Dameion Pickett, the Black Alabama riverboat co-captain at the center of a racially-charged brawl caught on video, says he was attacked while doing his job and had to defend himself.
“This man just put his hand on me. I was, like … it's my job, but I'm still defending myself at the same time. So when he touched me, I was, like, 'It's on,'" Pickett told ABC’s Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts.
On Aug. 5 at about 7 p.m., the Harriott II riverboat with its 227 passengers tried to dock in its designated spot at River Front Park in Montgomery, but a private boat was in the space, CNN reported.
The Harriott’s captain attempted unsuccessfully for 45 minutes to reach the boat’s operators using a PA system. But the boat operators responded with obscene gestures and inflammatory language, Montgomery Police Chief Darryl Albert said.
"Everybody was yelling, "Could y'all move y'all boat?" Pickett, who served as co-captain, told GMA, adding, on “the captain’s orders” he went to move the boat “one, two, four steps to the right” so the Harriott could dock in its reserved space.
A video captured what happened next. The footage shows a White man confronting Pickett on the dock. Another man, also White, jumps into the video frame and hits Pickett in the face. Soon, several other White people started piling on Pickett. The police later identified the attackers as the boat owner and his family.
Several Black eyewitnesses joined the fight to help Pickett, who was overwhelmed, including 16-year-old Aaren Hamilton-Rudolph, who swam from the Harriot to help Pickett, his co-worker on the riverboat.
"Everybody was just recording. No one helped. So I couldn't just watch and sit around and just let him get beat on while everybody else is just recording and watching," Hamilton-Rudolph told GMA.
Authorities indicted four White people involved in the melee on misdemeanor assault charges, but they concluded that Pickett was a victim.
Police arrested a fifth person, Reggie Ray, a Black man captured on video wielding a beach chair. Ray pleaded not guilty to disorderly conduct.
Investigators said they found no evidence of a hate crime, even though witnesses said they heard racial slurs from the attackers.