In 2014 Furgeson, MO, social media and the world erupted over the death of Mike Brown. Brown, an African American man, was shot dead in the street by a white police officer. The story about what really happened was conflicted from the very beginning. The initial account was that the police officer who shot Brown happen upon the teenager and confronted him because he was walking in the street. But a second story came out sometime after. It stated the officer was looking for Brown because he had just committed a strong arm robbery. That narrative included a video of the supposed robbery.
Many believe the police released the video to attack the character of Brown and make the young man look like a thug – a common criminal who did not deserve the sympathy of a nation.
Even liberal host Bill Maher jumped on the bandwagon citing the video of Mike Brown apparently attacking the owner of the local grocery store reminding viewers “…we saw the video of the 711…[he] was committing a robbery…he was acting like a thug…” (view at 3:45).
The New York Times reports a documentary that premiered this weekend at SXSW called Stranger Fruit appears to challenge the “strong arm robbery” narrative:
“….a second, previously unreported video from that same convenience store…shows Mr. Brown entering the store, Ferguson Market and Liquor, shortly after 1 a.m. on the day he died. He approaches the counter, hands over an item that appears to be a small bag and takes a shopping sack filled with cigarillos. Mr. Brown is shown walking toward the door with the sack, then turning around and handing the cigarillos back across the counter before exiting.”
Filmmaker Jason Pollack believes the exchange was in fact a transaction between the employees of the store and Brown. The documentary shows footage of a store video (and police report) where Brown is at the same convenience store exchanging a bag of marijuana for a bag of cigarillos as payment. This happens some eleven hours earlier.
Brown is about to leave with the cigarillos in a bag, but then changes his mind and gives the bag back to the employees. Brown would later return the day of the shooting to retrieve the bag, get into a fight with an employee (or owner) and leave with the cigarillos.
“They destroyed Michael’s character with the tape, and they didn’t show us what actually happened,” said Mr. Pollock, who spent more than two years in Ferguson conducting research for his documentary, and who questions the decision to not charge Officer Wilson. “So this shows their intention to make him look bad. And shows suppression of evidence.”
Was Mike Brown a weed dealer and were the employees of the convenience store his customers? Was this going on behind the backs of the owners of the store? The convenience store, through its lawyers, rejects the conclusions made in the documentary and the Ferguson sheriff’s department spokesperson denies the earlier video had any bearing on the case.
The documentary is compelling and tragic at the same time. Reviews are looking good as well. Add this to the Kalief Browder Story and O.J.: Made In America, and for the first time in history people are becoming aware of the plight of black Americans under the American justice system.