ELKTON — Grassroots progressive group Cecil Solidarity held a march and rally along Main Street calling for an end to racism and police brutality in Cecil County and around the country while a small group of counter-protestors gathered waving American and Trump 2020 flags.
The group is seeking a voice in the selection of Elkton’s next Chief of Police following the recent retirement of Chief Matt Donnelly. They have pushed for some reforms of Elkton Police Department policy, such as banning the use of chokeholds, in the wake of the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Jacob Blake and other Black Americans at the hands of police.
Cecil Solidarity President Christine Thompson Givens, a North East native, explained in an interview with The Whig that the new chief would impact policing in Elkton for years to come.
“Why do we have to wait for police brutality to happen, for someone to be murdered to be in the streets? We want to be preventative,” she said. “We’re here to unify tonight, and to say enough is enough.”
Adriana Brown, a resident of Rising Sun and member of the pro-Trump group which gathered nearby, expressed concerns about limiting police power in an interview with The Whig.
“They’re trying to defund the police, and without the police, we have no protection,” Brown said. “I am here to support the idea that all lives matter. Black Lives Matter, as an organization, is garbage as far as I’m concerned.”
Another member of the pro-Trump demonstrators, Elkton resident Nira Pisami, disagreed with the idea that Black Americans face discrimination. Pisami, who is White, said her family has experienced poverty and harassment during desegregation in the 1960s and 70s.
“Are you kidding me? You’re poor, you’re oppressed? No you’re not. You’ve got it better than I ever have,” she said. “Don’t come out here and say Black lives matter. What, mine doesn’t matter?”
About 60 supporters of Cecil Solidarity, which is not part of the national Black Lives Matter group, took up the chant of ‘Black Lives Matter’ as they marched from the Cecil College's Elkton Station campus along Bridge Street to Main Street.
Members of the pro-Trump group drove past, flying the Trump 2020 flag, and cruised ahead as the march moved down Main Street.
Cecil Solidarity gathered outside Central Tavern, where customers sat outside eating dinner. Several got up and moved inside or left, while others stayed for the duration of the rally.
“I’m glad that people who are eating and enjoying their dinners today can hear this: there are clear disparities in the treatment of Black and Brown people in this country,” Givens said into a megaphone. “We’re demanding to live in peace without harassment and brutality from police or from any other white guy or woman with a gun. We’re not trying to start a race war. We’re trying to end it.”
Police kept the road clear for almost an hour as cars passed, many honking in support, before moving the demonstrators to the sidewalk to reopen the road to traffic. Cecil Solidarity organizers talked with officers, and the demonstration remained entirely peaceful aside from a few terse exchanges with passersby.
In one such encounter, a woman approached the group shouting “Trump! Trump! Four more years!” as she appeared to record video on her phone. The demonstrators drowned her out with chants of “Black Lives Matter,” and police asked her to move away after a few heated moments.
“Don’t respond to that ignorance. Put your fists up and let her know we stand in solidarity,” one speaker said as the woman walked away. “People are angry that we’re telling them they can no longer be racist. We’re not going to allow it any longer. We’re out here asking for people to say that our lives matter too.”
Members of Cecil Solidarity, as well as the small group of pro-Trump demonstrators, hoped that things would stay peaceful.
“I am totally opposed to any type of violence to make a point,” Adriana Brown said. “Martin Luther King changed the world by being peaceful.”
Givens said she wants to have an honest and open conversation about the facts of racial discrimination in policing to make Cecil County a more welcoming place to people of all races. It’s important to keep the big picture in mind, she added.
“Almost 60 years ago, we were standing out here doing the same thing and begging people to realize that our lives matter,” she said at another point in the rally. “Different slogan — ‘I have a dream.’ We’re saying ‘Black lives matter.’ But it’s all the same.”
