A gathering of car enthusiasts caused a commotion in Ocean City this weekend, as drivers burned rubber, zoomed down crowded streets and clashed with police.
Ocean City Rick Meehan vowed to end the the unofficial event known as H20i, which he said “placed our town, as well as our citizens and visitors, under siege and in danger." The event is not affiliated with the H20i organization.
Police say those attending the car gathering caused several accidents, including a collision with two people that was caught on video, and formed an unruly crowd where people threw rocks at officers.
Photos and videos posted to social media offer a glimpse of what happened in Ocean City this weekend. Here’s what you need to know about the event. (Warning: Some videos include profanity.)
What is H2oi?
It’s a gathering that is not permitted — or sanctioned — by Ocean City, centered around enthusiasts of lowered and modified Volkswagens and Audis. It also attracts a variety of lowered and otherwise modified vehicles.
Two years ago, the official H20i car show moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey. But enthusiasts keep coming back to Ocean City by the thousands. And the event has long caused problems with locals.
The Atlantic City show bills itself as a “laid back” event for Volkswagen and Audi owners.
What happened this year?
Photos and videos on social media showed cars lining the streets. People were racing one another and doing “burnouts” — pressing the gas pedal while the car is in park to create smoke. Fireworks were set off from medians and cars were doing donuts in the middle of the street.
On Friday night, a BMW driver lost control during a burnout and hit an adult and a child in a median of Baltimore Avenue near 33rd Street, Ocean City police spokeswoman Ashley Miller said. Both declined medical treatment.
Less than 24 hours later, some threw rocks and bottles at police officers who were using pepper spray to try to break up a crowd of hundreds of people, Ocean City police said. It took the officers over an hour to break up the intersection of 13th Street and Baltimore Avenue, police said. One officer was struck, but not injured, police said.
Organizers of the gathering could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
Was anybody arrested?
Ocean City Police didn’t immediately return a request seeking the number of arrests over the weekend. Last year, police made 80 arrests, according to The Daily Times newspaper in Salisbury.
Miller said Sunday that the weekend was an “enormous disturbance” to residents and the police department.
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“Our officers are literally doing absolutely everything they can right now to maintain order," Miller said in an email.
How did the city respond?
In advance of the car show, officials declared the town a “special event zone” from Sept. 25 through Sunday, with lower speed limits and greater fines for motor vehicle violations. They also said there would be a greater police presence.
But on Sunday morning, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan condemned the car show in a Facebook post, saying people purposefully came to the city to "raise havoc in our community, to disrupt our lives and defy law enforcement.”
“They placed our town, as well as our citizens and visitors, under siege and in danger which is unacceptable under any circumstances," he wrote in the post.
Ocean City Councilwoman Mary Knight also wrote on Facebook that she was “infuriated and appalled at the disrespect and carnage that our community was subjected to this weekend.”
The mayor said he is going to work with town staff and state officials for a plan moving forward. He’s not ruling out the possibility of declaring a state of emergency. Meehan also said he would reach out to Gov. Larry Hogan in the coming week “to discuss this in detail and ask for his assistance.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.