Why #MontgomeryRiverfrontBrawl Gained New Meaning in Black Conversations
It’s summertime but, contrary to George Gershwin’s classic tune from “Porgy and Bess,” the livin’ was not easy at the event memorialized in a social media hashtag as simply #MontgomeryRiverfrontBrawl.
Brawl, indeed. The melee is a mess to sort out, but my guess is that alcohol was involved.
What else explains the rapid and ridiculous escalation of an argument over moving a boat on a sunny Alabama summer day into an all-out, racially tinged melee with multiple arrests?
Yet, in the age of social media, the melee in Montgomery quickly went viral on the web, literally inviting anyone to add their own soundtrack and commentary — and many people did.
In case you somehow managed to miss it, the man who received the first blow was Damien Pickett, co-captain of the city-owned Harriott II, a riverboat carrying about 200 passengers that couldn’t park in its proper dock because a smaller pontoon boat was parked in its designated space.
Pickett spent 45 minutes on his boat’s PA system ordering the smaller boat to move. But the people in the docked boat, who happened to be white, ignored Pickett, who happened to be Black.
Video from various angles shows the Black man confronting people from the other boat on the dock. While Pickett is talking to one man, a second man comes rushing up and inexplicably pushes Pickett as if he can’t ball up a fist to punch him. Visibly frustrated but trying to keep his cool, the co-captain tosses his cap in the air and turns back toward the white men defensively.
By now, more white men join the fight. Others appear to be trying to separate the two combatants.
Then, like a cavalry charging from over the hill to help rescue the good guys in an old Western, suddenly a stampede of other Black men comes in from all directions — including from the river. That young Black man, who apparently came from the riverboat, was quickly dubbed variously on the internet as “Black Aquaman,” “Aquamayne” and “Blaqueman.”
Police charged three white men and one white woman in the brawl. A Black man wielding a folding chair and caught on video turned himself in and was charged Friday.
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