Stranger Fruit: Does New Michael Brown video change anything?

Just days ago a new video emerged, two years after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, as part of a documentary called Stranger Fruit. It has lead to renewed protests and vigorous debate in the USA. 

Two years ago it was alleged that Michael Brown commited an unarmed robbery at a convenience store in Ferguson, St.Louis County, Missouri. When Michael Brown was picked up by police he allegedly tried to take the gun from police officer Darren Wilson who then shot Brown once who then made off. As Wilson gave chase it’s alleged that Brown turned towards Wilson and charged at him causing Wilson to fear for his life and he opened fire multiple times. Brown dies at the scene.

The video that was released by police at the time and the only video in relation to the convenience store that was released to the grand jury in the subsequent trial of Darren Wilson was the one depicting the unarmed robbery. 

In the video it shows Brown entering the store who appears to reach over the store counter and remove at least two packets of cigarillos (small cigars or Hamlets to our UK readers). As he begins to walk out of the store he is confronted by a shop keeper but Brown pushes the shop keeper away and walks towards him again. The shop keeper backs off and Brown exits the store. 

Before we move to the Stranger Fruit video I wanted to show two stills from that unarmed robbery. (You can watch the full video at the end of this article if you wish) 

Michael Brown (red cap, white t-shirt) can be seen holding the cigarillos he has taken from over the counter
Friend of Brown (Behind Brown with Dreadlocks) can be seen holding a pack of cigarillos that he has been passed by Brown

The Cigarillos in question were of the brand Swisher. In both of the images above the packs appear to be predominantly a red type of colouring with a white logo on the front with some white writing and white strip towards the bottom of the boxes. 

The alleged robbery took place somewhere around midday on August 9th 2014.

Darren Wilson was later cleared of any wrong doing in his trial amidst mass protests across the country, let alone Ferguson itself. Some witnesses had suggested that Brown had raised his hands just prior to being shot a second time. Other witnesses said he charged at the officer like a “football player with his head down” . 

The new video related as part of the documentary was unseen by the grand jury or the public. It shows an interaction at the same convenience store between Michael Brown and the shop keeper except it happens 12 hours prior to the armed robbery incident. It happened at around 1am that same morning. 

Brown can be seen entering the store and seemingly places something on the counter which three members of staff begin to pass around and look at. It’s alleged this is cannabis by the documentary maker although the shop staff deny any transaction took place. After this exchange the staff are seen bagging up what appears to be cigarillos and hand it to Brown who then proceeds to exit the store. However Brown returns to the counter and hands it over to staff. From the footage it appears that staff are holding it for possible safe keeping until a later time to collect. 

The images below are from the new video (which you can see in full at the end of this article); 

Shop keeper on right of image holding up a package. Note the predominantly red packaging and white logo
Same shopkeeper, holding same cigarillos but has turned the package around. Red packaging, white logo and white strip towards bottom of packaging

The question ‘Does this change anything?’  is two fold. It must be broken down into two areas. 

Firstly does it change anything connected to the court case of officer Darren Wilson? Secondly does it change anything around how the entire situation played out? 

Wether you believe police officer Darren Wilson is guilty or innocent or wether you believe Michael Brown had his hands up or not isn’t the point with regard to this article. Wilson was found innocent and this video wouldn’t likely change that verdict in the slightest. The incident as it unfolded for Darren Wilson remains exactly the same.

What it does change or should change is how the police deal with the aftermath of an incident and how that impacts on the rest of society. The police had this new video and had viewed it but decided it did not need to be released to the public or the grand jury. Michael Brown was labelled a thief or indeed a robber who had used strong armed tactics to effect his escape. Whilst there may be some truth in that from a technical stand point in law the new video clearly shows that there is good evidence to suggest that Brown was in fact retrieving the cigarillos he had left behind 12 hours earlier. It would appear that the shop keeper on duty at that time may not have been aware of this and thus thought he was being robbed. A miscommunication then? 

We will likely never know why Brown allegedly wrestled with the officer but that moment, whatever happened and why led to his death. 

