Police lock down a neighborhood, refusing to let people leave on August 11, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. [IMAGE: SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES]
The FAA on Tuesday imposed a temporary flight restriction over Ferguson, Missouri, where clashes between law enforcement and residents have been going on for days after a police officer shot and killed an unarmed teenager over the weekend.
A map released by the FAA shows the area affected by a recent NOTAM banning low-flying aircraft over Ferguson, Missouri (the red circle). [IMAGE: FAA]
St. Louis County Police spokesperson Brian Shellman told Mashable the department’s commanders requested the ban “for safety” after their police helicopter “came under fire on Monday night.”
However journalists covering the shooting of teen Michael Brown were quick to criticize the ban. Some saw it as an attempted media blackout, meant to prevent news helicopters from filming over Ferguson.
FAA says flight restriction over Ferguson which hinder news coverage is “TO PROVIDE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES.”
— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) August 12, 2014
So reporters can’t walk behind police riot lines or photograph them from above, either?https://t.co/OduLXFYH53
— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) August 12, 2014
“We know that perception is going to be out there (shutting out the media),” Shellman toldArs Technica’s Cyrus Farivar. “But it’s really for the safety of pilots.”
Reporters in Ferguson have faced increasing difficulties covering the unrest there. Police have told journalists to leave the area, and some have reported police refusing their entry entirely.
— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 12, 2014
Antonio French, an alderman of the 21st Ward in St. Louis and a prominent live-tweeter of the Ferguson protests, tweeted, “A line of police cars with high beams on greets anyone trying to enter Ferguson. It’s shut down. No media allowed.”
And on Monday, some journalists who entered the fray were met with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Police shooting rubber bullets at crowd, including reporters and photographers.#Ferguson
— Julie Bosman (@juliebosman) August 12, 2014
Police reportedly told Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowrey to move out of the way. “Your last warning,” they said. “You’re putting lives at risk.”
Eventually officers charged again. Handful reporters/photogs threatened if we didn’t move.
“Your last warning, you’re putting lives at risk”
— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 12, 2014
The temporary flight restriction (TFR) bans all aircraft (aside from first responders) at a height up to 3,000 feet and a radius of 3 nautical miles around the city. It will remain in place through 8 p.m. UTC on Aug. 18, the FAA said.
Shellman confirmed that the FAA’s restriction does include media helicopters. He also saidthe police could “request an early termination” should the situation on the ground allow it.
However, bans like these aren’t uncommon during times of disaster or unrest. The FAA enacted a similar ban over the site of the explosions towards the end of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.