More than 100 arrested at renegade Ocean City car rally

Cars like this one were in Ocean City for an unsanctioned rally the last weekend of September. Drivers parked their cars on lots to show them off and cruised up and down Coastal Highway. More than 100 were arrested. Dozens of cars were impounded. (WTOP/Colleen Kelleher)

An “unruly and destructive” gathering at an unofficial weekend pop-up rally of car enthusiasts in Ocean City, Maryland, ended with over 100 being taken into custody and one state trooper being knocked out by a suspect.

The problems that arose from the unsanctioned H2Oi event forced Ocean City to shut down its bus service for more than 12 hours Saturday night into Sunday morning. The city suspended the service out of an “abundance of caution for our employees,” a tweet said.

Law enforcement pooled their resources into the seaside city last week in anticipation of renegade enthusiasts causing problems, a year after a similar event resulted in more than 1,500 citations and 121 arrests. Dozens had their cars impounded.

Ocean City police said hundreds became unruly and destructive Saturday night, despite the beach town avoiding major issues throughout the day.

“Incidents throughout town progressed from social gatherings to unruly and violent behavior among the large crowds, specifically in the downtown area,” Ocean City police announced in a statement.

Maryland State Police said one officer was knocked unconscious while trying to arrest a suspect.

Jonathan Belko, 23, Norfolk, Virginia was said to be resisting arrest by authorities when he began to run away. An officer chased Belko down and brought him to the ground, but Belko got on top of the officer and knocked him unconscious.

Other officers soon came and arrested Belko, according to police.

Police said Belko was charged with resisting arrest, reckless endangerment, escape and disorderly conduct.

Over 100 attendees of the unsanctioned event, primarily organized on social media, were arrested and charged with various criminal and traffic-related offenses.

“They are here to disrupt, destroy and disrespect our community and our law enforcement officers,” said Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro, who had advised visitors to avoid the town altogether.

“Our policing philosophy is to be friendly, fair and firm. 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.”

Local police received assistance from elsewhere across the Eastern Shore and Maryland in dealing with the crowds. This weekend, Ocean City hosted the largest ever deployment of state troopers.

Several popular restaurants and bars in the area, including Seacrets and Shotti’s Point, decided to close early because of the problems caused by the car enthusiasts.

Matt Small

Matt joined WTOP News at the start of 2020, after contributing to Washington’s top news outlet as an Associated Press journalist for nearly 18 years.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up