OCEAN CITY, Md. (WJZ) — Ocean City, Maryland officials say rowdy crowds at an unsanctioned car rally “disrespected” the community and called it a “challenging weekend.” However, they also said it could have been worse if they had not had plans to control the crowds.

More than 100 people were arrested just on Saturday night during a pop-up car rally in the beach town, known as H20i. Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said the town had been preparing for the event for a year after violence broke out last year at the same event.

This year, the town got permission to create a special event zone downtown where they could be more stringent about motorists breaking traffic laws and speeding.

Noise and crowds were also issues throughout the weekend, but most arrests were related to disorderly conduct and not violent crimes or destruction of property, officials said.

Parts of downtown were shut down as well as parts of Coastal Highway as police made an effort to control crowds. Public transportation was suspended to help with crowds.

Several officers were injured while trying to make arrests, including a state trooper who was knocked unconscious. Meehan said bottles and bricks were thrown at officers trying to control the crowds.

At times, it was very very difficult, very taxing and very trying, but at the end, we prevailed and the amount of safety and security of the town by our efforts, our abilities, never completely waivered,” said Police Chief Rick Buzzuro. “So I just wanted to say that we will continue to serve and protect this community. We will never back down we will never stand back. We will always be there, regardless of the situation, regardless of what we face.”

The police chief said the officers’ safety was put in jeopardy. He said all the injured officers are recovering and have been released from hospitals.

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Meehan said he wouldn’t call the weekend “successful” but said the police did their very best to maintain control. He said police mostly tried to keep the peace and order, but crime activity was virtually non-existent throughout the entire weekend.

“I think we sent a clear message,” Meehan said. “We are going to enforce our laws.”

Preliminary numbers released by the police department report 277 arrests were made since Thursday. More than 1,200 traffic stops were made and 345 vehicles were also towed.

‘A Major Overreaction’

Some attendees of the event said the heightened police presence did more harm than good.

“It was a major overreaction,” attendee Julian Estrada told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren. “These police were just running up on innocent people. You could walk in front of them and they would just throw you to the ground and arrest you for really nothing. You could look at one of them wrong. They had tasers out there. They had the cans of mace into the crowds, stuff like that, trying to disperse the crowd not even in a civil way.”

He describes some of what happened as “mayhem,” but he said if the event is held again in 2021, he will be back.

“My message to the mayor is get a hold of your police, try to get some better training in how to handle these situations. And expect a big crowd because we’re not going away. You’ve just got to expect it, but handle it better.”

The incidents were not just isolated to Ocean City. There were reports of incidents across the state and even along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Video captured cars doing burnouts on the bridge.

READ MORE: Driver Seen Doing Doughnuts On Bay Bridge Faces 27 Charges, MDTA Police Say

Meehan said they are concerned that the large crowds may lead to a spread of coronavirus. He said police tried to break up large crowds gathering in parking lots or other outdoor areas.

The mayor said the violence could have been worse, but that there were no reports of injuries to residents or tourists.

He thanked the community for supporting town officials and law enforcement and thanked the agencies and officers that responded to help with the incidents.

Gov. Larry Hogan also thanked law enforcement for their efforts this weekend:

Here’s a look at the preliminary numbers from the weekend:

 

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

 

2019

2020

2019

2020

2019

2020

2019

2020

Tows

12

75

16

115

16

126

21

29

Arrests

7

27

29

58

58

127

27

65

Traffic Stops

258

331

439

415

326

378

207

94

Citizen CFS

99

106

199

199

323

248

193

178

Officer CFS

396

469

698

665

650

679

375

258

CFS Total

495

575

897

864

973

927

568

436

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