The biggest tragedy is that an unarmed man was shot dead for stealing some cheap cigars. You expect the police to be professional and protect life at all costs. Was there a need to shoot? Could Wilson have backed off from Brown sufficiently? Did Brown pose a threat to any members of the public? I have to argue it was a needless death therefore it should be considered an unlawful death. Guns, even for US cops should be a last resort. Shot and injured from the first gun shot and likely slower in speed than Wilson there appears little reason why Brown had to be shot to death at that point. 

The new video however makes little difference to the eventual outcome for Brown and Wilson. 

(Below: Video of robbery) 

(Below: New footage)


Challenge your Viewpoint: Articles in relation to the Michael Brown case:

Washington Post – Analysing the evidence

Grand Jury testimony – transcripts

 The Intercept – A guide to the shooting

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Religious Tory Councillor hits out at Disabled

Fiona Robson is a Conservative Councillor for Stanwix Urban Ward in Cumbria. You may expect someone who was a former ‘learning assistant’ at the Church of England, Trinity school in Carlisle to be a fairly compassionate person who might understand the hardship that the most vulnerable in society have to go through. 

However on Sunday 5th March Ms Robson decided that instead of getting behind the weekend NHS protesters in their call to save the most loved of public services, perhaps around the world, she would instead use the moment to berate the disabled. She posted the following tweet and it went viral; 

Clearly all disabled who can’t get up early every day, go to work on public transport, do 8 to 10 hour work days and actually hold down a job must stay at home, out of sight of the public and have no life whatsoever, but just like the disability assessments with the DWP if you can raise your hand above your shirt pocket… you must be fit for work. Anything less and you’re a scrounger.. because you know that’s exactly what this Tory Councillor is thinking. 

How dare the unemployed disabled be using a couple of hours of their time to protest. Whatever next?! 

The responses on Twitter came thick and fast. 

Ms Robson did make her apology, 

The film she was referring to was I, Daniel Blake the film depicting the hardship many on benefits can face.

However that wasn’t enough to stop the backlash; 

We wondered if Ms Robson held a Facebook profile and didn’t expect to find any public postings but what we found in some ways confounded the image Ms Robson has now created for herself. 

She had multiple religious postings including a trip to see the Turin Shroud, one of the most visited religious artifacts in the world. Some of her posts give the impression that she is extremely caring, but as we have found in the past, being religious does certainly not make you a caring person. 

We’re not sure her Twitter posting will give any comfort to the disabled or unemployed.

But it was perhaps this public Facebook posting that raised some serious questions. 

Not the only pro Donald TRUMP posting, this shared petition calls for Antifa to be declared a terror organisation. Whilst Antifa does have some questionable tactics and sometimes a questionable moral compass they are, above and beyond anything else, exactly what their title describes. Anti Fascist. To support such a petition does, wether intended or not, give the impression that you’re for fascism. 

If that alone doesn’t give you an impression behind her thinking she certainly has a nationalistic tendency flowing through some of her posts.

She is proud to display her meetings with some famous people including David Cameron and this well known man; 

Perhaps most pertinent to this story however is this shot believed to be taken at the 2016 Conservative Conference.

This is the full sign in the background 

Not ‘everyone’ though, hey Fiona? 

Perhaps the rest of us though should take this advice that one of her posts gave. 

Yes Fiona, and you’re the garbage, so we’ll stop listening now and with some luck so will the locals in her ward.

UK Trump obsession puts NHS & Syria bombing in shade

We have no love for Donald Trump. Rude, crass, xenophobic, misogynistic are just a few words to describe him. He is a danger to the environment and a complete loose cannon on the world stage. It’s certainly going to be an ‘entertaining’ presidency. 

When it was announced that Donald Trump would be having a state visit the total panic and anger of UK citizens was palpable, certainly amongst many on the left, so much so that over 100,000 people protested in London alone in an international show of support against Donald Trump. 

