Montgomery brawl: Mayor says outbreak of violence is 'something that shouldn't have happened'

At least four warrants have been issued following a massive fight involving more than a dozen people along the Alabama city's riverfront this past weekend.

Images of the massive fight that broke out on the dock of Riverfront Park in Montgomery, Ala.
Images of the massive fight that broke out on the dock of Riverfront Park in Montgomery, Ala. (Joe Davenport via Facebook)

Two days after a large-scale brawl that took place on the dock of Riverfront Park in Montgomery, Ala., that appeared to be racially divided between Blacks and whites, the city’s mayor assured community members on Monday that he and local police would uncover exactly what led to the chaos.

“We want to make sure the community is aware that we are fully engaged and doing our due diligence to find out exactly what took place,” Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said during a brief press conference Monday afternoon.

Reed, a Democrat and the city’s first Black mayor, added, “It’s something that shouldn’t have happened.”

What happened?

Multiple videos of the incident, which began to go viral on X (the social media platform previously known as Twitter), appear to show different angles and vantage points of an ordeal that began as an argument between two individuals that, within seconds, escalated to a physical fight involving more than a dozen others. According to witnesses, the incident began after a Black dockworker informed the passengers of a pontoon boat, who were all white, that their vessel was in the space needed to dock the Harriott II Riverboat.

Several videos show the dockworker arguing with one man before another man lunges at him and throws a punch. Audio of the exchange is not audible due to the commentary from onlookers. Within seconds, at least four other white men join in on beating the dockworker as he lies on the ground by himself. Seconds later, another Black man runs to the pile, seemingly trying to deescalate the situation, which appears to work for a short time as the passengers of the vessel retreat to their small boat.

Meanwhile, footage shows a Black male employee from the riverboat, which was several yards from the dock, diving into the water in an apparent attempt to help defend the dockworker.

As the riverboat docks, videos show several more boat employees and onlookers, who are all Black, approaching the small vessel and a larger fight breaks out, which lasts several minutes. At least one woman was thrown into the water and two people were hit with chairs before police intervened and arrested several people, both Black and white.

It wasn’t immediately clear exactly how many arrests were made after the fight, and what charges those arrested are facing. The Montgomery Police Department said more arrests could be made.

“There are four active warrants at this time and there’s a possibility more will follow after the review of additional video,” Maj. Saba Coleman, a spokesperson for the department, told Yahoo News in a statement.

Brawl aftermath

Given the complex racial history of Montgomery, a city that played a key role in the U.S. slave trade, the civil rights movement and the push for Black voting rights, many social media users expressed support and appreciation for those coming to the apparent defense of the dockworker.

“If you understand the history of Montgomery — one of the most prolific slave-trading cities in the US turned brutally repressive apartheid regime after, and majority Black but JUST got its first Black mayor — it gives so much more perspective to this video,” journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, best known for creating the 1619 Project, wrote on X. “Trust.”

The Harriott II Riverboat
The Harriott II Riverboat docked in Montgomery. (Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

The Black person who jumped into the water to offer assistance, hailed by many as a hero, was identified as a 16-year-old named Aaren. His parents, in a statement to Yahoo News, shared their gratitude for the outpouring of support.

“Aaren’s unwavering commitment brings immense pride to his parents, leaving him feeling grateful and touched by the strong support from around the globe,” his parents said through their publicist Makina LaShea. “With his sights set on the future, he is eagerly preparing and solely focused on having a successful upcoming school year.”

Attorney C.J. Lawrence said the individuals helping to defend the dockworker had all been released from jail. He did not have an update on the others.

Reed, who said police are expected to give more updates about the incident Tuesday, has vowed to bring those responsible to justice.

“We should not become desensitized to violence of any kind in our community,” Reed told Yahoo News. “Those who choose violent actions will be held accountable by our criminal justice system.”