OCEAN CITY, Md. (WJZ) — Ocean City Police needed to call for backup overnight after they say more than 100 people were arrested Saturday after a gathering for a pop-up car rally turned destructive and violent.
Police from all over the Eastern Shore were called to Ocean City around 11:50 p.m. Saturday evening as incidents throughout the town progressed from social gatherings to unruly and violent, specifically in the downtown area.
“This is not a car show and the majority of these visitors are not car enthusiasts,” stated Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro. “They are here to disrupt, destroy and disrespect our community and our law enforcement officers.”
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“Our policing philosophy is to be friendly, fair and firm,” Buzzuro continued. “Unfortunately, the disorderly behavior and unruly crowds left no choice but to shift our philosophy and take additional steps to protect our officers and our community.”
In addition to the arrests, over 115 cars were towed, but some said it was an enjoyable event.
“First time- I’m having a good time- it seems like everyone is having a good time and as long as everyone is being safe I think it’s pretty cool,” a visitor said.
“We just go to have a good time we go to look at nice cars,” said Niko, a H20i attendee.
Eyewitnesses told WJZ they saw crowds of teens drinking and antagonizing police on Saturday night.
“People under 21 that were known by the police would show up and as soon as they got outta their cars they started screaming obscenities and throwing bottles,” said Devin, another H20i attendee.
A video shows an arrest for disorderly conduct made by Corporal John Bunting from the Maryland Natural Resources Police, helping with crowd control. His use of force is now being reviewed- a standard procedure, the agency said Sunday night.
To help deter the event, local legislators allowed the city to step up fines and penalties, including $1,000 for racing.
Transportation services resumed at 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning after being suspended Saturday evening.
UPDATE: Transportation services will resume at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 27.
— Town of Ocean City (@TownofOceanCity) September 27, 2020
Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan had asked families stay away this weekend as they planned to deal with the unsanctioned H20i car rally.
“There will be an even greater police presence than in the past and they will be strictly enforcing our laws and ordinances including making arrests for dangerous and exhibition driving and towing vehicles,” he had said.
Police arrested over a hundred people this weekend and charged them with various criminal and traffic offenses, but some eyewitnesses described the arrests as random.
“Ten, 20 cops would pull up at a time, jump outta their cars grab whomever they could grab first put them in the back of the car and come back with more force,” Devin said.
Car enthusiasts hope this weekend’s turmoil doesn’t put a blemish on a rally they look forward to all year.
“I don’t want them to be associated with the people who go to H20 to enjoy a car show,” Niko said.
The town of Ocean City thanked the other agencies for their help like the Maryland State Police, their officer who was injured was taken to the hospital and is now recuperating at home.
This story was originally published Sunday, September 27, 2020.