Turning the other cheek has had its day

Turn the other cheek, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to urge Black men and Black women to do when they were slapped and beaten by Whites. This directive came to a screeching halt after Black men kicked and beat White men in Montgomery, Alabama, last week after they attacked a Black man who was simply doing his job.

Black men and Black women hailed the fight and cheered the victory.

When I was growing up, some Black men would say if you turned the other cheek, Whites would hit you with their other fists. 

A brawl broke out on Saturday, August 5, in Montgomery’s Riverfront Park.

The fight between those charged, who were identified by authorities as White men and a Black co-captain of a riverboat, stemmed from a dispute over a dockside parking spot. The dispute quickly escalated into a widespread melee in which, according to one witness, a racial slur was used.

“You could hear men ‘yelling fuck that nigger,'” as the Black co-captain tried to move a pontoon boat occupying the riverboat’s docking location, the mother of a victim in the altercation alleged in a sworn statement to police.

However, police still believe the brawl was not racially motivated, and the co-captain said as much when interviewed by authorities a second time, Albert said on Wednesday.

Montgomery Police Chief Darryl Albert said they were taken into custody earlier this week. 

The incident, which was caught on video and has captured national attention, largely broke down along racial lines in a city with both a history of racial violence and a proud place in the civil rights movement. 

Reggie Ray, 42, turned himself in for attacking the riverboat co-captain. His surrender came days after law enforcement requested he come forward. Mary Todd, 21, turned herself in Thursday and was charged with misdemeanor third-degree assault. MPD said Todd is being held at the Montgomery Municipal Jail. Todd’s arrest follows those of Richard Roberts, 48, Allen Todd, 23, and Zachary Shipman, 29, and Richard Roberts, all of whom face charges of assault. 

Montgomery also was the site of the longest bus boycott in the United States. 

The campaign lasted from December 5, 1955—the Monday after Rosa Parks was arrested for her refusal to surrender her seat on a city bus to a white person—to December 20, 1956, when the federal ruling in Bowder vs. Gaylet took effect, and led to a United States Supreme Court decision that declared the Alabama and Montgomery laws that segregated buses were unconstitutional. The buses were from Chicago.