Law Professor James Duane from the Regent Law School in Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Police Officer George Bruch from the Virginia Beach Police Department, both explain why even innocent people should never talk to the police or agree to answer questions from the police. Citing a trove of examples and even though pertaining to US law, this talk is particularly applicable for political activists the world over as Security Culture 101.
In the early 2000s, two brothers garnered tremendous wealth when they started a company selling so-called “non-lethal” taser weapons, which quickly saturated police agencies and reinforced a culture of trigger-happy police officers. But instead of “saving lives” as was the catch-cry of the taser, and the company, the weapons were instead commonly used for pain compliance, and lead to a spurious string of deaths. The company didn’t back down. They insisted, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, that their weapon was safe and not at fault—not even a contributing factor—in the killings. Killing Them Safely delves into this troublesome mindset and that of the company, as well as the social implications of such weapons in a problematic police culture.
On October 15th 2007, a series of intense police raids occurred around the small village of Ruatoki in New Zealand. Operation 8, as it was called, was the result of 18 months of invasive surveillance of Maori sovereignty and peace activists accused of attending ‘terrorist training camps’ in the Urewera ranges—the homeland of the indigenous Tūhoe people. This film examines why and how the raids took place. Did the “War on Terror” become a global witch-hunt of political dissenters reaching even to the South Pacific?
Told by the activists and leaders who live and breathe for justice, Whose Streets? is an unflinching look at the uprising in Ferguson in the United States after unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street. Grief, long-standing racial tensions, and renewed anger bring residents together to hold vigil, and protest the latest tragedy in a long history of police brutality. Empowered parents, artists, and teachers from around the country come together to act and support. As the national guard descends on Ferguson with military grade weaponry, young community members become the torch-bearers of a new generation of resistance. Whose Streets? is a powerful battle cry from a generation fighting, not only for their civil rights, but for the right to live.
During the summer of 2013, a new area of occupied Sápmi (the northern parts of Fennoscandia in Europe) were under attack from the mining industry. If it were not for groups of brave resisters, the test blasting outside Jokkmokk in Lapland, Sweden, would have gone by without incident. The local Sámi people would have once again been exploited, and future generations poisoned without even a debate. But this time, something happened. The Gállok Rebellion tells the story of the resisters in Gállok, and shines a light on views which are not often televised. The film collates the efforts of many groups working together and serves as a call to action, to continue to protect the natural world which is under siege.
The murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, was arguably a pivotal event in the history of race and policing in the United States. Police on Trial shows, Chauvin’s encounter with Floyd was not the first time the Minneapolis police officer used excessive force on a Black citizen. Nor was it the first time that questions were raised around the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department itself. The film draws on reporting from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and features never-before-published police cam video of Derek Chauvin using excessive force years before George Floyd’s death, to document the trial and murder-conviction of Chauvin, and the various responses for police accountability and reform in Minneapolis.
If one steps back and looks at what freedom actually means in the West today, it’s a strange and limited kind of freedom. The United States and its empire self-describe fighting the Cold War for “individual freedom,” yet it is still something that the leaders of our so-called democracies continually promise to give us. Abroad, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the attempt to force “freedom” on to other people has led to more than just bloody mayhem, and this, in turn, has helped inspire terrorist attacks in Britain and elsewhere. In response, the government has dismantled long-standing laws that were designed to protect individual freedom and civil liberties.
Peter Francis, a former undercover police spy turned conscientious whistleblower, breaks ranks by speaking to the media after becoming troubled by the unaccountable culture of secret police operations throughout the United Kingdom targeting peace activists for decades. Tactics included undercover police officers having sexual relationships with activists, even going as far as commonly having children with the women they were spying on. Undercover agents also often assumed the identities of dead children in order to have “solid cover stories.” We also see how undercover police were asked to look for intelligence that could be used to discredit the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence and their campaign. The Lawrence family both speak of their shock at hearing about that the police did this to them. This short investigation opens a flood of questions about the secret history of covert police operations, and indeed the future of them in the context of the sprawling surveillance state of today.
