Aug. 17, 2004 – Edward Browne enjoyed a bowl of corn flakes for breakfast on Saturday, and for lunch he had a plate of fish. That was the first solid food he had consumed in 12 days.
From Aug. 2 until then, Browne had consumed only liquids — water, Powerade and later into the fast orange juice and vegetable juice. He stopped eating to focus international attention on the fact that Virgin Islanders and other U.S. citizens living in unincorporated territories don't have the right to vote for president of the United States.
At the start of his fast, Browne said he had two dreams:
– That the White House would ask Congress to conduct hearings "to address the rights of the people of the U.S. territories to vote for president."
– That President Bush and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry would meet with the families of V.I. military personnel killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. (See "St. Croix Man Gives Up Food for the Right to Vote".) He said he would continue the hunger strike "until I get a public negative or positive response from both Sen. Kerry and President Bush."
Browne said the fast has accomplished both of its goals. Last Wednesday, he received two press releases, one from the White House and the other from the Kerry campaign. (See "Hunger Striker Hears from Bush and Kerry Camps".)
The White House release, dated Dec. 5, 2003, announced the establishment of a task force on the status of Puerto Rico. A White House spokeswoman said the task force findings will serve as an example for all U.S. territories in addressing the issue of voting for president.
The response from the Kerry camp expressed support for Delegate Donna M. Christensen, calling her a "friend of the campaign." In a speech at the Democratic National Convention last month, Christensen called for the right of all U.S. citizens to vote in presidential elections. She also has introduced a bill in Congress that would grant voting rights to residents of the insular territories.
Browne said he decided to end his fast after watching President Bush on "Larry King Live." "The president talked about his obligation to go all over the world and thank the troops for their sacrifices in the cause for freedom," Browne said. "I know that was the best response I could get."
A guidance counselor at Positive Connections Alternative School, Browne said he is eager to get back to school and share his experiences with his students. "I would also like to stand up for the rights of the elderly and continue to fight for the things I believe in," he said.
Asked if he would consider another hunger strike, Browne replied, "Heck, no!" He said he does not recommend that anyone fast in that manner. And he thanked his wife, Debra, for her support, saying, "I couldnt have made it without her compassion and love."
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