PERRYVILLE - A protest was held in Perryville Wednesday after a video showing an Ocean City Police Department officer tasing an 18-year-old Cecil County man on the boardwalk of that resort town - purportedly without provocation - went viral over the past few days.
The video of the incident, which occurred on June 6, shows Taizier Griffin, a Perryville resident who graduated from Perryville High School last month, with his hands up, before lowering his left hand and getting tasered by an OCPD officer. The video then shows Griffin handcuffed, and later hogtied and carried to a police car.
The video is one of two Ocean City incidents that drew national attention. The other shows officers kneeing 19-year-old Brian Anderson of Harrisburg, Pa. In both incidents, the young black men were stopped on the boardwalk for violating the Ocean City vaping ordinance, an offense which carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine.
Relating to the incident involving Griffin, Cori Ewing, an eyewitness who filmed and posted the viral video on Instagram, told the Cecil Whig an officer approached Griffin from behind, grabbed his shirt, and said, “You know you can’t be vaping.” Ewing, who also lives in Perryville, said Griffin then pulled away from the officer's grip, backed up, and put his hands up. Ewing said Griffin was told to take his backpack off and get on the ground, and then the video shows him being tased while reaching for his bag.
“It happened so fast. If they treated him like a human being none of this would have happened,” said Ewing, who was in Ocean City celebrating Senior Week with Griffin.
Ewing said she believes the incident stemmed from racism, as she, a white woman, was approached by an officer for violating the same vaping ordinance and was treated differently from Griffin.
“They said ‘Excuse me, ma'am, please put your vape away,’” Ewing said. “Why didn't he get the same treatment?”
The police report, according to the Ocean City Dispatch, indicates that officers used a Taser after attempting to put Griffin in a bear hug and that Griffin threatened to kill the officers moments before he was tased.
Ewing asserted that the only physical confrontation between the officers and Griffin was the officer grabbing Griffin's shirt and Griffin pulling away. Ewing said Griffin only yelled at the officers after he was tased, and did not use death threats.
‘“Why would he threaten to kill them? He had no clue what was going on,” Ewing said. “He didn't even know that it was the police who grabbed him.”
In an interview with CBS affiliate (WUSA9), Griffin's mother, Jessica Barber, echoed Ewing's comment about the yelling occurring only after her son was tased.
“From my understanding from the witnesses, there was no cussing at the officers until after he was tased and on the ground and handcuffed," Berber told WUSA9. "He was merely telling them to get off of him and he was using profanities, but he said he was just scared. He was very scared.”
Maryland Speaker of the House Adrienne A. Jones addressed the incident in a statement on Twitter calling the video “disturbing.”
“Black and brown children should not be tased while their hands are up,” Jones said.
According to Worcester County district court records, Griffin is facing eight charges, including resisting arrest, and two counts of second-degree assault. He is currently out on a $3,000 bond.
“Everyone wants to say it's not about race,” Ewing said. “But it is.”
On Wednesday afternoon, after the video had gone viral, approximately 50 people gathered along Route 40 in Perryville to protest the alleged mistreatment of Griffin by the OCPD officers. The protestors held signs bearing various messages, including, '#BlackLivesMatter Is NOT A Political Issue, It’s A Humanity Issue.' They also chanted similar messages. The protest scene prompted many drivers to honk their horns.
The protest was organized by PVHS student Cameron Malone, who grew up with Griffin.
“The officers in Ocean City need to be corrected,” Malone said. “They need to suffer consequences.”
Malone reached out to Brandi Brown, who promoted the event on Facebook.
"They are paid with our tax dollars to protect us,” Brown said. “They don't need to be looking at us as the enemy. If we are expected to be cooler under pressure than the police, something is wrong. If the police are threatened by a child, something is wrong.”
One protestor, Sayyid Evans, a recent graduate of PVHS said he hopes the protest would get more people to recognize what happened to Griffin.
“I wish I was there so I could try to prevent the tasing,” Evans said. “To try to get the cops to understand what was going on. The tasing was totally unnecessary; they told him to take his backpack off at the same time his hands were in the air.”
In a speech to the protesters gathered at Perryville Middle School before they marched to Route 40, Cecil Solidarity President Christine Givens emphasized that no matter someone's education or social class that they will be subject to racism if they are black.
“It doesn't matter how much education you have, how nice you are, how polite you are, how smart you are, or where you come from,” said Givens. “If you have black skin in America in 2021 we are still not free, and we are still demanding that our life is treated the same as white people.”
Givens pointed out how the protest was organized by young people and said it's important for people to know their voices have power.
“This was created by young people and attended by young people,” Givens said, referring to the protest. “That's what we want to see, since they're the ones who have to lead us going forward.”
Cecil Solidarity Vice President Beth An Griffin spoke directly to the young black people at the protest. When she asked the crowd what happens when they turn 18, one person said, “You get locked up and go to jail.” Beth An Griffin responded by saying it’s when you can register to vote, encouraging the audience to create change in their community through political action.
“I want you to understand that the support you see today is a very small piece of all the people that are out there who care and love you,” said Griffin.
Another protest relating to the alleged mistreatment of Taizier Griffin is scheduled to be held Wednesday at 5 p.m. in Perryville.