Once again, in the land of the free, police officers hell-bent on aggressively enforcing minuscule code violations with brute force displayed their determination to keep Jim Crow alive. In the case of Ocean City, Md., it appears the officers there believe Black and brown teenagers illegally vaping on the boardwalk should be beaten and tasered.
At least two videos released on social media over the last few days depicted Ocean City officers interrupting a group of beachgoers to violently arrest teenagers. In both cases, the original infraction involved vaping in an unauthorized area.
The graphic images of police brutality, the typical city press release covering for their actions, and the calls for change from activists and politicians are all too familiar these days. Yet, the reaction from the crowd, including White people, definitely struck a different tone than what we’re used to witnessing.
Teen’s friends stand up to police brutality
Unlike in the case of George Floyd, in which Darnella Frazier won a pulitzer prize citation for her brave recording of that police lynching, friends of the teen being brutalized by the officers went a step further in Ocean City, Md. ready and willing to throw hands.
In one of the videos from Saturday, the first frame shows officers struggling on top of a Black teen as they yell at him to stop resisting. “I’m not resisting. Tell me what you arresting me for,” The teenager responds. Then, an officer begins violently kneeing the teen in the side as the lingering crowd moans and screams for the officer to stop.
As the officers continue holding down the teen, other Black teens appear to get closer and start shoving the officers that have created a circular barrier between the teen and the crowd. As the officers begin to pick up the handcuffed teen from the ground, three or four other Black teens begin to get more aggressive with the surrounding officers. One even uses his bike to swing at an officer after the officer appeared to swing it at him first.
As the officers and Black teens engage in a shouting match, White bystanders with phones in hand close in, continuing to film the incident. Later in the video, as officers shove the group of Black teens against a wall and threaten them with arrest, a woman ignores a female officer’s commands to stay back and appears to use her White privilege to move closer to record the excessive use of force.
Heavily outnumbered by the crowd, two officers bring one Black teen into a headlock, slamming him to the ground and tasering him. The crowd begins to back up as officers arrest several Black teens, but they never stop filming. I don’t think Ocean City PD was ready for that clap-back.
Officers taser teen with hands up for vaping on boardwalk
In a second video, supposedly from June 6, it depicts officers following a teen who’s slowly walking away from them with a backpack on his shoulders. Within a second of approaching him and telling him to get on the ground, an officer tases the young teen while his hands are still in the air to the horror of bystanders.
Police in Ocean City Maryland tasered a 17-year-old teenager after they accused him of vaping yesterday. pic.twitter.com/PVzagAV5i1
— Rebecca Kavanagh (@DrRJKavanagh) June 13, 2021
As the teen lays lifeless on the ground, officers attempt to dismiss bystanders, eventually carrying his body into custody.
Several Black teens from the first video, ranging from 18 to 19 years old, were charged with resisting arrest and released after appearing in court.
“We are aware of the social media videos circulating regarding this incident. Our officers are permitted to use force, per their training, to overcome exhibited resistance,” the town of Ocean City responded in a press release.
What they failed to mention is that the community is likewise aware of the mountains of evidence indicating police officer abuses of Black Americans represent crimes against humanity. Our community is permitted to use force, per the Bill of Rights and our God-given rights, to overcome excessive force from an agent of the State by any means necessary.
While some watching the footage, even some well-meaning Black folks, might encourage the teens and anyone experiencing police brutality to simply “do what they say.” The police killed Breonna Taylor, who was asleep in her own home, and Atatiana Jefferson, who was babysitting in her own home. Police killed Botham Jean, who was eating ice cream in his own home, and Philando Castille, a legal gun owner who followed every command. These and other martyrs prove that no amount of acquiescence to police officers will guarantee survival.
After George Floyd, people refuse to give a pass to police brutality
In the case of Ocean City at least, the righteous fury of a people sick of this pandemic of police depravity has boiled to the surface like the many revolts from enslaved people rarely discussed in U.S. history books.
As evidenced by a post-George Floyd climate of heightened scrutiny, the town’s press release appeared to end by appealing to the very people its officers abused. It read, “All uses of force go through a detailed review process. The uses of force from these arrests will go through a multi-level examination by the Assistant Patrol Commander, the Division Commander and then by the Office of Professional Standards.”
Instead of rising to the occasion by having an outside agency look into the use of force, it sounds like officers will be reviewing themselves.
Officers haven’t yet faced any public reprimand from department
It remains to be seen what standards the office will deem professional in these two cases that were clearly excessive uses of force.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, called on Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to investigate the incidents, according to The Baltimore Sun. Frosh responded, saying he was “deeply concerned” and has been in contact with law enforcement.
Excuse my French, but f*ck your feelings. Whether you’re deeply concerned or marginally concerned doesn’t matter. What matters is whether these officers will be disciplined. But then again, the system of policing from the first slave patrols was designed to criminalize Black bodies, so from the officers’ perspectives, they’re probably expecting a medal over a misdemeanor.
The days of peacefully watching brutality take place are long gone
Some lawmakers were more direct in their defense of the Black teenagers.
“The video from this weekend in Ocean City is deeply disturbing,” Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Democrat, said in a Tweet. “Vaping on the boardwalk is not a criminal offense. Black and brown children should not be tased while their hands are up.” Inevitably, calls for reform have mounted in response to the incident with the Baltimore Sun noting:
“In response to Floyd’s death, the Maryland legislature passed sweeping police reforms, including a new statewide standard for when officers can use force and a requirement that all departments adopt body-worn cameras by 2025. Additionally, the reforms, once fully implemented, will require police misconduct cases to be reviewed by administrative charging boards.”
Transformative change comes from the streets, not Congress
Once again, acts of excessive violence against civilians by the State are met with calls for continued reforms. Like putting lipstick on a pig, local legislators move toward reforms that would only alter the perception of policing while our members of Congress continue to debate whether one of the few professions with a license to kill should be held to a higher standard.
The cases of police brutality in Ocean City, Md. have made clear one transformative change that’s transpired since the public lynching of George Floyd; People aren’t taking this sh*t anymore.
“Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in,” one of the teens, Brian Anderson, 19, told ABC News in an interview airing Tuesday on “Good Morning America.”