Mark Kennedy was an undercover police officer who spent eight years as a infiltrator and informer on environmental movements and other protest groups throughout Europe. Confessions of an Undercover Cop accounts the actions of Kennedy from his perspective, which reveals an insight into the dark, twisted psychology of a police informant and the methods they use to destabilise movements and activists…
Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982–1992 is a deep examination of a tumultuous decade in the city of Los Angeles, United States, leading up to the events of April 29, 1992, when the verdict was announced in the Rodney King case. The film traverses the conflicts between law enforcement and the black community to look at tensions across the city as a whole, and traces the roots of civil unrest to a decade before uprisings, as told through interviews with eyewitnesses and people directly involved in the events from diverse neighbourhoods across the city, including black, white, Hispanic, Korean, and Japanese Americans.
Less than three years after a popular uprising that led to President Hosni Mubarak’s ousting, and just one year after Egypt’s first elections, the elected government has been overthrown and the Egyptian military is running the state. And the Muslim Brotherhood—the secretive, long-outlawed Islamist group that came out of the shadows to win the presidency in June 2012—is once again being ‘driven underground.’ Were the Brothers ever really in charge? Or was the Egyptian deep state—the embedded remnants of Mubarak’s police force, Supreme Court and, most of all, military—in control all along? In Egypt in Crisis, we go inside the Egyptian revolution, tracing how what began as a youth movement to topple a dictator evolved into an opportunity for the Muslim Brotherhood to seemingly find the political foothold it had sought for decades—and then why it all fell apart. With Egypt’s hopes for democracy in tatters, and the military-led government violently cracking down, what will happen next?
During the 2019–2020 Hong Kong protests, after 6 months of ongoing actions, and with protesters facing escalating stakes from police shootings and other violent repression, students began to fortify a number of the city’s major universities and occupy vital roads nearby. This lead to a peak moment in the protest movement—the siege of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Protesters gathered at the university to defend their roadblocks, while the police shot tear gas and used water cannons to shower the protesters with water containing blue colouring and chemical irritants. 1,458 canisters of tear gas were fired at protesters, as well as 1,391 rubber bullets, 325 bean bag rounds, and 256 sponge grenades. The city’s hospitals were overwhelmed by the number of protesters needing urgent medical attention. Burn with Us documents a first-hand view of the conflict, and its results, in a fly-on-the-wall style.
Recorded by over 100 media activists, this film tells the story of the enormous street protests in Seattle, Washington in November 1999, against the World Trade Organisation summit. Vowing to oppose—among other faults—the WTO’s power to arbitrarily overrule nations’ environmental, social and labour policies in favour of unbridled corporate greed, thousands of people from all around the United States came out in force to stop the summit. Against them was a brutal police force and a hostile media. This Is What Democracy Looks Like documents the struggle, as well as providing a narrative to the history of success and failure of modern political resistance movements.
The setting is in the current and ongoing troubling police culture of violence, profiling and racism. Even a former NYPD officer now breaks ranks to say that the force aggressively targets poor and minority communities in order to meet secret and illegal arrest quotas. The result is a level of systemic harassment and brutality that could be hard to demonstrate, if not for growing groups of Cop Watchers—everyday citizens wielding cameras, that routinely record and publish troves of evidence documenting all kinds of patterns of police brutality and misconduct. This film follows some of the people who are doing this work, and clearly the police don’t like it. They push back hard. Cop Watchers hence face long prison sentences and trumped up charges for simply recording the police—something that is not itself a crime. In an age of intense corruption of public institutions, this film lays out abuses of power on a frightening scale, showing just how urgent serious action is required if a free society is said to continue to exist.
