ATLANTIC CITY - Michael "Big Mike" Johnson stood across the street from Fire Station 2 today yelling up to an open second-floor window hoping to compel a certain firefighter out from the building's protective walls.
"Come on outside here!" Johnson shouted.
When that didn't work, the group Johnson arrived with marched to the building's entrance to formally make a "citizens' arrest." The group claims the station is the site where an incident involving sexual misconduct by at least four on-duty firefighters occurred.
"There's no one here," said Police Capt. Joseph Fair, who had been staking out the protest and confronted the group as they approached. "They're all out on assignment. There is no one here except me."
The unsuccessful arrest still got the group's point across: If local law enforcement won't show investigative progress regarding the allegations, local residents will take action.
Frustration has been building since rumors surfaced about the firefighters alleged sexual actions, which also involved two underage girls. The group claims the incident took place more than three months ago and many have questioned the speed of the criminal investigation. A report on the investigation from the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office is expected this week. The Press of Atlantic City has decided not to name the men, because no charges have been filed.
Prosecutor Ted Housel has declined comment on the investigation. The prosecutor recently asked Mayor Lorenzo Langford to halt an administrative investigation into the incident. Langford complied, but said he will not wait much longer before penalizing the employees himself.
"If it wasn't for us keeping the heat on the Fire Department this might have been swept under the rug," said Steve Young, local chapter president of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network.
Young and Johnson were joined by about 15 people, including City Councilman Steven Moore, to protest the alleged misconduct and the county prosecutor. This protest had some added urgency, Young said, because students at the alternative high school across the street from the station, Viking Academy, start classes Tuesday.
"We will be here tomorrow morning to make sure our children are safe," said Young, who works as Moore's council aide.
Others pointed to a large yellow sign on the station that reads, "Safe Place."
"We need to have that sign removed," said Mark Hamilton, a city employee.
Today's rally was Young's second annual organized Labor Day protest. Last year, Young and three others were arrested on the Boardwalk after they interrupted a city-sponsored concert, took the band's microphones and spoke out against racial injustice. One man shouted racial epithets that eventually prompted police action.
Police did not arrest anyone Monday, but Johnson said they're coming - one way or the other.
"We couldn't get the arrest," he said, "but we'll get them."
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