Officials from the St. Louis Police Department are denying claims it issued a no-fly zone over Ferguson, Mo. and its surrounding regions to freeze out media coverage. Despite damning claims and tapes obtained by press, officials say the order was for safety measures only.
After an Associated Press report published last Sunday put the department on blast, authorities scrambled to clear their name in response to the growing scrutiny. St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar attempted to clear up the matter at a news conference held yesterday.
More from Reuters:
“It’s always all about safety. That’s the bottom line on this,” St. Louis County Chief of Police Jon Belmar told a news conference about the no-fly zone.
He said the decision was made after pilots reported seeing muzzle flashes and potentially hazardous lasers pointed at them.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposed flight restrictions in 37 square miles of airspace for 12 days. Air traffic managers struggled to redefine the ban to let commercial flights operate at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and allow police helicopters but ban other traffic in the area, the AP reported on Sunday.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who called for “wholesale” change at the Ferguson Police Department last week, said on Monday he was not aware whether the Justice Department was involved in the request for a no-fly zone and condemned the use of such practices to block media access.
There have not been any announcements from FAA officials or the Justice Department regarding a full-on investigation of the claims printed in the AP report. Attorney General Eric Holder did say that if media personnel were impeded by the no-fly zone, such measures in the future need to be avoided. As a result of the air ban, many images and accounts on the ground during the Ferguson and St. Louis County protests went unreported.
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