As the rally came to a close, participants held a moment of silence for Chadwick Boseman, the star of Marvel’s Black Panther who passed away from cancer at the end of August. Speakers reflected on the importance of Black people seeing their stories celebrated on the big screen
Givens said she loves being Black, but added that it can be a blessing and a curse.
“On one hand, you’re proud of who you are and your culture as Black people and what we’ve been able to overcome over the last 100 years,” she said. “On the other hand, it’s terrifying. It’s literally living in a constant state of turmoil every single day to be Black in America.”
CORRECTION: This story previously misstated the name of Cecil College's Elkton Station campus as Cecil College of Art and Design.
ELKTON — During last week’s regularly scheduled Cecil County Council meeting, board members spent some time discussing a possible change to the method by which the county can refund outstanding general obligation bonds.
The proposal would empower the county executive to execute and deliver executive orders prior to issuing the bonds in order to fix, prescribe and determine the details of the bonds and the issuance and sale of the bonds, according to the language in the bill.
According to Cecil County Finance Director Lisa Saxton, the purpose behind the change would be to allow the county flexibility to sell refunding bonds in a timely manner and allow the county to optimize interest savings.
Saxton said that currently the county goes to bond market every two years, with the last time being in Nov. 2019. She noted that the proposed change would generally only apply in off-years when the county is not going to the bond market.
Saxton said in those years, if savings were obtainable, the county’s financial advisors, Davenport & Co., LLC. would notify the county of potential savings.
Saxton said that prior to the county becoming a charter form of government, approval for such refunding of bonds was done by resolution, now such matters are handled by bills, which means the process can take around four months to complete. Saxton said the idea behind the current bill would be to speed up the process and perhaps turn around such bond refunding measures within 60 days or so.
Council member Bill Coutz (R-District 2) asked how much time would actually be saved if the change is approved. Coutz said he was concerned about removing council oversight of the process for a mere 30-day improvement in the speed that such refunding measures could be approved.
Council member Jackie Gregory (R-District 5) said she was concerned about taking the transparency away and eliminating the council from the oversight process.
“I do have serious reservations about making major changes like this at this point in time,” she said. “I don’t think the timing is right for this.”
Saxton said all the change would do is give the county an opportunity, through an executive order by the county executive to start the process.
Council member Al Miller (R- District 3) said the proposal simply gives the county another financial tool it can use to help save taxpayer dollars.
Council President Bob Meffley (R-District 1) said he felt that the more hands there are in the matter, the worse it would be, and that the finance department and the county’s advisors are specifically equipped to handle the issue.
Saxton said the goal is simply to speed up the process to give the county a better opportunity to get cost savings for already approved projects. She noted that the current four-month timeframe limits the county in some respects regarding being able to refund projects and get lower rates when they occur. She also noted that the council would still be the deciding factor on which projects are funded, and that the proposed bill would only affect refunding of bonds for an already approved project.
A public hearing on the proposed bill is scheduled for Oct. 6 at 7 p.m., with consideration scheduled for Oct. 20. at 7 p.m.
ELKTON — A convicted felon who is barred from possessing firearms remained jailed Tuesday after investigators allegedly confiscated guns while raiding an Elkton residence and later determined that, regarding one of the seized pistols, there is a one-in-333-billion chance someone other than the suspect left DNA on it, police reported.
Elkton Police Department Det. Dennis LaSassa filed charges against the suspect, Kason Gregory-Kevin Lee, 30, of the unit block of Hollingsworth Manor, on Thursday — approximately six months after the start of an investigation in which DNA testing allegedly linked Lee to one of the confiscated handguns, according to Cecil County District Court records.
Police reported that the investigation began at approximately 1 p.m. on March 30, when LaSassa and EPD Det. Thomas Saulsbury went to Huntsman Drive near Cow Lane, adjacent to Hollingsworth Manor, after receiving a complaint about Lee waving a handgun while standing in the street.
The responding detectives were familiar with Lee, whose street name is “Face,” because Saulsbury had arrested him in April, court records show.
