the AFRO.

“Not only will the young men who were abused by the police be traumatized for a lifetime, but our community is traumatized, and that is why it’s terror, because they use the instruments of government to advance their White supremacist politics to create terror in our communities. And that’s not what police are for.”

The MSC NAACP will be investigating the Ocean City incident, said Anne Arundel County NAACP President Jacqueline Boone Allsup. In the most recent legislative session the state legislature passed Senate Bill 71, also known as the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021, which will require Maryland law enforcement agencies to mandate body-worn cameras and develop a number of other policies by July 2025.

James Spearman, a former Annapolis policeman, said the video of the encounter between OCPD and the Black teens was deplorable, unprofessional and will only make matters worse. He made a plea to OCPD and other law enforcement officials, begging them to stop abusing their authority.

“This has got to stop. I’ve been in many fights; won some, lost some, I knew when to stop,” Spearman said. “This could be your child, this could be your grandchild. I’m a father and I have grandchildren as well, and when they’re out in public, I want them to be safe. I want the officers to make sure they’re safe. I don’t want the officers to be the ones I have to worry about.”

Attorney Billy Murphy joined organizations and officials gathered at the press conference to express disdain with OCPD.

“I’ve been asked, ‘Billy, why do the police keep doing this knowing that they’re going to be on video camera and the subject of national outrage and protest?’ That’s how deep the culture is,” said Murphy, also a well-known civil rights advocate in Baltimore.

“That’s how deep this culture of unlawful behavior toward Black people is. They just can’t help themselves, it’s so deep. Well we’re going to help them (OCPD). We’re going to file every possible legal action against them that the law permits.”

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