Freedom Bus Tour Makes Stop In OC; Mayor Meets With Delegate, Part Of Effort

Freedom Bus Tour Makes Stop In OC; Mayor Meets With Delegate, Part Of Effort
Participants in today's Freedom Bus tour of the Eastern Shore are pictured outside City Hall Monday. Photo by Shawn Soper

OCEAN CITY — Leaders of state and local NAACP branches completed a Freedom Bus tour of the Eastern Shore with a rally in front of City Hall in Ocean City on Monday evening.

The tour began In Annapolis and included stops in Easton, Cambridge, Salisbury and finally Ocean City. The final destination was chosen for the rally in peaceful protest following perceived excessive force by resort police officers against young African-American males in separate incidents on the Boardwalk in June.

Those incidents have been the subject of an internal investigation by the police department. It’s important to note snippets of those incidents went viral on social media but the videos only showed fractions of larger events on the Boardwalk that escalated when the individuals involved reportedly did not comply with officers’ orders.

On Monday, as the crowds from the Freedom Buses gathered in front of City Hall, NAACP leaders met inside with Mayor Rick Meehan and other city officials.

While the details of that closed meeting have not been made public, the coalition’s leadership said it was productive when they came out for the rally.

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The coalition leaders said they made a handful of requests from the city including in the budget a new position to ensure diversity and accountability.

The coalition leaders said it was not appropriate to have an internal investigation and called for an independent agency to conduct the investigation. The leadership also suggested the officers involved should have been suspended during the investigation.

After some speeches and songs, the large group crossed Baltimore Avenue and marched a couple of blocks down the crowded Boardwalk.

Town of Ocean City spokesperson Jessica Waters issued a comment after the meeting, which stemmed from a request by Baltimore Delegate J. Sandy Bartlett.

“The Mayor’s Office received a request for a meeting from Delegate Bartlett in mid-June.  The Mayor was happy to honor the request with the delegate, as open communication, transparency and positive dialogue with our state partners is always our goal,” the statement read. “The town fully supports the peaceful demonstrations made in Ocean City and across the Eastern Shore today. We are always supportive of individuals expressing their frustrations and requests for change. Ocean City is dedicated to listening and learning with compassion and professionalism.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.