‘Black Aquaman’ and the ‘Boston Tea Party’: World watches Montgomery riverfront brawl

The world continues to watch video after video of a group of white boaters beating a single Black dock worker this past weekend, reportedly because they didn’t want to move their pontoon boat to make room for the Harriott II Riverboat that typically docks there.

Online video of the pontoon boaters beating the unidentified worker at Montgomery’s Riverfront Park is drawing millions of views, and creating odd comparisons to events like the Boston Tea Party.

“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 L. Reed said Sunday in a release on social media. “Warrants have been signed and justice will be served.”

Montgomery police said they responded to a disturbance at the 200 block of Coosa Street at 7 p.m. According to MPD, a large group of people were fighting. Several were detained, MPD said.

The fight MPD referred to — which according to video appears to be between the white boaters and a mostly Black group — was in the aftermath of the beating.

It’s an incident that’s taken on a life of its own. Along with the many posts of photos and videos, the dock incident has inspired different groups to come out with t-shirts. One from JWalk Creations shows a photo of Rosa Parks on a bus with the quote “Have a Seat!” in 1955. Below it is an image of a white suspect on the dock being hit with a metal folding chair: “Have a Seat!” 2023.

Other groups are offering shirts, like teespring.com’s “Montgomery Made the Ancestors Proud 8-5-2023” and She Tutucute Creations’ “Don’t Try Us!!!”

On Sunday, MPD said there were four active warrants issued from the fight, with a possibility of more after review of additional videos.

There’s a lot of evidence to review. The brawl played out with witnesses surrounding the dock scene, some from the Harriott II riverboat that was waiting to dock and others who were waiting on shore. Most had their phones out, taking photos and videos of the assault, its aftermath and when authorities took suspects from the scene.

The Harriott II is docked at the Montgomery Riverwalk in Montgomery, Ala., on Monday August 07, 2023.

Under searches like “Montgomery Riverfront Brawl” and “Alabama Boat Dock Brawl,” millions of views are being racked up across multiple platforms by groups and individuals posting and reposting on social media.

One short video, posted by Josh Moon of the Alabama Political Reporter, shows the initial beating and the beginning of others rushing to the dock worker’s defense.

A woman on the video screamed repeatedly, “Y’all help that brother!” to onlookers who were on shore. 

An young man in a blue “crew” shirt has been dubbed “Black Aquaman” on social media, and gained international attention. He dived off the riverboat and swam to the dock to assist. According to a statement from Birmingham publicist Makina LaShea, he’s a 16-year-old identified only as Aaren.

“Get up there, young buck!” yelled a woman as the young man climbed out of the water.

By the time the swimmer got onto the dock, about a minute into the video, most of the beating appeared to be over in Moon’s video.

“Give that young man a Congressional Medal of Honor,” said The Conscious Lee in a video praising the crew worker.

Lashea offered thanks to the public on behalf of Aaren’s parents and family for their support, kindness and encouragement, and asked the public to maintain Aaren’s anonymity. Along with “Black Aquaman,” the world knows him under several other trending names online: “Michael B Phelps,” “Aquamayne” and “Shaquille O’Gills.”

“We assure you that he will continue being a force for good in the world,” Lashea wrote.

Among the many voices responding to video of the beating is comedian, actor and radio host Rickey Smiley.

“You thought you was bad,” Smiley said of the white attackers. “You thought you was in 1953, when white folks used to be able to walk up an assault a Black person like that.”

A separate video posted by Lauryn Lauren shows scenes after the beating, as the Harriott II was preparing to dock. A group of people approached the pontoon boat, and more fighting broke out. At least one person fell into the water from the dock. Authorities were soon on the scene and police began taking people into custody .

“This was an unfortunate incident which never should have occurred,” Reed said. “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.”

As of Monday morning, authorities had not released the names of the detained suspects. The Advertiser has requested additional information. MPD had not released how many suspects were detained, if they were released or remain in custody, or if they are part of MPD’s four active warrants.

According to the city, more updates are expected Tuesday at 1 p.m. during a news conference at the dock.

An onlooker left, rushes to help a dock worker laying on the dock against several attackers on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023, at Montgomery's Riverfront Park.

Montgomery Advertiser reporter Shannon Heupel can be contacted at sheupel@gannett.com

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