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The Montgomery melee shows that Black Twitter isn’t going anywhere
As Elon Musk attempts to remake the social media app, Black Twitter remains undefeated.
Fade in the water. The Alabama Sweet Tea Party. Malice in Montgomery.
A massive brawl between white boaters and Black bystanders in Montgomery, Alabama, has gone viral, leading to some of the best jokes, memes, and videos Black Twitter has to offer.
The fight, which took place at Montgomery’s Riverfront Park on Saturday, started after a pontoon boat blocked the Harriott II riverboat from docking for nearly 45 minutes, authorities said. In the video, you can see the riverboat’s co-captain, Damien Pickett, explaining to several men that they needed to move their boat.
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“That guy in the white shirt is the crew from our little dinner cruise,” a witness aboard the riverboat can be heard saying in the video. “He got off our ship to go over there to move that black pontoon boat on his own because those guys who parked it there were told not to leave it there, and they left it there. He took matters into his own hands, I love it.”
In a press conference held Tuesday, Montgomery Police Chief Darryl Albert explained that the co-captain was doing his job and just trying to move the boat where it could park safely.”
Witnesses on the 19th-century riverboat can also be heard singing, “Move bitch! Get out the way,” a reference to Ludacris’ 2001 hit song, while the dock worker desperately tries to explain to the boaters that they’re blocking the riverboat.
After a few minutes of arguing, one of the men hits the Black dock worker, who throws his hat into the air like Bobby Shmurda, and the fight begins. Several white men jump into the fray and begin punching the dock worker, who falls over. An unidentified man in a Nike shirt can be seen running over to try and de-escalate the chaos.
In an extended clip of the brawl, a teenager can be seen swimming across the river to offer his assistance. The 16-year-old, identified as Aaren per a statement from a publicist, has been called Micah Phelps, AquaMayne, Sea Murda, Scuba Gooding Jr, Black Aquaman, and more. “Get up there, young buck!” a voice can be heard yelling as the teen lifts himself onto the dock.
Aaren’s actions have since gone viral, and have even prompted others to learn how to swim. “Aaren's unwavering commitment brings immense pride to his parents, leaving him feeling grateful and touched by the strong support from around the globe. With his sights set on the future, he is eagerly preparing and solely focused on having a successful upcoming school year,” his family representative said.
People have been donating to Aaren, but it appears his CashApp has been closed. "I just want to say thank you to everyone who has been sending me money to help me get new boots,” Aaren said, according to his publicist. “I promise I don't need anymore than I already have. Thank you everyone for your support. The only thing I did was what I was taught to do.”
After Aaren reached the dock, the fight appeared to have settled down somewhat. The dock worker was up, the white men were separated from him, and he was walking away.
But this was only just the beginning of what would become known as the Montgomery Sweet Tea Party.
The brawl picked back up, but this time on even ground as several Black men approached the boaters when the Harriott docked. Lauryn Lauren, a witness to the entire fight, went live on Facebook, saying the boaters are “gonna be hurting tomorrow morning.”
In the video, you can see the shirtless men running up to the boaters, ready to rumble. The fight spills over onto the dock, where everyone gets involved. Punches fly between boaters, bystanders, and Harriott II employees — men and women.
Three white men have been charged with misdemeanor assault: Richard Robins, 48; Alan Todd, 23; and Zachary Shipman, 25. The investigation is ongoing, and “more charges are likely,” according to authorities.
Reggie Ray, the 42-year-old Black man wielding the infamous folding chair, was also asked to turn himself in for questioning. The Montgomery Bail Out Fund is not currently raising funds for those involved, according to Dillon Nettles, the policy and advocacy director of the Alabama ACLU.
“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” - Shirley Chisholm
Shipman, the owner of Vasser's Mini Mart in Selma, Alabama wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post: “I do not condone what happened. I tried to stop it and realized that I could not, so I tried to get away,” according to the Selma Times-Journal. “I have a business to run and represent and no charges were filed against me because I was not involved,” he continued. However, several viewers allege that he was — and now he’s been charged.
There are simply some moments when you just have to be online — “Meet me in Temecula” and Yahoo News’ unfortunate typo involving the N-word comes to mind. But the memes, jokes, and videos that spawned from this brawl were legendary, surely outstripping those two events. Someone even made a shirt, a viral reenactment, and there’s even a song:
Despite Elon Musk’s best efforts to change the social media platform into something completely different, Black Twitter remains undefeated.
Here are some of the best below:
However, others noted the significance of both the imagery of the racialized battle lines and its location. In the 1800s, downtown Montgomery became a key hub for the domestic slave trade in the South, with thousands of enslaved Africans transported into the city right from where the Harriott II was docked. By 1860, the city had become one of the largest and most prominent slave trading communities in Alabama, according to the Montgomery-based human rights nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative.
"Montgomery was a very prominent and critical part of the slave trade in America," Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the EJI, told The Montgomery Advertiser in 2013. "The forced migration of thousands of enslaved people from the upper South to the Deep South in the 19th century is a phenomenon most people don't understand."
“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. Trust,” Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of “The 1619 Project,” tweeted.
“Where that boat was docked is literally where they'd march enslaved Africans from the steamboat to the town center to be sold,” she continued.
“Alabama has a history of unjustly giving Black men the chair. Yesterday, a Black man gave it right back,” spoken word artist Kyla Lacey shared, referring to Alabama’s infamous use of the electric chair, then known as “Yellow Mama.” Today, the state’s execution rates are among the highest per capita in the United States.
Reed responded to the brawl Sunday in a statement posted to social media.
"Last night, the Montgomery Police Department acted swiftly to detain several reckless individuals for attacking a man who was doing his job," the mayor said. "Warrants have been signed and justice will be served."
"As our police department investigates these intolerable actions, we should not become desensitized to violence of any kind in our community," the mayor continued. "Those who choose violence will be held accountable by our criminal justice system."