US authorities’ first reflex in response to social protest movements is repression. This film, created entirely from archive footage, shows the emergence of this approach, coupled with an increasing militarization of the police in the late 1960s.
At the time, marginalized groups, chiefly African Americans, were standing up to fight exclusion and poverty. In 1967 there were protests in more than a hundred cities, sometimes leading to riots. A committee appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson advocated social programs to narrow the gap between rich and poor. But that recommendation ended up buried deep in a drawer, and the approach switched firmly to repression.
Using footage shot by the military, Riotsville, USA shows how police and military personnel were trained to crush protests in streets recreated from cardboard. News broadcasters go along fully with the official line that protesters are rioters. We can conclude that the criminalization of the recent Black Lives Matter protests is part of a long tradition.