HomeTop StoriesWitnesses report brawls on the Montgomery riverfront

Witnesses report brawls on the Montgomery riverfront

Witnesses say a major brawl that broke out on an Alabama riverbank on Sunday was fueled by alcohol and adrenaline.

Bystanders said the incident started when a worker tried to clear the dock along the Alabama River so the Harriott II Riverboat could dock. A group of rowdy boaters refused to move their pontoon and attacked the longshoreman as he detached the boat to make way for the Harriott II.

“They just didn’t think the rules applied to them. It was so avoidable. This should never have happened,” a witness, Leslie Mawhorter, 52, who was aboard the Harriott II, said in an interview. Video of the incident shows a group of what appear to be white men running one by one to the boardwalk and attacking the worker, who is black.

The man who was initially attacked and the people involved in the fight have not been publicly named.

“Everything spiraled from there,” Maworther said. “I knew something was going to happen because their attitude was just, ‘You can’t tell us what to do.’ They would be confrontational no matter who you were.

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A spokesperson for the City of Parks & Recreation, which oversees the riverboat rides, declined to comment. The Montgomery Riverfront is a popular summer destination with a riverboat, park, amphitheater, stadium, and more.

After the first attack, several people seemed to rush to the worker’s defense, one of them actually swim from the Harriott II to the dock to join the brawl. Mawhorter said officers turned to onlookers for help identifying the aggressors. “They listened to us and other people telling them who was involved and who needed to be handcuffed,” she said.

Montgomery police had handcuffed several people by the end of the fight, which began shortly before 7 p.m., and there were at least three active arrests afterwards for people believed to be involved, according to NBC affiliate WSFA.

Mayor Steven L. Reed said in a statement Sunday: “Montgomery Police Department acted quickly to detain several reckless individuals for assaulting a man who was doing his job. Arrest warrants will be signed and justice will be served.”

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He repeated his response at a press conference Monday, calling the fight “an unfortunate incident”. He said police are still investigating.

Christa Owen, 47, was on the Harriott II with her husband and their daughter when the fight started. She and Mawhorter said they and the other passengers waited several minutes for the group to move their pontoon and dock the Harriott. Owen said the worker who was attacked was initially the only crew member who tried to deal with the rowdy boaters.

“What was hard was we were all on the boat watching our poor crew member get attacked by these guys, and there was nothing we could do about it,” Owen said. “It was really hard to watch, and, like I said, we felt helpless, because we were forced to be spectators.”

Two men discuss the location of a boat on the Montgomery Riverfront, Alabama, on August 5, 2023. (Courtesy Christa Owen)

Owen said she decided to record the incident to make sure the “right people” were arrested. Her and Mawhorter’s videos were among many that began circulating the Internet. Many social media users have shared memes and colorful commentary, noting that the fighters were divided along racial lines. Many praised the group of black men for coming to the defense of the black worker as he fought against the group of white men.

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“It was inexcusable behavior,” Owen said, adding that she believes alcohol was a factor. “I can’t imagine anyone just ignoring moving their boat 2 feet so that a three-story dinner cruise boat can park in that spot.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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