- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Chris Evanson
The Best Defense Council of Former Enlisted
I’ve never served or set foot in a war zone. When I was in uniform, I was a spokesperson in a largely humanitarian institution, serving mostly in the confines of the Western Hemisphere. In contrast to the majority of my colleagues on the Best Defense Council of Former Enlisted, I’ve never encountered an Improvised Explosive Device, evaded shrapnel, or dealt with the lingering reality of PTSD.
But today I feel that I’ve experienced a war zone — in Ferguson, Missouri; Richland County, South Carolina; and Dayton, Ohio.
I experienced these urban battlefields by attending an advance screening of Do Not Resist — the directorial debut of DETROPIA cinematographer Craig Atkinson — and this year’s Tribeca Film Festival winner for Best Documentary. The film is a sobering glimpse into the “rapid militarization of [local law enforcement] in the United States,” and illustrates what could only be reconciled as a direct circumvention of the Posse Comitatus Act, an 1878 law designed to prevent the military from conducting domestic law enforcement operations. Because when you have tanks in Middle America, what’s the difference?
The film features stunning visual imagery as if to embed the viewer inside a South Carolina SWAT team executing a search warrant — in excessive fashion — on a rural house of an impoverished African-American family. It captures a local city council hearing in Concord, New Hampshire, population 42,695, debating the merits of acquiring a Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck, or BEARCAT, despite having just two homicides since the War on Terror commenced. Moreover, the film documents the proliferation of a new cottage industry: Domestic aerial surveillance companies, used by local law enforcement to spy on unassuming Americans with little to no oversight by the federal government.
As if America’s creepy-clown epidemic isn’t scary enough, DO NOT RESIST is a nightmare film if I ever saw one. What is more, it’s a reality that disenfranchised Americans live with each and every day. Our elected leaders have chosen to reject the public engagement that is absolutely needed to bridge the gap of fear and distrust with urban epicenters. Rather, local law enforcement personnel are equipped with converted MRAPs and more machine guns. High school athletic programs get their cut without a second thought, yet our taxpayer funds are diverted into subsidizing domestic drone-like spying operations coast-to-coast. This is what America has become, and DO NOT RESIST is a brilliant and disturbing portrayal of our new normal.
Chris Evanson served for more than ten years in the U.S. Coast Guard as a public affairs specialist. He holds a Bachelor in Arts in International Studies from American University’s School of International Service, and is pursuing a Masters Degree in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University. He holds the U.S. Coast Guard chair on Best Defense’s Council of Former Enlisted.
Photo credit: Screengrab