Is it all really justified though? We have been no stranger to criticising our own left side for hyping up the fear levels. He is after all no more of a danger on the international scene than say George Bush Jr. The epitome of a Neocon hell bent on destroying the Middle East. If anything he is more of a danger to the environment and his own people than anything else. 

So we decided to see how much of a threat Trump has been to the people of the UK by looking at how many people have signed petitions in support of a few various causes, including some of the largest ever petitions to government. It may put some things into perspective. 

Even the NHS, with all its problems couldn’t get anywhere near the level of support the Donald Trump petition achieved.

There was then this first Donald Trump petition to stop him coming to the UK at all. Big enough in itself at over half a million signatures. 

Thankfully there was some respite from the insanity as over 800,000 people signed a petition to give all new borns a vaccine against a form of Meningitis.

But that was shattered by a colossal petition which puts everything in the shade. At almost 2 Million signatures, a petition to stop the state visit of Donald Trump to the UK. 

The two Donald Trump petitions combined means that of the petitions shown here Donald Trump has attracted in the region of 400,000 more signatures than the other 8 petitions put together including War, child abuse, the NHS and benefit cuts to the most vulnerable in society. 

We realise this is not scientific and doesn’t take into account perhaps other signature based petition websites or individual circumstances such as how widely a petition was shared but it does give us an idea of perhaps how skewed our sense of outrage is. 

This is why we refuse to get too hung up on Donald Trump. Before we know it, he will be gone, only to be replaced by a new Neocon and the battle for the Middle East will likely commence again, and besides, our NHS is far more important than Mr.Trump. 

Perhaps if we focused more on our own problems we might do better at getting the message across to the wider public about how this Conservative government is ruining people’s lives. 

You can view a list of the largest ever government petitions that have been signed here

Owen Jones’ brave call on Labour, Corbyn and the Left (Video)

Some people have criticised our recent stance on Jeremy Corbyn (see our last blog post here, ‘We’re Left Wing, We’re Calling It, Corbyn Is Finished’) and the outrage that some of you felt over the article is understandable. 

Here in the video below Owen Jones speaks candidly about Jeremy Corbyn, Labour and the Left in almost exactly the same tone we did in our article. Even if you dont agree on the similarities, be assured we agree with much of what he says. No doubt he too will be shown some similar outrage. 

He talks at the end about desiring a radical left party with the right leadership, he has clearly no desire for a return to Blairism. If Labour could have Corbyn’s policies with the right leadership it really could work. He’s right.

The only difference between us and Owen Jones is that he believes a radical left Labour is possible. We don’t, especially with the question of Brexit. The left, as he even mentions himself in the video, is split on this issue. As a result, whichever leader comes to the fore must take a stance on Brexit and that may well alienate the opposing side to that leadership, potentially splitting Labour’s support into two again. 

As a result we still believe that forming a dedicated Socialist party or joining a ready made smaller Socialist party is the lefts best hope for the long term future, if not the immediate future. 

If we’re wrong on Corbyn, then so is Owen Jones. He’s not the lefts best friend at the moment, but he was the lefts best friend when he was vocal against the Blairites. How fickle some of us on the left can be.

No doubt some will refuse to watch this video but it’s perhaps the most considered piece on Corbyn, Labour and the left we have seen. 

Some of you said we were “talking bollocks”  and other such nice things in our article. You’re entitled to disagree but we feel that with such similar views to other well known people such as Owen Jones here, who is also on the left, that our stance has been vindicated. 

Owen Jones has had to defend himself against allegations of being a left wing sell out or a right wing PLP supporting traitor. We were also called that, but we won’t be openly defending our position. People who have followed us for some time know full well, we are still left wing and always will be. Owen Jones video is worth the listen, even if you’re sceptical. 

He has made a brave decision in compiling this video, knowing the backlash he may receive. It’s brave to swim against the tide and that’s what he is doing, but more and more people on the left are now starting to have major doubts about the future, so it’s right that the issues are openly discussed. 

If anyone wishes to discuss the future of the Left and finding a way forward you’re invited to join Solutions for the Left on Facebook. 

Here’s the video from Owen Jones