PRAYERS TURNED TO TEARS
CLICK THIS VIDEO FOR THE CLIFTNOTES VERSION OF THE EVENT
THE GREAT PRINCE FREDERICK “RIOT” OF 2020
News and Commentary
By Kenneth C. Rossignol
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
PRINCE FREDERICK, MD. – Right in the heart of Prince Frederick! Tear Gas fired; flash bangs discharged into a crowd! Riot Squads lined up in full tactical gear. Calvert Deputies and Maryland State Troopers wearing body armor with some carrying automatic tactical rifles! Yes, all officers donning gas masks too!
It was a bright day in Calvert County – that is if you don’t use that adjective to describe the man who determined that a “riot” was underway – Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans.
In spite of over 342,000 views on a Facebook live video and 3500 likes about the “riot”, what appeared to be about 300 to 400 well-intentioned folks out to share their disgust over the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis a week earlier, never got around to having a “riot”.
The “riot” was in the mind of Sheriff Evans and the real injustice that took place was to the people who look to the Sheriff to protect them and keep their community safe and are falsely led to believe he did. The marchers in the protest who arrived at the Prince Frederick Shopping Center for the kickoff of their protest march likely were skeptical in the beginning and no one can blame them if their view of police now is completely in the toilet.
Calvert Sheriff Mike Evans did nothing to make Calvert County safer or to advance the cause of community policing or improving relations with minorities – not that anything other than political considerations was ever in his coldly calculating mind.
Why so harsh an evaluation of Sheriff Evans and his Great Prince Frederick Riot of 2020?
It is easy, as the old Channel Nine Sports broadcaster Warner Wolf used to say every day on the news – let’s go to the videotape.
The video tape of the event was shot by The Baynet reporter Zach Hill. Hill did an excellent job, arriving at the beginning of the gathering, staying with the event from start to finish and varying his camera angles on the live feed to Facebook with variety and intensity. One of the most important features of his work was what he didn’t do – talk incessantly like big network TV reporters do. Hill occasionally offered an explanation, sometimes warning at the end that his battery was fading.
The challenge for the reader of this article is to watch the entire video that is well over an hour long, that Zach Hill filmed of The Great Riot of Prince Frederick of 2020.
It is important that you watch it, and view as well the screen shots that tell the story in a short and condensed way. The worse thing is to rely on what a friend says happened or to go by the self-serving press release issued by Sheriff Evans. Read what Evans said happened, by all means, the full text of his account is included at the end of this article – which will suffice for THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY not bothering to ask him if he has any comment on this story. He still can, of course.
The video shows the reader and viewer that the enthusiastic group of citizens who wanted to stage a protest march all came together in the parking lot of the old shopping center that once housed the A & P decades ago and now consists of thrift stores and entry-level start up shops – thus there is plenty of parking unlike the situation at the busy newer shopping centers.
The group was greeted by Community Church Pastor Jeffrie Long Jr., who introduced the venerable black law officer resident of Calvert County, Alphonso Hawkins. Chief Hawkins served in the Prince Georges County Police Department, rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel, and retiring from the Maryland Natural Resources Police as Deputy Superintendent.
The crowd was friendly and could have been attending a rally to raise money for someone’s barn that burned. With some appropriate chanting and even a speech from Sheriff Evans that gained a large round of applause, the crowd recited the Lord’s Prayer and then began to march up to the exit of the shopping center in the direction of the 7-Eleven, back to the old road leading to the courthouse and then returning to the direction of the shopping center.
Across from Lusby Hardware and the Calvert Courthouse a few deputies were in view, perhaps three or four and patrol units had blocked the intersections for the route of the protest march, including Sheriff Evans – who had taken a knee in prayer with the crowd – and of course was kind enough to share a photo of himself on bended knee with this newspaper.
There were some crude signs in the crowd, but, the First Amendment allows crudeness. There were a few crude chants – but mostly the chants were boring and redundant to anyone who turned on the TV in the last week.
What did not happen during the entire protest march was for a single brick, bottle, rock or any object to be thrown by anyone in the procession – and the video work of Zach Hill is proof of that.
As the procession turned to go down the hill leading back to Rt. 4 and the shopping center where most of the folks parked their vehicles, the crowd began to slow down and mingle.
Calvert Sheriff Mike Evans must have had a plan.
Evans stayed at the back of procession, near the crest of the hill and next to the parking lot of the historic Calvert Courthouse.
Down the hill to the right of the marchers is the old building that once housed the Calvert County Public Library. This is worth mentioning due to the great fiction work that was researched in that building by the late thriller fiction writer Tom Clancy. Clancy, before he was famous, worked as an insurance agent in Prince Frederick and would go to the library to dig up details on international military programs to authenticate his novels. It worked.
Another piece of fiction was performed this week by another son of Calvert County – Sheriff Mike Evans.
In his press release, Evans says: “Law enforcement protected the participants by stopping traffic, joined them as they prayed on the courthouse lawn and concluded the peaceful march at the Prince Frederick Shopping Center.”
