hold your fire fab 5 freddy brathwaite
Stefan Forbs' Hold Your Fire, courtesy of IFC Films.

Fab 5 Freddy hopes to send a message to police across America with a new documentary called Hold Your Fire, about a 1973 hostage standoff that has still-urgent lessons about de-escalation.

The hip-hop and street-art pioneer, aka Fred Brathwaite, produced the film about four young Black men who tried to rob a sporting goods store and unwittingly found themselves in a 47-hour hostage situation with mostly white cops. The standoff has drawn comparisons with the Attica prison takeover and Dog Day Afternoon bank heist, though it is far less known than either — and those standoffs ended much more violently.

Freddy says that if the police half a century ago could de-escalate an incredibly tense standoff like the one in the film, they can also avoid resorting to violence today.

“The problem I have with policing — you have these guys, particularly in New York City, who rarely live in the neighborhoods where they’re policing. That’s rare. When I was a kid growing up in Bed Stuy not far from where this happened, there would be beat cops, and you would get to know them. Whether they were Black or white, these guys developed a rapport with the community,” he said.

“Think of Eric Garner, where they choked the guy to death for selling cigarettes in Staten Island. Imagine if that was a beat cop that knew who this guy was — maybe knew his mom, his brothers and sisters… ‘He’s doing something bad, but we can handle this,’ as opposed to this, like, us against them, militaristic, savage mentality, like, ‘They’re they’re all evil criminals out to kill me.'”

You can listen to our full interview with Fab 5 Freddy on the MovieMaker podcast, available Apple or Google or Spotify or here:

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Visionary NYPD psychologist Harvey Schlossberg was crucial to avoiding more bloodshed in the 1973 standoff. Although one police officer was killed — its unclear who fired the fatal shot — everyone involved agrees many more people could have died if not for Schlossberg and other officers’ discipline and restraint.

“Too many people are shot before there’s any effort to de-escalate or shoot to stop as opposed to shoot to kill,” Freddy said. “So much of this goes on that is problematic. We just feel like this film might help a little bit and getting people to rethink and maybe institute some of these tactics a bit more in the policing that we that we live with, that we pay for.”

Main Image: A still from Hold Your Fire, courtesy of IFC Films. 

Hold Your Fire, directed by Stefan Forbes and proceed by Fab 5 Freddy, is now in theaters and available on demand.