Mansfield, OH — If a dozen men armed with assault rifles drove up to your house, smashed out your doors and windows, ransacked your belongings, and robbed you of your hard-earned money — this story would undoubtedly be on news channels across the country. People would quickly arm themselves and groups would form to protect neighborhoods from the dangers of the armed gangs robbing and pillaging people. However, when these armed groups of robbers wear a badge on their chest, this plunder becomes justice and the members become heroes.
Across the country, it is estimated that SWAT teams are deployed hundreds of times — every day. The overwhelming majority of these raids are not used to rescue hostages, or break up human trafficking nests — they are to enforce the drug war.
Since the 1980s, SWAT raids have increased by 2,500 percent from a mere 3,000 raids a year, to upwards of 80,000.
Citing the wars on drugs and terror to rationalize their actions, federal assistance from the DOD’s 1033 Program and the DOJ’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant has been escalating the militarization of American police forces — for decades.
By sidestepping the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, the U.S. government has blurred the divisions between the military and the police. And all of this has been done to prevent people from possessing arbitrary substances.
Atkinson explained that he made this film to attempt to understand what happened during the time his father joined the police force and became a SWAT member in 1989 to the time he retired in 2002.
The film’s mission was simple — go along with SWAT teams and film their experience. However, the result was not as simple. As Atkinson explains:
I can say that we were just as shocked while filming the material. Going in, we had no idea what we were going to find. We kept thinking we were creating opportunities to film with departments that would show the full spectrum of the SWAT experience, but time and time again, we found ourselves inside homes searching for things that we never found.
The Free Thought Project viewed the film and asked Atkinson for permission to use the small clip. On Thursday, Vanish Films released the 6-minute scene.
What this brief clip shows is an actual SWAT raid carried out by the Richland County Sheriff’s Office. The SWAT team was executing a search warrant to bust a suspected pot dealer.
Upon showing up at the home, the heavily armed militarized shock troops acted as if they were raiding enemy forces in a war zone. In reality, however, this was just a family hanging out at their home.
But that did not matter to these officers who are trained in the art of legalized smash and grabs.
As the officers move into the house, one of them randomly smashes out the windows — for no reason. As the innocent people are thrown to the ground, held at gunpoint, and placed in handcuffs, the team of cops ransacks the home, looking for something, anything, to justify their presence.
The officers are getting frustrated as their fit of destruction appears to be turning up fruitless.
“Where the fuck is the weed?” a cop is heard saying as they tear the property apart looking for a plant.
Finally, they find a small amount of marijuana in a young man’s backpack. “There is a book bag here, that has a little bit of weed in it. It was just loose bud,” says the cop.
Thousands of dollars in property damage, a dozen men armed to the teeth wearing thousands of dollars of taxpayer-funded gear, multiple innocent people terrorized, including women and children, and all of it is justified to seize a small bit of a plant — cash too.
As the suspect, or victim rather, explains to the officers that he is not a bad guy and he was trying to start up a lawn business to support himself as he goes to trade school, the officers callously act like he deserved what was happening to him(the officers chose to “seize” almost $1,000 dollars that the young man explains was for a lawnmower in which he was about to go buy for his business once his partner arrived; only a very small amount of cannabis was found).
Meanwhile, the father who owns the home is told he is on his own in fixing the damage caused by the cops. Even though the man who had pot in his book bag did not live there, the father was told he is liable for cops smashing up his home because the man was there.
Now, this poor young man, who may or may not have been selling a plant to earn money while in school, will be entered into the criminal justice system — essentially guaranteeing a future of joblessness.
And, the older man will have to come up with money to repair his home.
We challenge you to watch the video below and attempt to justify the actions of the police. Using the argument that marijuana is illegal will not work, as legality is no measure of morality.
There is absolutely zero justification for kidnapping someone and locking them in a cage for choosing to partake in an arbitrary substance deemed “illegal” by the state. Locking people in prison, even for non-crimes such as drug possession, guarantees a drastic increase in that person’s chances of ending up in the criminal justice system again.
This vicious cycle is so well known that it has its own word, recidivism.
Referring to the caging of morally innocent human beings for victimless crimes as “rehabilitation,” is a sick joke. Scarring someone’s future potential by removing their ability get a decent job, creating an incentive to delve back into the criminal market, is not rehabilitation, it’s nefarious.
Year after year, and now, decade after decade, millions of otherwise entirely innocent people have been deprived of their freedom, kidnapped, had their lives ruined, were thrown in a cage, or killed by police officers who are just doing their job while enforcing this immoral war on drugs.
Given these numbers, everyone in America is either related to or knows someone who has been arrested for drugs. An unfortunate minority have even seen their family members or friends slain in the name of this immoral war. The effects of police ruining so many lives enforcing drug laws have created the hostile environment in which we find ourselves today.
It is high time that police officers make this stand and refuse to keep terrorizing otherwise innocent people for arbitrary substances. And, the good news is, that this is already happening.
In May, Police Chiefs, Sheriffs, District Attorneys, and other government officials from the Eastern part of Louisiana came together to make a courageous and revolutionary statement — “It is time to treat addiction as a disease and not a crime.”
The response in Louisiana was inspired by a program in Gloucester, Mass., and was created by their Chief of Police, Leonard Campanello. Aptly titled, Operation Angel, Campanello’s program provides addicts with the help they need instead of locking them in cages.
The idea of treating an addict with compassion instead of violence is a revolutionary notion in this country. However, in other countries, such as Portugal, its effects have been realized for more than a decade. In 2001, the Portuguese government decriminalized all drugs.
15 years later, drug use, crime, and overdoses have drastically declined in Portugal exposing the disturbing reality of prohibition.
Campanello’s initiative and St. Tammany Parish’s adoption of it are nothing short of bombshell, especially considering the prison state that is Louisiana. It is revolutionary, and will undoubtedly lead to progress.
This is how change comes — not through the barrel of a gun — but through empathy and peace.