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Brawl erupts in Montgomery after white boaters attack Black city worker

The melee, captured in dozens of videos posted to social media, turned into a national story Sunday.

A brawl erupted in Montgomery after white boaters attacked a Black city worker.
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Multiple people were arrested by Montgomery Police on Saturday evening following a large brawl that broke out on the city’s Riverfront dock after a group of white boaters attacked a Black dock worker apparently without provocation. 

The fight escalated when city workers and others joined the fight a short time later and fought with the boaters. 

Last night, the Montgomery Police Department acted swiftly to detain several reckless individuals for attacking a man who was doing his job,” Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said in a statement released on social media on Sunday. “Warrants have been signed and justice will be served. This was an unfortunate incident which never should have occurred. As our police department investigates these intolerable actions, we should not become desensitized to violence of any kind in our community. Those who choose violence will be held accountable by our criminal justice system.”

MPD has not yet released the names of those arrested. A city official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said police officials late Sunday afternoon were still sorting through video and witness statements and assessing charges. 

One of the boaters, Chase Shipman, the owner of Vasser’s Mini Mart in Selma, posted on Facebook and admitted to being involved in the melee. Although Shipman claimed he didn’t take part in the fighting and wanted to stop it because he knew it was wrong to attack the dock worker, video of the incident appears to show him punching the dock worker repeatedly while he was on the ground. By late Sunday afternoon, Vasser’s Mini Mart had removed its online presence completely and listed its location as permanently closed on Google. 

There will be few places to hide, though. Videos of the incident went viral on Sunday, and the melee became one of the most talked about topics on all social media platforms across the country. It was featured on nearly every national news website. 

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The incident began in the late afternoon on Saturday, as the Harriott II, Montgomery’s city-owned riverboat, which takes passengers on slow, short cruises up and down the Alabama River, was attempting to dock from its afternoon run. A video taken from aboard the Harriott and posted to Facebook shows the riverboat idling in the middle of the river for several minutes because a group of pontoon boats had parked in the dock space typically reserved for the Harriott. 

A worker with the Harriott can be seen on a separate video – also posted to Facebook – talking with a group of white people on the dock near the pontoons. The conversation between the boaters, who are all white, and the Harriott worker, who is Black, becomes increasingly more animated. A short time later, the worker, and another city employee, can be seen untying and moving one of the pontoons several feet down the dock in order to make room for the Harriott. 

At that point, the boaters return and the conversation, which can’t be heard on the video, becomes increasingly animated and angry. And then one of the boaters hit the Harriott worker. Then, several of the other boaters, all white, jumped into the fray and begin beating the worker while he’s on the ground. While that is occurring, a young Black man can be seen swimming from the still idling Harriott – some 30 yards from the dock – to aid the worker. 

Once the swimmer, who was identified in a press statement from his family’s publicist only as Aaren, 16, made it to the dock, the Harriott worker had broken away from his attackers, thanks to the assistance of another man, and was walking down the dock. 

For the next several minutes, as the Harriott, filled with coworkers and friends of the man attacked, slowly made its way to the dock, nothing happened. But for some inexplicable reason, the boaters, who had to hear the shouts coming from the riverboat, remained on the dock. 

It’s a decision they’ll likely regret for a long, long time. 

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As soon as the Harriott docked, several young Black men made their way to the boaters and an all-out brawl ensued. The boaters – both men and women – did not fare well. At one point, an older Black man can be seen on a video swinging a folding chair and connecting. 

Montgomery Police can be seen on various videos arresting many of the participants – both white and Black – and leading them away in handcuffs.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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