The vessel's captain at the center of the recent Riverfront Brawl in Montgomery has now given his side of the story that has grabbed national headlines.
On Saturday, police responded to a call regarding a disturbance in the Riverfront Park. While several people were detained, no arrests have been made. Mayor Steven Reed announced a press conference for Tuesday at 1 p.m. for further updates.
In a surprise call-in to 93.1 "News & Views with Joey Clark," Jim Kittrell, captain of the Harriott II – a famous riverboat that traverses the Alabama River, spoke about Saturday night's brawl from his perspective.
According to Kittrell, he was pulling the Harriott II into the dock when he noticed a pontoon boat partially blocking the way to the disembarkation ramp. He asked the boat's passengers over his PA system to move the boat "about five times."
After threatening to call the police for their refusal to move the boat, he also offered that police would see the alcohol on the pontoon boat should they be called out.
"They started shooting birds at us, so I called the police," Kittrell said.
After waiting some time, the owners reportedly left, leaving the boat blocking the entrance. Kittrell then asked another pedalboat captain to use the smaller craft to ferry Kittrell's senior deckhand to move the boat.
"[I]n the boating world, it's common if you have to move somebody's boat, it's nothing to get upset about," Kittrell said. "You know, you have to move a boat sometimes."…After they moved it, those guys came running back. They must have still been in the park or up in the gazebo or something."
"We're 40 yards or 30 yards away from the dock watching all of this. There's nothing we can do. About that time, another guy comes running up. And, within a minute or so, it was an all-out brawl. And then I saw some more guys coming, and I said, 'Oh. Thank God. They're going to break it up.' But instead of breaking it up, they jumped on him too. So, at one time, it was like six, seven guys on my deckhand that was trying to move the boat."
Kittrell said 15 minutes after his call, around 15 police officers showed up at the scene. After which, his deckhand motioned the Harriott II to dock.
"As soon as the boat hits the dock, some of my crew, who saw my first-mate Damian being attacked, felt they had to retaliate. Which was unfortunate. I wish we could have stopped that from happening, but when you see something like that, and it was difficult. It was difficult for me to sit there in the wheelhouse, watching him being attacked. And the whole time I'm on the PA, 'Stop. Stop.' You know? 'The police are here. Stop.' But it wasn't even stopping them. So, once we get to the dock, that's when the little bit of the melee started and finally the police got control of it. I'm just so thankful that nobody had a weapon."
Kittrell said that this group with which his crew engaged had a history of causing problems on the Riverfront. Due to the original melee involving several white people attacking the black deckhand, some have speculated the brawl may have been racially motivated. Kittrell said, without being asked by the host, that there was no racial component to the event.
"One point I do want to make, this was not a black and white thing," Kittrell explained. "I had every single white crew member male on the boat was on the dock. This was our crew upset about these idiots. This is the same group that comes every year. They're from Selma. And, we've had trouble with them in the past, but just like jokey things. Like, a couple of years ago, this same group was here. We came back from a cruise and our golf cart was missing. …we finally found it in the Hampton Inn lobby. We looked at the Hampton Inn video. Found out who did it and we had them come down. We were going to press charges then, but the police talked us out of it."
He continued, "We just don't want this thing to get out of control as being a black-and-white thing, that's not the case at all. It was shipmates that were trying to take up for their hurt crew member."
Kittrell said several of the crew are pressing charges.
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