Some thoughts on last weekend’s chaos in Ocean City during the pop-up rally weekend.
Though it’s said every year after this gathering, it’s a miracle more police officers are not hurt or worse. In the face of thousands of riotous types who clearly enjoy raising hell on the streets, it’s not being overly dramatic to maintain these law enforcement heroes face impossible obstacles to maintain peace and good order. Through verbal and physical onslaughts every year, these officers are essentially assaulted repeatedly.
Among the dozens of videos I watched over the weekend one stood out. It shows a group of idiotic individuals on a balcony lighting fireworks and throwing them toward a group of police officers on the street a few floors down. The fireworks appeared to be going off before reaching the ground, but safe to say major injuries would have been the result if the kids’ intentions played out.
This nonsense and the other acts of violence witnessed over the weekend should upset everyone. These actions are why I give our police officers a huge benefit of the doubt when I see them tackling suspects or being physical with individuals. They don’t seek out physical altercations with people. No, that would be these miscreants who come to our resort to do what they want when they want with only the most mischievous of intentions. I will stand behind the men and women in blue in the face of any sort of criticism for their handling of these folks.
The good news is I think the police officers feel supported by their community. There were many instances this week when businesses did their best to show their support for the heroes through discount and marque messages. Because I know many police officers and their families, I found myself thinking of them constantly last weekend. These officers know it’s dangerous and they know they must expect the unexpected at all times, but they look past these concerns and bravely march through what has to be extreme apprehension. They deserve all our support and praise.
There were two major changes with the handling of the special event this year compared to previous years – towing and traffic patterns.
The strict towing ordinance accomplished what it set out to do, recording a 431% increase from 65 tows in 2019 to 345 from Thursday-Sunday. The shift to quickly tow violators took these vehicles off the road for a day or two and sent a strong-armed message. It also costs most of these folks at least $900 to get their vehicles out of impound and, in most cases, much more with violations tabulated.
Additionally, the traffic pattern changes were genius, especially closing off downtown on Saturday night and shutting southbound Coastal Highway down at the Route 90 Bridge on Friday night. The closure sent vehicles westbound without an option to turn around until the Route 113 exit on Route 90. When that closure took place Friday, I watched through video cameras and the Waze app the traffic build west. It appeared most of the detoured vehicles headed north on Route 113 until Route 54 and then followed their GPS to Route 1 and back into gridlock on southbound Coastal Highway.
These sorts of extreme measures to reduce the volume of vehicles on the road worked and should continue next year.
Though there were 277 arrests through the weekend, Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said in a press conference what many folks observed over the weekend. Business owners and residents reported the visitors are not especially violent individuals to the public at large. They tend to fight and cause harm to each other rather than others unaffiliated with their following.
“In the bigger picture, there was virtually no serious crime in the traditional sense in Ocean City all weekend,” the chief said. “With tens of thousands of people in town, it was mostly disorderly conduct and peace and good order types of crime we were able to maintain. Serious crime was virtually non-existent throughout the weekend.”
While I see the chief and others’ points about crime, this week’s Cops and Courts section and some other article confirm there were some significant incidents and without question it’s a scary weekend for residents. There were only a few instances of serious criminal acts, as the chief maintains, but they did occur, including an attempted stabbing, a random punch with brass knuckles, a burglary, a hit and run and fireworks and projectiles being thrown at police officers.
However, I agree with the general sentiment it could have been much worse in many ways.
It was great to hear Delegate Wayne Hartman got a front-row seat to this weekend through back-to-back, ride-alongs with police Friday and Saturday nights. Hartman pledged further action in Annapolis to toughen laws because, “still more needs to be done.” After observing police officers being targeted repeatedly with projectiles while doing their jobs, the delegate vowed to introduce “a bill to allow our law enforcement officers and first-responders to be protected under a hate crime bill and make them a protected class. That would be an additional tool that law enforcement would have next year. When they are met with this kind of behavior, it could be treated as a hate crime because that’s just what this is.” On the other side of things in Annapolis, Senator Mary Beth Carozza said she would work her chamber on the same front.