Peaceful protests have been a staple in society for many decades, and in several cases throughout history, they've directly inspired positive social and political change. But in the wake of 9/11, law enforcement has adopted a new set of policies when it comes to the policing of these activities. By taking preemptive measures to quell a great number of public protests, they've wrongfully incarcerated thousands and trampled on the rights of ordinary citizens to practice free speech. Based on the book by Greg Elmer and Andy Opel, Preempting Dissent chronicles this disturbing phenomenon with great skill and insight.
Utilizing a wealth of footage captured from within the protest movement, the film opens on the 2010 G-20 Summit in Toronto. This influential meeting of world leaders drew mass protests on a variety of topics including poverty and oppressive government policy. While the vast majority of these protests were peaceful in nature, trouble did arise in the form of vandalism, outbursts of violence, and over a thousand arrests. Judging by the imagery featured in the film, many of these unfortunate incidents could have resulted from the intimidating presence of a militarized police force. In the wake of the summit, Toronto law enforcement agencies were met with widespread charges of wrongful arrest, unlawful strip searches and other abuses.
The film expands the conflicts of this particular event and places them in the context of history. From the civil rights movement of the 1950's and the Vietnam war protests of the following two decades all the way to the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter protests of today, violent skirmishes too often occur when the population gathers to demand accountability from their leaders.
Preempting Dissent places the blame for most of this violence directly at the feet of law enforcement. Armed with clubs, hoses, and cans of tear gas, these policing agencies set a tone of menace and impending eruption from the outset and with little provocation. As explained by many of the activists and outreach representatives featured in the film, these bullying tactics seem ultimately designed to stifle the voice and social consciousness of the people. When injustice goes unchecked, we are all made its victim.