A Maryland NAACP leader is suggesting people may decide to boycott Ocean City, Maryland, after the arrest of several Black teens on the town’s famous boardwalk over the weekend, captured in a viral video that showed an officer repeatedly kneeing a 19-year-old in the back.
“If Ocean City doesn’t want the money of young Black men, and they want to spend their time attacking them using MMA moves on them when they’re on the ground handcuffed, then maybe we shouldn’t spend our money in Ocean City,” President of the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP, Willie Flowers, said during a news conference in Annapolis on Wednesday.
He was joined at the news conference by the leaders of several other organizations, church leaders and state lawmakers.
Asked by a reporter to clarify whether the organization was calling for a boycott, Flowers said the group wasn’t using that term just yet, partly for “strategic” reasons, but he added later, “We’re in a state that depends greatly on tourism and … those young people were there for a vacation, and they were insulted and their money was disrespected.”
Flowers added, “I’m focusing on the businesses because I want the governor to hear this: The businesses are going to be affected, however you look at it, because people have already made their minds up without us saying it. That video was a message to boycott Ocean City. We didn’t say that.”
Bystander video of the arrest went viral over the past few days. The video shows 19-year-old Brian Anderson, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on the ground surrounded by several officers holding him as another officer knees him several times.
Police said officers patrolling the boardwalk Saturday approached a large group that was vaping, which is prohibited on the boardwalk. In a news release, police said members of the group continued to vape after being informed it was against the rules, refused to provide identification and became disorderly.
Anderson was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting/interfering with arrest, second-degree assault, and failure to provide proof of identity. He has been released on his own recognizance.
Other teenagers arrested and charged were Kamere Anthony Day, 19; Jahtique Joseph John Lewis, 18; and Khalil Dwayne Warren, 19. All teenagers were from Pennsylvania, and they, too, were released on personal recognizance.
Police also said one of the young men was shouting profanities at the officers attempting to arrest Anderson and another pushed a public safety aide and tried to hit the aide with a bicycle.
Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said in a statement earlier this week that the town is investigating the arrest. He said smoking or vaping on the boardwalk isn’t an arrestable offense, but the refusal to provide identification prompted the arrest.
Ivory Smith, president of the Worcester County NAACP, called for a “third-party investigation from some other agencies besides Ocean City Police Department,” as well as the public release of any video camera footage or other records it has in its possession.
Smith said he’s a lifelong resident of the lower Eastern Shore and has worked security and other jobs in Ocean City. “I have seen and heard a lot.” He said the video of the arrest he’s seen showed what he believes is an “unacceptable, excessive use of force.”
Speaking at the news conference Wednesday, Baltimore Attorney Billy Murphy said he has been contacted by one of the young men, although he did not identify who.
“We’re going to file every possible legal action against them, that the law permits,” said Murphy, who has represented other Black men injured and killed by Maryland police officers.
Murphy represented the family of Freddie Gray, who was killed in the back of a Baltimore police van in 2015, winning a $6 million settlement. He also represented the family of William Green, who was fatally shot by a Prince George’s County police officer, while sitting handcuffed in the officer’s cruiser. That settlement — $20 million — was believed to be one of the largest in the county involving someone killed by police.
Murphy said he hasn’t ruled out calling for a boycott in this case.
“Everything is on the table … We have not ruled out any action in particular, that is lawful, and we’ll put the appropriate amount of pressure on Ocean City to comply with the law and with the good spirit of treatment of people who come from all over the country,” he said.
Maryland State Del. Sandy Bartlett, who represents District 32 in the Maryland House of Delegates, noted that Maryland lawmakers just this past spring passed several police accountability measures, although the earliest some of the measures take effect is in July.
A measure to require body cameras for local police forces doesn’t become mandatory until 2025.
“Maryland, you need not wait until July … You need not wait until 2025, in which to have body cameras. You can do it now,” Bartlett said. “We spoke loudly; we spoke clearly.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.