Updated 12/12/14. Meet-up was arranged by popular YouTubers.
A group of young people exercised their first amendment rights, and their vocal chords, at a confrontation with security on Saturday afternoon at the food court of the Towsontown Mall.
A family of bystanders, who wish to remain anonymous, described what they witnessed at about 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday. The mother and daughter were on their way to meet up with the father, when they came up the escalator at the food court. The mother described seeing a large crowd of young people of mixed races starting to form. Many of the caucasian youth were dressed similarly in black, in what she described as “gothic style”. On site were two uniformed police officers and two mall security officers.
She believed the incident was inspired by the events in Ferguson. She said, “Some of the young people were literally screaming in the policeman’s face, just inches away. We walked into it and walked out as fast as we could. As we got to the exit, more young people were streaming in.”
As no police report had been filed, the motivation for the meet-up was unclear. The Baltimore County Police Department told me the incident involved two popular young YouTubers who have garnered quite a following. A link to the organizers’ announcement indicates nothing Ferguson-related, but that it at least started as a publicity event for the YouTubers.
The family did not witness any physical violence occur in the brief time they were in the area of the altercation “other than the verbal abuse from these kids”. She said, “I kept thinking how the policemen and security officers really kept their cool. [The incident] scared me.” Her husband was worried too as he ran to find them.
The family had immigrated to the United States from South Africa a decade ago. Racial and political tensions run high there with lots of poverty and gang activity, she explained, so she recognized the danger immediately. But her 14 year-old daughter seemed unnervingly calm. “She doesn’t realize how these instances can quickly get out of control. That scared me more than anything.” The mother thought that, since her daughter was just a baby when they left South Africa, she had not experienced the violence and tensions, and therefore did not recognize them the way her parents did. In South Africa, the family had been violently attacked by thugs, leaving the mother with post traumatic stress disorder.
“Even seeing a little of this happening rattles me. Will we be okay here? In South Africa, the racial and social-political destabilization causes the violence. When I look at Ferguson, it worries me. I hope it does not go that way here in America.
“The law is the law here. Policing here is really good – you call 911 and people come. In South Africa, you’re lucky if anyone arrives. There is a moral fiber here. Life is very cheap over there. They will kill you for 50 cents and your cell phone.
“They keep saying the protests are peaceful, but we know the underlying thing is not peace. I don’t think it’s free speech to shout your hate at the police. I think the police could have taken some very definite action on Saturday, but they are choosing not to. If the police do anything to contain things, then it creates more. I have a lot of respect for the police and the great restraint they showed.”
The Maryland Code has a specific clause for Assault in the Second Degree with regard to assaulting a police officer. It involves the intentional causing of physical injury, beyond minor injury, of an officer engaging in his official duties.
When attempts to provoke officers, whether intentionally or not, are met with proper police action, do they demonstrate that most officers are professional and appropriate?