“It kept saying ‘no network error’. We had a foreign reporter on the roof with us and she wasn’t able to get a signal on her cell phone. And people on the ground were saying ‘I can’t tweet out.'” –Livestreamer Argus Radio.
It seems like the police state is using protests in Ferguson as a testing ground for all of their crowd-control weapons. Many are obvious like the curfew enforced by platoons of soldiers, armored tanks mounted by snipers, stun, tear and smoke grenades, no-fly zone, sound cannons, and designated free speech zones and media zones (apparently they’re different now).
However, some weapons are less obvious like technology to kill livestream feeds during questionable police activity. And that’s precisely what happened that night according to Ferguson’s most prolific livestreamer Argus Radio.
The GIF above, taken from the final seconds of Argus Radio feed from that night, shows the moment the police bum rush the crowd and create mass panic in an attempt to catch someone. Moments later the livestream feed was cut and registered a network error, according to Argus Radio.
The Argus livestream has been filming the protests non-stop for the last week manned by volunteer University of Missouri post-grad student Mustafa Hussein.
A week ago, Hussein reported live “We’ve just been told by the St. Louis Police Department to turn off our cameras. We will not be turning off our cameras. We will continue to broadcast, even if it is at our own peril.” So the cameras continued to film.
Flash forward a week and on early Wednesday morning, just after midnight, Argus had no choice in the matter as their feed was cut off. Hussein reported afterward:
As soon as the conflict happened there was an over-running of the media station by the protesters who were fleeing from the police. We don’t know what the agitation was, but we do know that we lost signal.
We reset the broadcast three times and it keep saying “no network error”. We had a foreign reporter on the roof with us and she wasn’t able to get a signal on her cell phone. And people on the ground were saying “I can’t tweet out, I can’t tweet out.”
Use of a government “Kill Switch” during protests is precisely what civil liberties groups warned makes this technology so dangerous. It’s important to note that this kill switch appears to have jammed the cell signal rather than shutting down the entire Internet or specific digital equipment. A recent California bill requires smartphones to have kill switches to prevent theft, but critics worry the government can use them to remotely shut off phone cameras and 4G access.
Regardless, that night the digital surveillance state seemed to merge with the militarized police state in a spectacular show of power.
Interestingly, the evening before authorities tried another bizarre tactic. The police created what appeared to be a two-tiered “free speech” zone; one area for protesters and another for the press. Protesters marched in circles on the street and journalists took pictures from the sidewalk. The journalists far outnumbered the protesters and it all seemed very staged.
The police eventually got tired and claimed that everyone must disperse, except for the “credentialed media,” who were allowed to stay. It was eerily similar to journalists who’re embedded with the troops. As the militarized police assault began in the “free speech” zone, many protesters hid with media to use them as human shields. Surreal.
Later, State Police Captain Ron Johnson said that they identified credentialed press as those with $50,000 cameras. Apparently violating the rights of elite journalists is forbidden, but crushing peaceful assembly and citizen journalists is just fine. Maybe they just can’t hack the satellite signal on expensive cameras?
The very root of the uproar in Ferguson is the lack of accountability for a police officers’ actions, and that outrage is being met with new and improved ways to hide unethical police actions, now including information kill switches.