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 @ 4:04am

    USA as a 'special assignment' area

    Maybe it's time that national and international news organizations started treating the US as every other 'dangerous' assignment. With Ferguson, attacks on whistleblowers, intimidation at the borders, threats against public photography, the list goes on.

    I am not so sure that reporting in the USA is any safer than Iraq, Eastern Ukraine, or Sierra Leone anymore. Sad.

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