Unwritten Future documents the events during the Republican National Convention in 2008 where excessive use of force and questionable tactics by police are on full show. Even peaceful radio host Amy Goodman is arrested. The film is dispersed with interviews with activists, asking them what they are fighting for, contrasted with police response and the aftermath.
Consisting entirely of archival footage, LA ’92 chronicles the 1992 Los Angeles riots, 25 years after they have passed. It includes film and video from the 1965 Watts Riots, the 1973 election of Tom Bradley, the 1978 promotion of Daryl Gates to Chief of LA Police, the shooting of Latasha Harlins, the Rodney King videotape, and the subsequent riots and violence that erupted after the acquittal of the officers involved in King’s beating.
The Invisible War documents the rapid militarisation of police in recent years by looking at the deployment of so-called ‘non-lethal’ weapons and the real effects of their use. Shotguns loaded with bean bags, rubber bullets, wood, rubber, and foam cylinders; electrical tasers; pepper sprays, OC-gas, and other chemical weapons; microwaves, stink bombs, pulsed energy weapons and many more. What is interesting is that, according to an overwhelming amount of recorded cases, these weapons have turned out to have caused many deaths and/or serious injuries, and are more often used on peaceful non-compliant citizens, or protesters, as a means of obedience rather than protection—invoking serious questions about the future of police and society.
Do Not Resist documents, from the perspective of the police, their view of the social unrest following the shooting and killing of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, 2014, against a backdrop of the routine and escalating use of military tactics and high-powered weaponry by local police forces throughout the United States in the past two decades. Military equipment deployed throughout the Middle East returns home to be used against the citizenry. Local police recruitment and training is awash in military commandments backed by views of escalating ‘righteous’ violence and sadism. Meanwhile curfews are imposed, along with frivolous drug raids and incessant racial profiling. The voices of concerned citizens ignored. What is the cultural and technological trajectory here?
In June 2010, leaders from the twenty largest economies met in Toronto, Canada with representatives of corporate interests to discuss the policies that shape globalisation. With exclusion zones, overlapping layers of security fencing and an estimated 25,000 police and military personnel, the city was transformed into an armed grid. Over 1.3 billion dollars were spent on security measures — more than all previous G8 or G20 meetings combined. Tales From The G20 shows some sides of the Summit, from unmarked vans with snatch squads of plainclothes police to the pre-emptive arrest of people now facing years in prison for organising demonstrations or simply being on the street…
Let the Fire Burn documents the conflict of the City of Philadelphia and the Black Liberation organisation MOVE, that led to a disastrously violent confrontation in 1985. MOVE was originally established as a “back to nature” movement that practised green methods, and in May 1985, the Philadelphia Police Department decided to take action to evict the group from their row house at 6221 Osage Avenue. When gunfire broke out and tear gas was not enough to pull the MOVE members out of the house, the police decided to drop explosives on the house. A fire soon began to blaze, endangering the several children now trapped inside the house. In a controversial decision, the police opted to let the fire burn, resulting in the destruction of over 60 homes and the death of five children and six adults. Eleven people died in the resulting fire, and more than 250 people in the neighbourhood were left homeless. Ramona Africa, one of the two survivors, said that police fired at those trying to escape. The investigation commission that followed found that city leaders and law enforcement had acted negligently, but no criminal charges were filed.
30 Frames A Second is an immersive first-person account of the events that unfolded during the week the World Trade Organisation came to Seattle in the United States, November 1999. The film is assembled from the perspective of 15-year veteran network-news cameraman Rustin Thompson, who became disillusioned with mainstream media and hence covered the WTO as an independent journalist. As such, even with press credentials for the event, Thompson is swept into the retribution of the state and police power which hit at the protests with tear gas, pepper spray, and police abuse. For him and the protesters alike, it begs the question about the functioning of the so-called democracies we live in, where civil liberties and human rights are curtailed in favour of facilitating the vast corporatocracy and global economic empire—precisely one of the points that sparked protests in the first place…