By Alta Spells, Devon M. Sayers, Ryan Young and Christal Hayes, CNN
(CNN) — Authorities have issued arrest warrants after a chaotic brawl broke out Saturday on a popular riverfront dock in Montgomery, Alabama, with punches thrown, people hit with chairs and at least one person tossed into the water.
The melee began when a Black man, who a witness described to CNN as an employee, engaged with a group of White men on the dock, according to footage of the incident. A shirtless White man then charged and shoved the employee, and others pushed the worker to the ground and started punching him.
The fight escalated further, with other groups of people entering the fray, and after a short break in the action, a second round of punches and attacks, the footage shows.
Montgomery Police said they were called to the scene and found “a large group of subjects engaged in a physical altercation,” according to a Monday news release. Several people were detained and charges were pending, police added. There are four active warrants and more could come, Maj. Saba Coleman, a Montgomery police spokesperson, told CNN in an email.
“(Police) acted swiftly to detain several reckless individuals for attacking a man who was doing his job,” Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said Sunday in a post to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Warrants are being signed and justice will be served.”
The fight largely broke down along racial lines in a city with a fraught history of racial animus. Reed, the first Black mayor of a city at the center of the civil rights movement, said the incident was still under investigation and officials were looking into all angles of it.
Officials plan to hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon to offer more information on the incident.
Witness says fight began over dockside parking
It all started with a request to move a boat, witness Lauren Spivey told CNN.
A small vessel was blocking the large Harriott II Riverboat from being able to dock near Riverfront Park, a waterfront area that features a splash pad and hosts concerts and other community activities.
The riverboat, which was filled with guests, had been waiting for “like 30 to 45 minutes and they did not want to touch these people’s boat, but nobody came forward,” Spivey said.
The worker went over to the small boat and started untying the vessel and a man, who appeared to be White, ran over, Spivey said.
Two men who appeared to be White then came over to the dock and engaged in what looked like a heated argument, video of the interaction shows.
“The gentleman, ran down there, the White guy and … that’s when it escalated,” said Spivey, explaining the employee was telling the man he needed to move the boat to make room for the large riverboat.
One of the men who was part of the group then ran up and pushed the employee and then appeared to throw a punch, the footage shows. Several other men in the group, who appeared linked to the small boat, then jumped on the worker and also started punching the worker while he was on the ground, according to the video.
As the fight continued, others watching the melee ran down toward the fight and attempt to pull the group off the employee. At one point, a man is swam to the dock to help.
After the fight was broken up, the boat and those who fought with the worker didn’t leave the area, Spivey said.
“They got back on their little boats down there like nothing happened, like nothing happened. And the whole time the Harriott is still slowly coming in sideways so they can dock,” Spivey said.
Spivey said she was taken aback by what she described as the “entitlement” shown by the group in the smaller boat.
“They assaulted him and got back on their boat and didn’t try to leave,” Spivey told CNN.
After boat docks, another brawl
A second, larger brawl then broke out after the Harriott II Riverboat was able to dock and those aboard, many of whom watched the clash, ran over to the boaters, videos show.
“I knew once that boat hit that dock … all hell was gonna break loose,” Spivey told CNN.
Footage shows a group made up of what appeared to be riverboat workers hopping off the riverboat and running towards the smaller boat. The workers appear to pause and say something to the people on the boat, then the video shows one of the men from the riverboat punching one of the men from the smaller boat.
A second brawl gets underway. This time the Black boat workers are seen punching and beating the group on the small boat, the video shows.
The fight moves down the dock and grows. Videos of the chaos show punches being thrown between the groups and at least one person being knocked into the water.
Another video of the scene just down the pier where the riverboat docked shows a man, who appears to be White, getting hit over the head with a white folding chair at least six times and a woman, who also appears to be White, getting kicked and punched before she, too, was hit over the head with the chair. Police officers are then seen in the footage breaking up the altercation.
The Montgomery Police Department said they were called to the area around 7 p.m. Journalists from CNN affiliate WSFA at the scene “saw people in handcuffs,” the station reported.
Reed called the incident unfortunate and urged people not to become desensitized to violence in the community in a statement posted on X Sunday night.
“Those who choose violence will be held accountable by our criminal justice system,” the mayor said in a statement.
™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.
CNN’s Eric Levenson contributed to this report.