By Aswad Walker
Black August 2023 is the gift that keeps on giving. In the aftermath of the “incident” known ‘round Blackworld as the “Montgomery Boat Brawl,” as of Defender press time, three individuals have been charged by Montgomery police for taking part in the melee —and all of them are white.
According to Montgomery Police Chief Darryl J. Albert, Richard Roberts, 48, was charged with two counts of third-degree assault. Allen Todd, 23, and Zachary Shipman, 25, were each charged with one such count. Albert said all three were connected in some way to the private boat they refused to move when instructed by Damien Pickett, the Black co-captain of the riverboat, who instructed them to move their vessel so that the Harriott II Riverboat (the actual name of the boat), carrying 227 passengers, including the brothers who eventually came to Pickett’s aid, could dock in its designated and reserved spot along the waterfront.
When Roberts, Todd, Shipman and others verbally berated Pickett for doing his job, one of them sucker-punched him, and the others, along with some of their unnamed co-conspirators joined in the assault.
One of the three, according to Albert, has surrendered to authorities, while the other two perpetrators remain at large. Third-degree assault is considered a Class A misdemeanor in Alabama and is punishable by up to a year in prison.
Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said more charges may come.
Amazingly, after an altercation between Blacks and whites, no Blacks were arrested, at least according to Albert. However, video showed at least one Black man being handcuffed by police after baptizing multiple white people upside the head with a folding chair. Moreover, multiple GoFundMe pages have been set up: one claiming to be for a Black man arrested at the scene seeking $25,000 to pay his bond; another seeking $250,000 to support Harriet II Riverboat members and passengers; and a third seeking $12,000 with 50% to go to the security guard and his family, 40% to the individuals who arrived and helped Pickett (a group dubbed by Black Twitter as the “Niggavengers”) and 10% to fund a vacation, dinner, and/or appreciation event for them.
The Defender has not been able to verify the legitimacy of those GoFundMe pages. But what has been verified is Blackworld’s response to the Brawl—one that continues to celebrate Pickett throwing up what has been dubbed the “Hat Signal;” the teenage brother (16-yr-old Aaren) who jumped off the Harriet II and swam to the aid of Pickett, earning him online nicknames like “AquaMayne,” “Scuba Gooding Jr.” and “Swimzel Washington;” the award-winning memes; and the video play-by-play announcing sister who deserves an Emmy for such classic lines like “That boy swimming his ass over there. Gaaaaaaawd dayum,” “They sacred. Look at’em. Beat they ass. Woo. Oh. My God. That what’choo get. That what’choo get,” and “They fidd’na throw her in the oooooo… in the water.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones pointed out why Blackfolk have derived such joy from the video, saying, “If you understand the history of Montgomery — one of the most prolific slave-trading cities in the U.S. 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.”
Instagram star and comic book aficionado @fantasticfrankey broke it down this way: “The symbolism behind a Black man swimming to a former slave port in Montgomery, Alabama to aid his kinfolk, who is honestly in mortal danger from apparently racist white men, is insane. And the subsequent ass-whupping cannot be replicated.”
Displaying a photo of one of the white boat goers who was apparently knocked out of his shoes, @fantasticfrankey says, “Y’all, this man is out of his crocs. If you own crocs, you know how tough that rubber is. The most beautiful part about this story is the fact that these white men were completely in the wrong… They were being terrible people, and they paid the price for that.”
Yo this is wild 😭— Shannonnn sharpes Burner (PARODY Account) (@shannonsharpeee) August 6, 2023
A group of white men attacked a black security guard after the security asked them to move their pontoon boat so the big Harriot can dock. They refused to & attacked the security guard.
A group of black men seen & went defend him by beating the white men 💯🙌🏾 pic.twitter.com/Qzo3U3Kq1r
The Hat Signal 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/Y4Mn7KwN3H— Rod (@rodimusprime) August 7, 2023