This documentary brings us the story of the hostage situation in Brooklyn in 1973, and immediately in the prologue of Stefan Forbes’ film, we learn that this event is also considered the “birthplace” of negotiations with kidnappers in the way it is known today, at least in the Western world. Of course, in the past there were some forms of negotiations between the police and criminals in such situations, but very quickly it was resolved by force. Just remember the riot in the Attica prison a few years earlier, and this hostage crisis was also the longest in New York history, and thanks to this event, police psychiatrist Harvey Schlossberg managed to fight for the reform of police use of force in such situations, and since then, negotiation has been the primary focus.
This documentary is particularly interesting because we follow the hostage situation and the whole story from the perspective of the kidnappers and the still-living hostages who were inside the sports equipment store, as well as the still-living policemen who were outside. Although the New York hostage crisis immortalized by Sidney Lumet in the feature film “Dog Afternoon” is much more famous today, the situation here was also quite bizarre. As is customary, every honest sports equipment store must also offer weapons, so four young black men went to one such store in Brooklyn to steal a rifle. All of them were Sunni Muslims, then a rival organization to the much better-known Nation of Islam, which was extremely active in America in the early seventies.
When the police saw that four young black men, who were also Muslims, occupied the store in search of weapons and took other customers hostage, of course they immediately thought that it was some kind of radicals, as there were as many as you like back then. And while the perpetrators, today people in their 70s claim that it was all a big misunderstanding and that they were not terrorists, but barricaded themselves inside fearing that the police would kill them, of course the policemen’s first idea was to simply slip away. Thus, an old policeman tells how no one at that time thought of negotiating with someone and everyone was in favor of resolving the situation by force, but since some of the interlocutors in the film are themselves kidnappers, it can be assumed that reason still prevailed.