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‘He Sucker-Punched Me’: White Alabama Councilman Punches Black Mayor In the Presence of An Officer After Contentious City Meeting

A white politician in Alabama has been arrested for punching the Black mayor of the city he serves in the face, striking him in the chin. This is not the first time the elected official has been inappropriate while serving in his position; in 2021, he used the term “house n##ger” in a public forum.

On Monday, Nov. 7, surveillance footage from a Tarrant parking lot captured Councilman Thomas Bryant, 78, assaulting and spewing racist epithets at Tarrant mayor Wayman Newton after a regularly scheduled council meeting.

Councilman Thomas Bryant
Alabama councilman Thomas Bryant punches Mayor Newton

The council member was charged with third-degree assault after he threw a punch at the city’s top leader in front of a crowd of people.

Tarrant police chief Wendell Major witnessed the assault, and immediately placed Bryant under arrest. The original charge was harassment but since has been upgraded.

Major spoke with ABC 3340 News about the fight, saying, “I turned around to have the mayor approach me after I was having a discussion with the councilman. The councilman told me: ‘The mayor wants to see me,’ I turned around and talked to him. The two exchanged words then the next thing I know the councilman struck the mayor.’

Around 10 p.m, Bryant was booked into the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Jail and was released on $1,000 bond an hour-and-a-half later, the Tarrant Police Department shared on its social media.

On Thursday, Nov. 10, Bryant was back at the Jefferson County Jail again, this time on a charge of theft of services. Authorities say he refused to pay a roughly $160 towing charge to the company that had picked up his vehicle during his first arrest.

Newton, the city’s first Black mayor, said Bryant was the aggressor, according to AL.com. The mayor said he “started attacking me and verbally assaulting me.”

“We exchanged words and then he came at me. He sucker-punched me,” the mayor said before sharing how “sore” he was from the attack.

He also offered that before the altercation, Bryant made “veiled threats” against him earlier in the meeting.  

Video captured the fight and showed the two men standing in front of a black truck before the councilman stepped forward and hit Newton with a right hook.

The altercation reportedly was connected to a contentious issue raised by Bryant in the council meeting regarding the reinstatement of the city’s fire chief Jason Rickels, who was terminated in 2021. Rickels pulled a gun across state lines on an Atlanta realtor and photographer who were at his home for a photo shoot.

Rickels thought the two Black people were burglarizing his $925,000 house. He reportedly was unaware his wife had given the two permission for the photo shoot.

The mayor explained on Thursday, Nov. 10, “In March of 2021 I terminated our former fire chief for pulling a gun on a black realtor in Georgia and that infuriated the old guard in Tarrant, AL. Tommy Bryant punched me because they weren’t able to reinstate the former fire chief.”

Though the Fulton County district attorney’s office dropped the charges against Rickels for the assault, Newton believed the actions were a sign he was too unstable for the position.

The resolution, drafted by Bryant, called for Rickels to get his job back with full back pay and benefits until the council could conduct a hearing about his actions in Atlanta.

It is not known what Newton said in the meeting, but on his Facebook he voiced his opinion on the former civil servant.

“Tarrant City Council reinstating a fire chief who was terminated for pulling a gun on a Black realtor at his house in Georgia is probably not a wise decision,” he wrote. “But what do I know? I’m just the mayor.”

Newton has been a political foe of Bryant since he was elected. In August 2021, Bryant had Newton arrested, signing a misdemeanor warrant on the mayor that claimed he received harassing communications from his desk.

Bryant said Newton shouted the “F-word” at him and told him, “F##k your wife” and “I’m going to F##k your wife.” The councilman stated the mayor said other sexually provocative things to him, presumably about his wife.

This recent incident also includes accusations regarding disparaging remarks about Bryant’s wife. In a police report, the Tarrant police chief documented the following: “Mayor Newton said something at the same time I spoke to Bryant which I did not understand. Bryant said, ‘I’m cheap tonight- do you have a quarter?’ ”

Major then quoted Newton as saying, “I prefer your wife. She is cleaned out and I won’t have to worry,’ before reportedly saying he could have sex with Bryant’s wife without getting her pregnant.

The mayor denied the allegations.

“Tommy Bryant is an unapologetic bigot who is a cancer to the City of Tarrant and my administration,’’ Newton said in 2021. “I am confident that the baseless harassment claim he has filed against me will be thrown out.”

Newton was acquitted of that charge in 2022.

He was also acquitted of another misdemeanor charge, a claim he assaulted the city’s former police chief this year. The Alabama Democratic Party came alongside the mayor, painting Bryant as a bigot. The group asked for the lawmaker to resign after he used the term “house n##ger” during a recorded council meeting.

Bryant asked, “Do we have a house n##ger in here? Do we? Do we?” Bryant said he was repeating something the mayor said about his colleague, City councilwoman Veronica Freeman.

The mayor denies this also, saying, “I never used that phrase to speak about her. Ask them to produce the video. They record everything. They should have their own recording.”

Where is this all coming from one might ask? Newton believes he knows. “They want me out. He [Bryant] wants to run for mayor.”

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