An early-morning raid today backed by Federal Marshals has rfb off the air. The FCC had secured a warrant for arrest of the transmitter and associated gear “from a Burlington magistrate,” which means it did not come from the Brattleboro-based judge hearing the station’s case. Surprisingly, they actually left some gear behind (not much, but it wasn’t a complete scouring).
This is a highly unusual move as the FCC has typically let any court proceedings play out before attempting another enforcement tack. In fact, the station’s reaction to the raid notes that it had dropped its own attempt to secure an injunction against the FCC because of assurances that the agency would keep the dispute in the realm of the courts. Apparently a lack of patience caused the agency to renege.
But I think the FCC just lit off a community backlash in Brattleboro with this raid. The station has demonstrable and strong community support, most helpful in any rebound. One wonders if this development will affect Judge Murtha’s injunction deliberation, seeing as how the raid has essentially undercut the court’s due process. Perhaps the station could even file a motion asking for a return of its gear: there’s certainly nothing to lose at this point.