In that case, Saulsbury took Lee into custody on April 21 after investigators raided two Hollingsworth Manor residences and confiscated 91 baggies of suspect heroin mixed with fentanyl, two ounces of suspect marijuana, four digital scales, more than $1,000 and five pills of MDMA, which is a psychedelic drug commonly called “ecstasy” or “molly,” according to court records and Cecil Whig archives.
(Facing 25 criminal charges relating to those tandem house raids, including five felonies, Lee has remained in the Cecil County Detention Center without bond since his April arrest and is awaiting a trial date.)
When Lee noticed the arriving EPD detectives on March 30, he ran into a residence at 122 Huntsman Dr. where, investigators suspected, he “dropped or hid” the handgun in question before walking out of that house about three minutes later.
“(Lee) was yelling at a group of males standing across the street and, from the way he was yelling, I could tell that an incident (had) transpired,” LaSassa notes in his written statement of probable cause.
Court records indicate that a confidential informant “proven to be reliable and credible in the past” spoke with LaSassa on the phone and reported that, moments before the EPD investigators had arrived, Lee was “flashing” a firearm on Huntsman Drive.
“The CI (confidential informant) told me that Lee was threatening people . . . The CI said that ‘Face’ is crazy and believes that he will kill somebody,” LaSassa outlines in his written statement of charges.
A criminal background check revealed that Lee is banned from possessing firearms because he is a convicted felon relating, in part, to an armed robbery, police said.
The EPD detectives obtained a search warrant for 122 Huntsman Dr., based on their belief that Lee had hidden a gun inside the house and based on other information they possessed regarding that particular address, police added.
“122 Huntsman has been reported to be a drug house by numerous complainants through the months. I have had CIs in the past advise that Kason Lee distributes (drugs) and has a couple of stash houses in the Hollingsworth Manor area. It is common for drug distributors to protect their stash house from the police and competing drug distributors,” LaSassa explains in charging documents.
During the court-approved search, which started at approximately 3:15 p.m. on March 30, about two hours after the EPD detectives had responded to the call regarding an armed man in the street, investigators confiscated a 9mm handgun, a .22 caliber rifle and two .22 caliber revolvers, court records show.
They also seized a pink fanny pack “filled with ammo,” a magazine loaded with .22 caliber bullets and four loose .22 caliber rounds, according to court records.
EPD Det. Shannon Comley processed the confiscated firearms for DNA and obtained a warrant that allowed detectives to take DNA samples from Lee and three other adults investigators had linked to that Huntsman Drive residence, police reported.
On April 14, LaSassa and Saulsbury took a DNA sample from Lee, and it was sent to the Maryland State Police Forensics Science Division lab along with samples taken from the other three people, police said.
Then on July 28, police added, Comley received results from the DNA testing conducted at the MSP forensics lab.
MSP lab technicians found a DNA profile from “at least two contributors” on the handle of a HiPoint 9mm Luger pistol that had been confiscated from the Huntsman Drive residence, including a “major male contributor,” according to charging documents.
“The DNA profile from Kason Lee matches the major contributor DNA profile. Because the rarity of this profile exceeds 1 in 333 billion, it is unreasonable to conclude that an unrelated individual would be the source of this major contributor DNA profile,” court records allege.
Lee is facing 11 criminal charges, five of which are felonies, including four counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, according to court records, which indicate that Lee is scheduled for an Oct. 2 preliminary hearing.
He remained in the Cecil County Detention Center without bond on Tuesday, four days after his bail review hearing, court records show.
Lee was served his charging papers on Thursday at the county jail, where he has remained in custody without bond for the past five months after his drug arrest in connection with the two house raids that occurred in Hollingsworth Manor, according to court records.
Those simultaneous house raids occurred on April 21 – some 22 days after the incident in which Lee allegedly waved a handgun while standing on Huntsman Drive, which, in turn, led to the court-approved search of 122 Huntsman Dr. and the confiscation of the guns and ammunition.