A Saturday night melee along a river in Montgomery, Alabama that exploded after a group of white boaters reportedly challenged a Black riverboat worker has led to several arrests, according to authorities.
The Montgomery Police Department said that “several” people had been detained after the brawl broke out at Riverfront Park around 7 p.m. Police confirmed to WSFA on Sunday afternoon that there were four active warrants in the case, with more possibly to come as the department’s investigation continues.
Witnesses told the station and several other local outlets that the fight was sparked by a pontoon boat blocking a riverboat’s dock space. “That area is the regular spot reserved for the Harriott II Riverboat,” the Montgomery Advertiser reported.
In footage that circulated on social media in the aftermath of the tumult, a Black man can be seen standing on the dock, apparently attempting to unmoor the pontoon.
“Those guys who parked there were told not to leave it there and they left it there,” the woman filming, a guest on the riverboat cruise, can be heard saying. She identifies the man as a member of the cruise’s crew.
“So he’s just pushing it off,” the woman narrates. “That’s funny. Took matters into his own hands. I love it.” In the background of the video, other guests and crew members can be heard shouting in encouragement.
Several white men then approach the crew member, and an inaudible verbal confrontation begins, lasting several minutes.
As the men continue to argue, people on the boat can be heard yelling chants including, “Knock his ass out, Damien!” and “Get the fuck out the way!” The people aboard the riverboat then begin chanting the lyrics to “Move Bitch.”
Eventually, one of the men in the pontoon group shoves the crew member back. The crew member throws his hat away and the pair begin exchanging blows.
In another video, onlookers can be heard screaming, with one watching from the river yelling, “Y’all help that brother!” Several other people then rush in to join the fight, including a Black man who jumps into the water from a boat and swims to the dock.
The man in the water was identified by a family publicist on Sunday night only as a 16-year-old named Aaren. Calling him a “cherished young hero,” the publicist said in a statement posted to Facebook that Aaren “selflessly came to the rescue of a fellow colleague, showing courage beyond his years.”
According to a third video of the incident, the fight appears to momentarily deescalate soon after Aaren reaches the dock, only for it to scale up again, becoming a full-on brawl as the riverboat docks and roughly a dozen other employees go ashore.
Within moments, men and women, both Black and white, can be seen kicking, punching, eye-gouging, and wrestling each other. A person is at one point thrown into the water, while elsewhere a man finds a folding chair and starts bashing people over the head with it. Security officers can be seen attempting to break various sections of the fight up.
Law enforcement officers who arrived on the scene soon after handcuffed several people, including the man with the folding chair. The detained suspects’ names have not been released, and charges against those involved in the fight were pending on Sunday, according to the Montgomery Police Department.
In a Sunday afternoon statement, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said, “Last night, the Montgomery Police Department acted swiftly to detain several reckless individuals for attacking a man who was doing his job. Warrants have been signed and justice will be served. This was an unfortunate incident which never should have occurred.”