Police In Ferguson Set Up No-Fly Zone Solely To Keep Journalists Out, According To FAA Audio Recordings

from the that-thing-you-suspected?-yeah,-it's-true dept

A few more details have come to light on the police state experiment conducted in Ferguson, MO over the past couple of months. Despite repeated denials that continued all the way up until October 31st, the real reason for the FAA's no-fly zone over Ferguson has been revealed.
"They finally admitted it really was to keep the media out," said one FAA manager about the St. Louis County Police in a series of recorded telephone conversations obtained by The Associated Press. "But they were a little concerned of, obviously, anything else that could be going on.

At another point, a manager at the FAA's Kansas City center said police "did not care if you ran commercial traffic through this TFR (temporary flight restriction) all day long. They didn't want media in there."
Law enforcement put FAA staffers in an awkward position with this request. The FAA (obviously) has nothing in the rule books that provides for blocking First Amendment-protected activity. While there would be the heightened danger of collisions if police helicopters were also in the area, it's not like this sort of situation hasn't been handled without incident before. (See also: news coverage of every demonstration/riot/police pursuit to this point.)

No, law enforcement simply wanted to keep news coverage to a minimum and control the narrative through the indiscriminate use of tear gas, a ridiculous (and unconstitutional) "five second rule" and the casual detainment of reporters at ground level.

St. Louis police claimed over and over and over again that the no-fly zone was for "safety," citing a single incident where a police helicopter was allegedly shot at -- an incident that only existed in the minds of those looking to keep the press from circling overhead.
[P]olice officials confirmed there was no damage to their helicopter and were unable to provide an incident report on the shooting. On the tapes, an FAA manager described the helicopter shooting as unconfirmed "rumors."
Small concessions were made when law enforcement realized what it was asking for was impractical (and mostly illegal). As one news director pointed out, his crew was eventually told it could fly over Ferguson but only at an altitude above 3,000 feet -- not exactly a height that produces optimal (or even usable) footage.

Whatever your stance on the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson, the fact remains that nearly everything local law enforcement did in response was poorly thought-out at best, and an outright abuse of power at worst. Officials have lied to the public, paywalled public documents, released information in a purely self-serving fashion (and over the objections of Eric Holder and the Justice Dept.) and approached the citizens they serve as an occupying force, rather than trusted allies.

Filed Under: ferguson, journalism, media, missouri, no fly zone, police state

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2014 @ 5:27am

    This is certainly not the first time that a "no fly zone" was created to shield law enforcement from news reporters. Earlier this year another no fly zone was declared at the now-famous Bundy Ranch, presumably to keep kamikaze pilots from flying into cattle wranglers rounding up cattle ... or something crazy like that.

    In reality, the Bundy no fly zone served a completely different purpose, keeping the prying eyes of newsmen from reporting the slaughter and burial of several of the Bundy's cows and calves that did not take well to being rounded up. This took place outside of camera view and went undetected until several days later when the fresh graves were found. It seems that governments always prefer to work in secret.

    There are valid uses for establishing no fly zones, such as the recent NATO meeting in England. But once the government has this power, there is no limit to how it will be used.

    It's the classic mission-creep. Freedom-busting restrictions are laid down for the most dire situations, the public acquiesces, then those situations are gradually expanded to the point that they no longer have any meaningful purpose, except to keep the public (and the news media) out of the way and uninformed. As authorities award themselves more and more freedom to invasively monitor the public, they also take away the public's right to monitor them.

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