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New Michael Brown Footage Is Eye-Opening, But Can It Change Minds?

Protesters march down Canfield Drive near where a police officer killed Michael Brownin Ferguson, Mo.
Jeff Roberson/AP

Three years after the death of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri, new video has emerged that sheds greater light on the story. Surveillance footage captured hours before a police officer killed Brown shows the 18 year old appearing to exchange marijuana for cigarillos, and later returning to the store to exchange the cigarillos. This video challenges the narrative that Brown robbed the store before police stopped him, showing Brown returning to the Ferguson Market without an altercation.

The video emerged in a documentary that debuted at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, over the weekend. “Stranger Fruit” Director Jason Pollock says this video would have altered the established narrative that an officer shot Brown after he conducted a robbery. Pollock has been accused of editing the video.

Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., has called for the investigation to be re-opened. Legal experts and Ferguson police say the new footage wouldn’t have a legal impact.

Could this footage have shaped the investigation? Is it too late to change the public perception of this case? And where was this footage three years ago, when protests were breaking out on the streets of Ferguson?

The Rev. Irene Monroe and the Rev. Emmett G. Price III joined Jim Braude and Margery Eagan for All Revved Up on "Boston Public Radio" to take on these questions and more. This excerpt has been edited for clarity.

Emmett: Let’s remember that the court case was against Darren Wilson, the police officer, but Michael Brown Jr. is the one who got tried. The character assassination and the type of profiling that created the sense that Darren Wilson was afraid for his life, the new video that we found ... the footage that Pollack shows is of the earlier visit that was alluded to that Michael Brown Jr. was in that convenience store eleven hours earlier, and then when he came back is when the altercation occurred, so now we see what actually happened eleven hours earlier, which is huge.

Irene: It’s interesting, we give a lot of validity to video footage these days, and it really tells you how you can splice and doctor that… my concern though is that it still doesn’t render a positive narrative about Michael Brown, it still criminalizes him, because supposedly that was a drug deal going bad, or not going as plan. That’s what was problematic, and apparently legal experts would say that it has no bearing on the outcome.

Emmett: The video changes the narrative of who Michael Brown Jr. is, or was, and I think that’s what’s most important.

Irene: Do you really think so?

Emmett: The video should have come out then. Don’t hold on to it for some documentary.

Jim: Didn’t cops leak the original video in like two seconds?

Irene: I really don’t think it changes the narrative, because the narrative of Michael Brown is so ensconced in this notion of criminality. The public image about it, given the iconography of the black male image in urban cities, particularly — it’s like when you write something and there’s the correction on page seven or whatever. It’s like, thank you for doing it, but we still have the false narrative.

Margery: The image that will always stick with me about Michael Brown Jr. is his dead body, lying in the street, without a cover over it, for hours... I never saw anything like that before.

Jim: Yes you did, because you know the Henry family, with D. J. Henry and that little berg in New York, after he’s essentially dying on the sidewalk, and they’re not tending to him.

Irene: There’s something about the Michael Brown’s case ...

Margery: It looked like he was alone in the middle of the street, and with all due respect I thought it was different than D. J. Henry, as awful as that was, because it was hours, and you look at that picture, and there’s this … body … lying there.

The Rev. Irene Monroe is a syndicated columnist for The Huffington Post and Bay Windows, and the Rev. Emmett Price is a professor of worship, church and culture and founding executive director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. To hear All Revved Up in its entirety, click on the audio link above.

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