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DAPL: Gov’t Using No-Fly Zone to Suppress Journalism

Published: December 1, 2016
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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently announced it will be closing federal land north of the Cannonball River on December 5th, and now reports are surfacing that the government plans to use a no-fly zone to prevent journalists from recording the events that transpire. This is following the attacks on Native land protectors and protesters that was caught on video by drone pilots, in which police were seen using percussion grenades:

Nov. 20 Police use Percussion Grenades:



The no-fly zone, which has been set up by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), applies only to citizens, as law enforcement craft continues to fly overhead. According to experts, the no-fly zone is in direct violation of the First Amendment since the drones belonging to land protectors are being used to conduct journalism.

In a statement from Roy Gutterman, director of the University of Syracuse’s Tully Center for Free Speech:

“This no fly zone is a clear violation of news gathering rights that are protected by the First Amendment. Using drones for news gathering is a viable modern technique, and this looks like it’s a government action clearly aimed at limiting access to a public place.”

Aside from documenting events at the DAPL, the drones offer land protectors and protesters security – Morton County has been caught in numerous lies with the video footage provided from the drones, and as a result, many of those who’ve been arrested have had their charges dropped based on the footage.

Myron Dewey, one of the Native drone pilots, states:

“The drones provide a visual narrative – we’ve seen unarmed people praying getting shot with a water cannon. We show canisters being shot into the middle of a crowd, guns being pointed at people, medics being shot in the back with rubber bullets.” He later continues, “Drones level the playing field. They get us out of jail, they have saved us from having to get close to police to document what they’re doing and to document that, while these atrocities and abuses of power are happening, work as usual on the pipeline has been happening.”

In a statement from Connecticut drone law attorney, Peter Sachs:

“In essence, a ‘giant tarp’ has been laid over the site, allowing law enforcement to act with impunity and without any witnesses.”

The FAA has engaged in illegal activity on behalf of the government before. Their primary responsibility is to prevent planes from crashing into each other, however in 2014 they placed a no-fly zone over Ferguson to prevent the media from having access to the protests; they’ve ordered drone pilots to remove YouTube videos, and they have since received legal challenges from those who consider the use of drones for journalistic purposes to be an activity protected by the Constitution. This information has been compiled by those at Motherboard.

A series of requirements has been created to give exceptions to the media, including an order to have certification, and to coordinate with the FAA. The requirements also state drones are not to be used at night, or flown over people’s heads. Thus far, the FAA reports that there have been no requests from the media who meet the requirements.

Roy Gutterman commented on this as well, stating that in general, there is no need to get an exception to exercise First Amendment rights, nor does the government have a method of registering journalists:

“There’s no governing body that says who is a journalist and who isn’t a journalist. Traditional journalistic ethics aside, there’s nothing in law that says a journalist can’t have an agenda.”

We’re pleased to report that the brave Native drone pilots on the ground at the DAPL have refused to stop flying their drones. They will continue to document the abuses taking place at the hands of the Morton County Sheriffs and collaborating law enforcement agencies, who have forsaken their sworn oaths, and betrayed the people. They are nothing more than criminals in badges, who have been allowed to continue their illegal activity under a corrupt, criminal government.

To the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and Cooperating Law Enforcement Agencies: The world is watching you, and when this is over, no matter the outcome, we will remember your faces. Your faces, your names, and your illegal activities have been recorded, and they will be written about in American history books, only a few chapters away from Birmingham and Selma, Alabama.


dakota access pipeline no fly zone
Birmingham, Alabama (1963) and the Dakota Access Pipeline (2016)

Whatever compensation or fulfillment you are receiving, it has come at the cost of your honor, as many of you will be returning home the disgraces of your families and communities. Some of you will one day get to explain your deplorable actions to your children – after they’ve seen the photos and videos that will never be erased from the Internet – while others will have to find ways to hide what they’ve done for years, living alone with the memories of what they took part in. The legacies you are leaving behind are that of violence and corruption, embedded in yet another dark stain on American history, and you’ve now left your children with the burden of hiding their parent’s pasts in shame. While most, if not all of you, will never see the inside of a jail cell, you will forever be locked in a prison in your own minds; either consumed with your guilt, or so severely infected with your own sadistic hatred that We’ve no sympathy for you at all.


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