The FBI came clean about flying surveillance planes over last year’s protests following Freddie Gray’s death, and now the public can see what they were watching.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the ACLU and Baltimore Sun, the FBI released 18 hours of surveillance video of the protests.
The footage was recorded from April 29-May 3, 2015. At that point, the destruction and looting of April 25 and 27 had dissipated, and the city was under curfew. But peaceful protest marches continued, and police (and TV cameras) gathered nightly at Penn and North to ensure that everyone went home.
The videos show surveillance of protest marches, and scenes of curfew in the area. The footage captures all of that, but sometimes the planes are also just hovering above the streets. The footage alternates between color and infrared, but landmarks such as the CVS or Man-Woman Statue outside Penn Station still make it clear where they are.
It appears the planes were flying high above the city, but the video technology gave them the capability of zooming in on individual people and cars.
It also appears that the airspace above Baltimore was crowded. On “numerous occasions,” the ACLU notes drones appear in the frame of view. While the web of front companies the FBI used to disguise the flights was untangled by citizens, groups like the ACLU and reporters, the appearance of the drones suggest that more surveillance footage could be out there.