Photo courtesy of VANISH Films
Story by Zachery Wright / Contributing Writer
MTSU Student Programming and Raider Entertainment hosted a viewing Wednesday evening of “Do Not Resist,” a new documentary from director Craig Atkinson about the militarization of police in the United States.
“Do Not Resist” is a Tribeca Film Festival winner for Best Documentary, and begins in Ferguson, Mo., shortly after the death of Michael Brown Jr. Through his film, Atkinson offers an examination of our current affairs and the many outcomes we could experience as a nation. From following SWAT teams in South Carolina, sitting in on congressional hearings, attending police seminars and exploring controversial technologies, Atkinson shows a pattern starting to pop up all over the country.
One of the speakers at a police seminar featured in the film, Dave Grossman, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who is a consultant for the FBI, travels the nation giving speeches to local law enforcement. In the film, he reinforced the message to his audience that they have to fight violence with “righteous violence.”
“The police man is the man of the city … You fight violence, what do you fight with? Superior violence, righteous violence … violence is your tool, violence is your remedy; violence is the realm we operate in. You’re men and women of violence, you must master it or it will destroy you,” Grossman said.
From there, “Do Not Resist” accounts the donating of unused military equipment to local police departments. Through the 1033 program, the Department of Defense provides a list of surplus equipment such as Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and bayonets to local governments, resulting in a range of military equipment across the country. This has led to local governments receiving approximately $34 billion in grants from the Department of Homeland Security to buy their own military equipment from private suppliers.
According to the documentary, the use of this equipment has started to come under fire for being used with malicious intent. The former chief of the Chicago Police Department, Garry McCarthy, told a panel at 21st Century Policing in the film that the extreme response by the police had provoked residents at Ferguson.
“What happened in Ferguson — the actual practice of how the demonstrations were handled — I think we were all embarrassed, quite frankly, in law enforcement,” McCarthy said. “In my book, if you fire tear gas, you’ve got a riot right now. You don’t have a demonstration.”
Atkinson ends the film by delving into the emerging technologies used by police such as social media analysis, facial recognition software and air surveillance. The film questions the principles behind some of these tactics and the divisive issue of personal privacy.
Vann Tate, a film and video freshman at MTSU, said “Do Not Resist” was very powerful and compares the state of our country to that of other civilized countries.
“When we think about other civilized countries especially their police force and our police force, ours does look a lot more authoritarian, a lot more violent and really shouldn’t be that way considering the balance of violence against police and violence committed by police. It’s kind of overreacting to isolated incidents,” Tate said.
Atkinson said he hopes “Do Not Resist” will spread and be shown at police academies across the nation to de-escalate the excessive tension and violence.