The U.S. Justice Department’s Community Relations Service (CRS) banned reporters and non-residents from two town hall meetings yesterday in Ferguson, Mo. The ban was enforced by Ferguson police officers, even though a city spokesman said local officials wouldn’t prevent outsiders from attending, the Huffington Post reports. CRS, an agency charged with conflict resolution, is mediating meetings in the St. Louis suburb, which was rocked by protests after a police officer killed 18-year-old Michael Brown last month.
A Ferguson spokesman had promoted to the meetings to the media, but CRS is “required by law to conduct its activities in confidence and without publicity.” “It’s their meeting,” said spokesman Devin James “They're calling the shots. So they have the authority to shut it down, keep it open, moderate it, whatever.” The prohibition affects high-profile protesters who are not residents of Ferguson, but live in other towns in St. Louis County or in the city of St. Louis itself.