Protests Erupt in Ferguson, Missouri After SXSW Debut of Mike Brown Doc with Previously Unseen Footage
About 100 protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, were dispersed by police on Sunday night (March 12) after they gathered outside the market where Mike Brown allegedly stole some items on the day he was fatally killed by a police officer in 2014. The group was reacting to previously unseen footage in a new documentary, Stranger Fruit, which debuted at the SXSW Film Festival over the weekend which appeared to offer a new twist to the details of the case.
According to The Washington Post, the film by documentarian/activist Jason Pollock features unseen surveillance tape that casts fresh doubt on the storyline presented by police that Brown robbed the Ferguson Market just minutes before he was shot to death by a police officer in 2014. Police have said that the robbery call was part of the justification for Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson stopping teen Brown, who he said matched the description of the thief; Wilson shot Brown seven times.
The footage of the alleged robbery showed Brown entering the market, walking up to the counter and then reaching for some cigarillos, leaving the store with a handful of them and pushing aside the clerk who tries to top him. But in Pollock's film the newly seen footage suggests there was no robbery, but a drug deal gone wrong that involved Brown and some of the store's clerks.
Footage provided to The New York Times appears to show Brown entering the market 11 hours before the alleged robbery, on Aug. 9, and handing something -- which Pollock believes was a bag of marijuana -- to the clerks, who appear to smell it and then hand Brown what looks like a plastic bag with two large boxes of cigarillos. In Pollock's film Brown, 18, is about to leave the store, then pushes the cigarillos back across the counter for what the filmmaker posits was safekeeping.
The fresh look at the incident -- which sparked days of violent street protests in Ferguson and helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement -- inspired Brown's mother, Lezely McSpadden, to claim in the film that her son didn't rob the store, but was merely returning to collect his cigarillos.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Sunday night (March 12) that an attorney for the Ferguson Market & Liquor store said the clip appeared to have been edited to falsely imply that there was a drug exchange before the incident, vowing to release the full video on Monday (March 13). After word spread of the unseen security video, the Post-Dispatch reported that around 100 protesters gathered outside the Market and police later cleared the area.
Just before midnight seven or eight shots were heard in an area across the street from the Market, but there appeared to be no injuries in that incident. Ferguson Market lawyer Jay Kanzler reportedly told the protesters on Sunday night that the surveillance video had been in the hands of authorities, Brown's family and the FBI for some time. He also denied that there was any exchange of drugs in the store and he suggested the clip in the film had been cut to remove a scene where employees throw what appears to be a bag of marijuana back at Brown.
"This isn't new," Kanzler said before retreating to the store after protesters started swearing at him; police arrested several protesters a short time later. Stranger Fruit debuted at the SXSW Film Festival on Saturday night (March 11). A grand jury and a federal civil rights investigation failed to indict Wilson in the Brown shooting, which sparked nationwide protests over a rash of police-involved shootings of black men.