It is important to know the above sentence was written in contrast to the visual proof of the video – perhaps by someone who was not present or that watched the video, maybe just was told what to write.
Evans’ press release stated: “Pastor Long thanked all the participants, law enforcement officers and ended the march, stating it was successful.”
NOT EVEN CLOSE.
Now, let us go to the videotape.
Sheriff Evans stood up on the hilltop looking over the marchers who were pointed in the direction of Rt. 4 and watched the crowd, perhaps with lots of energy left as they slowed down.
Sheriff Evans has a lot of experience watching crowds of people standing around in the street, socializing and not being in a hurry to go anywhere in particular as he has been part and parcel of the annual Tiki Bar Opening that lasted for twenty years until the death of the bar owner, Terry Clarke. Sheriff Evans wasn’t ever in a big hurry to rush people who were drinking Mai Tais and bottles of beer out of the public road at Solomon’s Island – but then again that crowd of middle-aged folks was just getting drunk and partying. The crowd at The Great Prince Frederick Riot of 2020 was outraged over inequity and serious folks – even with a certain number of people who likely have criminal records and want to have a chance to vent at cops.
The still photos of the video tape show Sheriff Evans giving commands to the crowd – perhaps to disperse. After being ignored for about five minutes, Evans puts his cell phone to his ear and makes a call.
Again, Sheriff Evans waves to the crowd close to him – at that point many of the people are half block away.
No one has thrown anything. No crime has been committed.
If these marchers were Shriners at the end of a parade in which Sheriff Evans had participated like he did in this one, he would be backslapping people, telling jokes and working the crowd for votes for his next election in two years.
Sheriff Evans had a plan and it was coming together.
Three times over a span of about fifteen minutes, Sheriff Evans issued a command to those near him, perhaps to clear the area and move on back to the parking lot where the march began.
Again, the videotape shows that Evans used his cell phone and his police radio to communicate with his deputies. He could have told someone to bring him a cup of coffee and leaned against the police cruiser at the top of the hill and perhaps call his girlfriend to say he would be later than he planned.
Exasperated that the crowd was lingering in the block of the roadway in front him and not obeying his command, he summoned his top commander. While Sheriff Evans was dressed in his normal uniform of a white shirt and open collar, packing a sidearm, his commander was dressed in tactical gear – full military style.
A couple of police vehicles pulled in behind Evans and his commander.
More interaction took place and the crowd began to show their official protest crowd behavior in that some laid down in the street while the crude and repetitive chants continued. Listen to the videotape.
Now, Sheriff Evans must have just about had it with the insolence of these citizens who were failing to obey his orders – imagine that they have now lingered for less than thirty minutes.
SHERIFF EVANS CALLS OUT THE CAVALRY
Evans barks more commands and his Captain Commander and new police vehicles appear, a bus and motorcycles as well. The armor vehicle didn’t show up until later.
The bus unloaded at least a dozen SWAT team members in full body armor.
As the heavily armed deputies waddled up to line up behind the Sheriff, some in the crowd pointed and gasped, exclaiming that the deputies were in riot gear.
It is important to note, no one had broken a law or even a bottle. If anyone had spit on the sidewalk, that act was not caught by the Baynet video.
Now, the crowd began to react more and let loose with some choice remarks about the police. The chants were fully in the spirit of the First Amendment and much stronger words were deserved to be used to describe the mentality of the Sheriff – but if those words were hurled, they were not audible.
The line of SWAT team members was now supplement by the addition of four Maryland State Troopers.
The crowd gasped again as the police officers all donned gas masks.
No one had broken a law other than to not promptly obey the order to get the hell out of Prince Frederick because the Sheriff told them to do so.
Not far from where this peaceful assembly was taking place is a memorial in the front of the Calvert County Courthouse with lists of names of Calvert residents who have died in foreign wars to protect the rights of citizens to assemble and redress their grievances to government and specifically to feckless public servants like Calvert Sheriff Mike Evans.
Now the black leaders attempted to quiet and quell the indignation of the protestors, who unlike the Sheriff were not showing their derrieres.
Chief Hawkins, who the viewer will see in the video and still shots as the older plump black man with a white beard and a broad hat, along with Pastor Long and two unidentified women, negotiated with Sheriff Evans and the people.
Finally, Chief Hawkins must have realized what was going to happen as he switched sides and walked up the sidewalk and behind police lines.
Sheriff Evans, without provocation, without any visible crime committed, ordered a volley of tear gas fired into the crowd and suddenly Prince Frederick had been plummeted into the national news scene in a way I had never seen in thirty years of news coverage in Southern Maryland.
The crowd got moving, shrieking, and crying as they began the trek back to the Prince Frederick Shopping Center.
Evans said in his press release: “These individuals marched onto Duke Street toward the Courthouse without regard for their safety or the safety of others. As your Sheriff, it is my duty to enforce the law for everyone’s safety. I along with other community leaders pleaded with these individuals to keep this even peaceful and respect its positive intent. I made the decision to take enforcement action to clear the street. The individuals were informed that if they did not disperse, they could be arrested and as a last resort, tear gas was deployed to disperse the crowd in hopes of avoiding arrests.”
