Two feuding families and their friends lined opposite sides of a small-town Alabama street and hurled rocks, tools and pieces of wood at each other, striking the police chief with a crowbar, in a riot rooted in a disagreement that began years ago with schoolchildren.
Members of the Sawyer and Moore families were in jail Tuesday, a day after the melee that swelled to 150 people, including gang members.
“They came with guns, sticks, bricks, golf clubs. It was a bad situation,” said police chief Tony Bufford, who was OK.
State police and officers from other west Alabama towns were called to keep the peace in Marion, which was under a 10 p.m. curfew.
Bufford said the families have been feuding for at least two years but wasn’t sure exactly what happened to start it all except it was over schoolchildren.
Five adults named either Moore or Sawyer and several juveniles were arrested on assault charges, said District Attorney Michael Jackson, and more charges were likely. In all, at least eight people were arrested in the city of 3,300 about 85 miles west of Montgomery.
“Part of it was families that didn’t get along with each other. It’s big families with a lot of friends,” Jackson said, adding that gang members also were involved.
Tension began Sunday night when a fight fueled by the families’ bad blood erupted after a pickup basketball game, and at least one shot was fired.
“They shot my truck up with my 1-year-old baby inside,” said Littenger Moore, 30.
Problems continued at a high school the next morning, with a fight ending in two arrests.
Relatives of those arrested followed officers to police headquarters, where a crowd gathered. Authorities said six more people were arrested there after an argument turned violent.
In a small office building across the street from City Hall, attorney Jeff Nail and law office employee Debi Foster watched from behind locked doors as the angry crowd gathered between the buildings.
“I saw a lady with a baseball bat,” Foster said. “There’s still a broken mop in the driveway.”
Nail said the families and their supporters lined the streets, facing off.
“There was a lot of loud talk and one person would go up to the other side and then run back and then they started throwing stuff back and forth,” Nail said.
Four people were injured, and Jackson said one person who was hit might need surgery for a fractured eye socket.
Jackson said bond was set at $250,000 for a suspect charged with having a gun at the high school, and he and others remained in custody. Charged with assault, Littenger Moore spent the night in jail but was freed on bond Tuesday.
Signs of the melee were scattered around City Hall a day later. A shirt was in the middle of the street and a belt was on a sidewalk. Shrubbery had been trampled in front of an insurance office.
“Some of these people need to pack their suitcases because they’re going to be in jail for awhile,” Jackson said. “There was no excuse for this.”