Witnesses recount brawl at Montgomery riverfront

Witnesses describe a significant altercation that erupted on a riverfront in Alabama on a Sunday, attributing the incident to a combination of alcohol and heightened emotions.

According to bystanders, the confrontation initiated when a dock worker attempted to clear the dock along the Alabama River to allow the Harriott II Riverboat to dock. A group of boaters, appearing rowdy, resisted moving their pontoon and proceeded to assault the dock worker when he untied the boat to make way for the Harriott II.

“It was a case of them disregarding the rules. The entire situation was entirely avoidable. There was no need for any of this to happen,” said Leslie Mawhorter, aged 52, who was on board the Harriott II during the incident. In an interview, Mawhorter shared her perspective. Video footage of the event shows a sequence of men, apparently Caucasian, rushing to the boardwalk individually and attacking the worker, who is identified as Black.

The identities of the initial victim and those involved in the altercation have not been made public.

Mawhorter remarked, “Things just escalated from there. I could sense that something was about to occur, given their attitude of ‘We won’t be told what to do.’ They were evidently confrontational, regardless of the situation.”

A representative for the city’s Parks & Recreation department, which supervises the riverboat attractions, chose not to provide a statement. The Montgomery Riverfront serves as a popular summer destination, boasting attractions like a riverboat, a park, an amphitheater, and a stadium.

Following the initial assault, several individuals appeared to come to the aid of the worker, with one even swimming from the Harriott II to the dock to engage in the altercation. Mawhorter noted that law enforcement officers sought assistance from witnesses in identifying those responsible for the aggression. “They were receptive to our information and the accounts of others who pointed out those involved and needed to be restrained,” she recounted.

As the altercation unfolded just before 7 p.m., Montgomery police proceeded to apprehend multiple individuals, as observed by witnesses. After the incident, there were reportedly at least three active arrest warrants for individuals believed to have participated, as reported by NBC affiliate WSFA.

Mayor Steven L. Reed released a statement on Sunday, emphasizing the swift action taken by the Montgomery Police Department to apprehend the individuals involved in the assault on a worker. Mayor Reed stated, “The Montgomery Police Department acted promptly in detaining several individuals who engaged in reckless behavior by attacking a man who was simply doing his job. Warrants are being issued, and justice will be ensured.”

During a subsequent news conference on Monday, Mayor Reed reiterated his response and characterized the incident as “an unfortunate occurrence.” He noted that the police are continuing their investigation into the matter.

Christa Owen, aged 47, was present on the Harriott II with her husband and daughter when the altercation unfolded. She and Mawhorter, who were passengers, recounted waiting for several minutes as they observed the group obstructing the pontoon and impeding the Harriott’s docking. Owen disclosed that the worker who was targeted in the attack was initially the sole crew member attempting to manage the disruptive boaters.

Owen expressed, “The challenging part was that we were all aboard the boat, witnessing our crew member being assaulted by these men. We felt helpless because we were compelled to be mere spectators.” The situation left Owen and others on the boat feeling unable to intervene and watchful as the events unfolded.

Owen decided to document the incident by recording it, aiming to ensure that the responsible individuals were identified and apprehended. Her video, along with Mawhorter’s and others, quickly circulated on the internet. The incident’s racial dynamics have also prompted discussion and commentary on social media, with many pointing out the division along racial lines among those involved. Numerous social media users have shared memes and colorful commentary, praising the group of Black men who intervened to protect the Black worker against the group of white men.

Describing the incident, Owen asserted, “The behavior displayed was entirely inexcusable.” She further suggested that alcohol may have played a role in the events. Owen expressed her disbelief at the refusal to move the boat a mere 2 feet to accommodate the docking of a three-story dinner cruise boat.

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