Now that you have watched the videotape, you know how the situation went down and how it differs from the Sheriff’s written statement.
For those who never watched the Calvert Sheriff’s deputies appear at the annual Tiki Bar Opening each year at Solomon’s Island, you missed the difference between now and then.
At the Tiki Bar where as many as 20,000 people arrived, no deputy was wearing tactical gear nor fortified with body armor or tactical automatic weapons. Instead, to handle that big crowd, Deputies were fortified with free BBQ sandwiches from the Grill Sergeant and romanced as many of the flirty attendees as they could, proving that they could socialize with a crowd when it fit their agenda.
Sheriff Evans was able to show another less petulant side of him at the Tiki Bar as he could count on several thousands of dollars from the bar owner for his political campaign. It was a cinch that the crowd in Prince Frederick would not give him a plug nickel.
About now, if you have been dutiful at watching the tear gas spread over Prince Frederick, you can see the crowd moving up the road and the back window of a police SUV broken out. There is never any excuse for property destruction, but the broken window happened at least fifteen minutes after Sheriff Evans ordered the tear gas and flash bangs fired.
The Baynet report stated that rubber bullets were fired, but in viewing the tape that was not obvious. The Baynet’s Zach Hill also said that water bottles and ‘dirt’ had been thrown at police – which if it happened was missed in my viewing of the tape.
In three decades, it has been my privilege to report on police actions many times, and almost every encounter, good cops have performed good work. Sometimes, it didn’t happen that way and many times the public has been rude, crude and offensive to police officers without any provocation and when it happened such as a riot at St. Mary’s College of Maryland when rich white kids hurled racial insults at black law officers, that part of the event was included in the news coverage. The acts of a St. Mary’s Sheriff, prosecutor, and six deputies in violating the First Amendment rights of myself and my readers were vigorously fought all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States resulting in a landmark decision: Rossignol v Voorhaar.
Now that this nation is in the throes of a national crisis where confidence in law enforcement is being undermined by the left-wing socialists of the national Democratic Party, the left-wing media and violent criminal elements who are looting stores and causing economic despair for millions, it is unfortunate to have a clown like Sheriff Mike Evans illegally and purposefully commanding his deputies to fire tear gas upon a peaceful gathering that was simply slow to finish their constitutional assembly.
Citizens should ask the Maryland State Prosecutor to investigate the actions of Sheriff Evans in this matter. Ask him to watch the videotape.
FBI Probed Allegations Of Calvert Sheriff Mike Evans Snaring And Sharing Prescription Drugs From Asbury Senior Center In Solomon’s
Community Message from Sheriff Mike Evans
My first priority has always been and will continue to be the safety of all Calvert County citizens. I am appalled by the death of George Floyd by a law enforcement officer and my condolences go out to his family. I want to make it clear that the men and women of the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office perform their duties and enforce the law without partiality or prejudice. Our deputies receive extensive training and continuing education in conflict resolution and de-escalation. The Calvert County Sheriff’s Office was the first in the Southern Maryland region to equip deputies with body cameras. Every use of force is documented and reviewed by command staff. I am proud to say these resources have demonstrated the professionalism of my staff. Should a deputy act in a manner contrary to agency policies and procedures, the incident will be thoroughly investigated by the Office of Professional Standards, and that deputy will be held accountable if misconduct occurred. From top to bottom, my staff takes great pride in the relationship we have with the community and appreciate the value of your trust and confidence.
Last evening, I together with law enforcement officers, Retired Police Chief Alphonso Hawkins and President of the Board of County Commissioner Kelly McConkey walked with Pastor Jeff Long and others conducting a peaceful march. Law enforcement protected the participants by stopping traffic, joined them as they prayed on the courthouse lawn and concluded the peaceful march at the Prince Frederick Shopping Center. Pastor Long thanked all the participants, law enforcement officers and ended the march stating it was a success.
Unfortunately, after a peaceful march, a small fraction of individuals were determined to make a positive event into one of negativity through their own separate agenda. These individuals marched onto Duke Street toward the Courthouse without regard for their safety or the safety of others. As your Sheriff, it is my duty to enforce the law for everyone’s safety. I along with other community leaders pleaded with these individuals to keep this event peaceful and respect its positive intent. After a considerable amount of time, it was made clear that they would not deter from their agenda. I made the decision to take enforcement action to clear the street. The individuals were informed that if they did not disburse, they could be arrested and as a last resort, tear gas was deployed to disburse the crowd in hopes of avoiding arrests. There were two arrests, no reported injuries, and minor damage to one sheriff’s vehicle.
Most importantly, I want to thank the community who joined us in a peaceful march and to tell all of our citizens we hear you and support you.
I am available twenty-four seven, to speak or meet with any member of our community. Without you, we could not continue to keep our county the safe place it is. As always, if you see something, say something.