On Sunday night, the day after a documentary film implied that Michael Brown, who was shot by Officer Darren Wilson in 2014, precipitating the riots in Ferguson, Mo., had not robbed the Ferguson Market & Liquor convenience store prior to the confrontation but instead had conducted a drug deal with the owner, violence erupted at the convenience store, with shots fired.
On Saturday, a documentary titled Stranger Fruit, revolving around the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., premiered at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, The documentary included a video of Brown’s interaction with the owner of the convenience store he allegedly robbed before his confrontation with Wilson.
According to The New York Times:
Jason Pollock, a documentary filmmaker who acquired the new tape, says the footage challenges the police narrative that Mr. Brown committed a strong-armed robbery when he returned to the store around noon that day. Instead, Mr. Pollock believes that the new video shows Mr. Brown giving a small bag of marijuana to store employees and receiving cigarillos in return as part of a negotiated deal. Mr. Pollock said Mr. Brown left the cigarillos behind the counter for safekeeping.
On Sunday night at roughly 11 p.m., protesters were picketing the convenience store as the store owner’s attorney, Jay Kanzler, who was meeting with his clients, was hunkered down inside.
The protesters had confronted Kanzler outside the store prior to the violence, hurling verbal abuse at him and demanding to know why the video had not been released sooner. Kanzler replied that nothing new had been revealed, and that Stranger Fruit was edited and taken out of context by filmmaker Jason Pollock. That prompted a man to threaten Kanzler with violence; shortly afterward the police made several arrests and dispersed the rest of the crowd.
In the film, Pollock claims Brown traded marijuana for the cigarillos he was later accused of stealing. But Kanzler told The New York Daily News, “The clerks gave back the marijuana — or whatever is in the bag. You can’t have a drug transaction, as implied by the documentary, if you don’t have a transaction.” He added, “What was thrown up on the counter looked and smelled like marijuana, according to my clients, but they didn’t keep it. They didn’t want to take marijuana for merchandise.”
Kanzler had told The New York Times, “There was no transaction. There was no understanding. No agreement. Those folks didn’t sell him cigarillos for pot. The reason he gave it back is he was walking out the door with unpaid merchandise and they wanted it back.”
Kanzler explained that the clerk, who was from India, smelled the bag Brown handed over because the clerk was an immigrant and didn’t know what it was, adding, “I don’t think he had been in the country for very long.”
Kanzler pointed out that the city of Ferguson, the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney and lawyers representing Brown’s family had copies of the video. He concluded, “This is all great publicity for this filmmaker. But there’s real lives at risk. Police officers were shot at. There were threats to burn down the store. All because some guy wanted to promote a documentary . . . Practically shameful.”
Sgt. Shawn McGuire, a spokesman for the county police, said he could not confirm the video’s authenticity.