White Men Charged with Assaulting Black Man in Montgomery Riverfront Brawl

Montgomery PD says the riverfront brawl has resulted in criminal charges.

via: The Washington Post

Montgomery Police Chief Darryl J. Albert told reporters on Tuesday that three White men aboard a private pontoon boat — Richard Roberts, 48; Allen Todd, 23; and Zachery Shipman, 25 — have four warrants pending for attacking Damien Pickett, a co-captain of the Harriott II Riverboat that was blocked from docking. Roberts has two warrants pending, while Todd and Shipman each have one pending warrant.

“The co-captain, as he approached the dock and attempted to peacefully move the boat over, the owners of the boat confronted him in a hostile way,” Albert said.

Authorities said that they had consulted with the FBI and would not be able to charge the men with a hate crime or with inciting a riot.

Albert said one of the men has turned himself in to police, while the other two would appear soon. Police have also called on Reggie Gray, a 42-year-old Black man who was seen on video hitting people with a folding chair during the brawl, to turn himself in.

Police detained 13 people for questioning, then released them, Albert said.

Videos taken by onlookers and spread around the internet showed the Black co-captain, Pickett, arguing with one of the pontoon boaters as a second White man charges at Pickett and hits him in the face. Pickett then tosses his cap into the air before the two hit each other. Almost immediately, Pickett is swarmed by several White men on the dock who throw punches while the Black man was on the ground, according to the videos posted online.

White and Black people on the dock and shore appear to jump in to try to help Pickett. Also in the video, someone appears to jump off the riverboat and swim to the dock to help the co-captain.

“Get up there, young buck!” someone can be heard shouting from the riverboat in the video. That person, only identified as a 16-year-old named Aaren, said he only did what he “was taught to do” in a statement posted to Facebook by his family’s publicist, Makina Lashea.

As the initial tussle calmed down, videos appeared to show a group of Black men confronting the White boaters. That fighting lasted more than a minute, with one of the Black men — allegedly Gray — recorded hitting a White woman in the head with a folding chair and then being surrounded by police. One person seemed to get punched off the dock into the water.

The Montgomery Police Department responded to a call of a reported disturbance about 7 p.m. Saturday and found “a large group of subjects engaged in a physical altercation,” Maj. Saba Coleman of the Montgomery police said Monday.

Albert told reporters Tuesday that authorities may bring additional charges.

Montgomery Mayor Steven L. Reed (D) called the brawl “an unfortunate incident which never should have occurred,” in a Sunday statement. He said police detained “several reckless individuals for attacking a man who was doing his job.”

Reed, the city’s first Black mayor, is in the midst of a reelection campaign. He won in 2019 with roughly two-thirds of the vote in a city remembered as both the birthplace of the civil rights movement and the cradle of the confederacy. He said Sunday that “those who choose violent actions will be held accountable by our criminal justice system.”

The incident occurred at the Riverfront Park on the banks of the Alabama River. The park features the Harriott II, which offers dinner, dancing and live entertainment, according to the city’s website. The park also has an amphitheater, a stadium, and a Union Station Train Shed, a National Historic Landmark since 1976.

Montgomery, where Black people make up over 60 percent of the city’s population, according to U.S. census data, has historically had high-profile racial tensions.
It was a hub for trading enslaved people before becoming a major focus in the civil rights era. Montgomery was key in the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 speech at the end of his historic Alabama march: “From

Montgomery to Birmingham, from Birmingham to Selma, from Selma back to Montgomery, the trail wound in a circle, long and often bloody, yet it has become a highway up from darkness,” King said. The city was also the site of Rosa Parks’s bus boycott.

Reed and police officials emphasized that what unfolded Saturday was an isolated incident that does not represent Montgomery.

“This is not indicative of who we are,” the mayor said.

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