Thursday, September 7, 2017

More Mayberry, Less Fallujah

Because it's 2017 and we have to be aware of this stuff.

On a day when Richmond woke up to Klansmen effigies hung in Bryant Park, how better to finish it than watching a documentary about the militarization of our police forces?

In conjunction with the Created Equal Film series, the VCU Southern Film Festival was showing the 2016 documentary "Do Not Resist" at the Virginia Historical Society. Not sure how crowded it would be, I arrived a mite early (but with reading material) to score a decent seat.

My mistake was taking one in front of a self-involved woman who couldn't shut up. After explaining to anyone who would listen that she'd have to move when her daughter left for college so that she wasn't more than 2 hours from her side in case of emergency, she moved on to giving her hapless daughter tips for college life.

At least until her daughter couldn't take it anymore.

Daughter (in a disgusted voice): Face it, Mom, you want to go to college for me.
Mom (tossing hair): Yes, I do.

Thankfully, the film was about to be introduced, so someone shushed them. We were told that the Tribeca Film Festival had awarded the film best documentary winner and 72 minutes later when it ended, it was pretty clear why.

First off, filmmaker Craig Atkinson had obtained stellar access to film whatever he wanted for the most part, going along on raids with SWAT teams and being on the street during protests and police confrontations. And lest we get the impression that these raids are on an as-needed basis, the film explains that in 1980 there were 3,000 Swat busts and now we average 50-80,000 a year. A year.

Why has the American public been so unaware that since September 11th, the department of Homeland Security has been issuing military equipment - heavily armored trucks, bayonets, for crying out loud - to any Tom, Dick or Harry small town that wants them?

One town had a single law enforcement officer yet had requested two armored trucks. What kind of crazy is this?

As one woman on the street in Ferguson says, "They need to stop giving these boys these toys because they don't know how to handle them." Shout it to the heavens, honey.

That may be because every FBI agent and a lot of local cops are schooled by the same motivational whacko, Dave Grossman, who instructs them - "What do you fight violence with? Superior violence!" - to think of themselves as the frontline and the people in the streets as the enemy. A man who talks about "righteous violence."

A man who has helped militarize police training.

Even former FBI director James Comey puts in an appearance, trying to justify militarizing the cops but his argument doesn't hold much water.

A professor explains that with increasing technology, we'll soon be able to discover while a baby is in utero if it's more than 50% likely to grow up to commit a homicide. "What do you do with that information?" he asks rhetorically. "What does the mother do?"

Watching SWAT team members suit up,and drive over (in one case, with no clear idea where their target was, but they intended to Google map it on the way) to bust a house was disquieting, but seeming them forcefully break windows as a diversionary technique (for which they don't reimburse the homeowner) and storm doors was downright disturbing.

One agent even admits that busts are a 50/50 chance, so half the time they've swooped in on the wrong people. Their attitude? Oh, well.

In one case in the film where they were wrong and it wasn't a drug house, they steal nearly $900 of the suspect's savings after handcuffing him. Then when all they find is a tiny bud of weed in the kid's backpack, they decide to go back in the house for a further "search."

The head agent tells the filmmaker to stop filming at that point. Apparently he didn't want caught on camera their staging of the scene. Um, what country is this again?

During the Q & A afterward, it seemed clear that some people are reluctant to admit that we're currently a country transitioning to martial law without so much as acknowledging it's become the new normal.

"Do Not Resist" should be required resistance viewing. What is it that bumper sticker says, if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention?

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore...

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