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Group’s St. John Protests Targeted Businesses

Oct. 10, 2005 – Many St. John residents remain puzzled as to why the St. Croix group, We the People for Justice, targeted St. John restaurants by holding sit-ins over the weekend.
St. John resident Ronnie Jones, who participated in some of the events, said the main purpose was to pressure law enforcement officials into providing information on the alleged rape of Esther Frett. No one has been arrested in connection with this case.
"It seems a long time to get any kind of response," Jones said.
He said that if someone had raped a "Caucasian lady, you know there would have been an arrest even if it wasn't factual."
Jones said the group also targeted Starfish Market because it was the "biggest business on St. John."
He said the group wants to mobilize the community into taking action on this and other situations that need addressing. He said that although the sit-ins disrupted business, it brought out black people who do not usually participate when issues arise.
We the People for Justice's public relations liaison, Wayne "Factsman" Adams, could not be reached for comment because his telephone appears to be out of order.
Alvis Christian, who helped organize activities on St. John for the Oct. 1 march and rally, said the St. Croix group left St. John Sunday.
The St. Croix group arrived Oct. 1 for a march and rally in Cruz Bay that was co-organized by St. John residents.
The St. Croix group subsequently held sit-ins at numerous Cruz Bay restaurants, buying bottled water rather than dinner.
"And they paid for it with pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters," said one restaurant manager who wished to remain anonymous.
He said about 18 people sat in Friday and 50 to 70 on Saturday. They refused to leave so the restaurant could honor reservations made by customers, he said.
One St. Thomas man, who also did not want to be named, said he and three others had a reservation at the restaurant in question.
"Every seat was taken," he said.
He said he and his friends left the restaurant after having a drink at the bar. They had dinner at LaTapa instead.
The restaurant lost about $2,000 worth of business Saturday, the manager said, making him wonder just what was the point. The manager said the company has about 10 to 20 percent black employees, so it didn't seem like the employees' race was an issue.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley said that he hopes the sit-ins don't get to the point of "messing with people's employment."
He, like the restaurant manager, pointed out that most restaurants have black employees.
"How do you think those black employees feel," Harley said, speaking about the loss of wages and tips that came because of this action.
He said the protesters also targeted Starfish Market by filling their carts with groceries then went through the check out and said they decided they didn't want the items.
Christian said he was puzzled by the Starfish situation because the market donated food for the Oct. 1 event.
Harley said that Starfish also honors vouchers from the Women, Infants and Children program, which helps low-income women and their families buy food.
No one could be reached at Starfish for comment.
Meanwhile, the restaurant manager also said that since extra police officers were on duty to make sure the situation did not get out of hand, they couldn't work on solving the alleged crimes that led to this unrest.
Deputy Police Chief Angelo Hill said he couldn't say how many extra police officers were on St. John. He said there were no incidents relating to the presence of the St. Croix contingent other than the sit-ins.
"No arrests," he said.
This situation has roots that date back to June 20 when someone wrote racial epithets on Esther and Jerry Frett's car, which was parked at their East End home. The Fretts are black.
Then, on Aug. 29, Frett reported she was raped near her home.
Tensions rose further at a meeting Aug. 30 called to discuss V.I. Water and Power Authority issues and at a meeting Aug. 31 where federal and local law enforcement officials refused to comment on the specifics of their investigations into the racial epithet incident and the alleged rape.
Early on Sept. 1 someone set Bob Sells Jeep on fire in front of his Close Reach Imports store at Meada's Mall in Cruz Bay. On Sept. 2, the store went up in flames. Arson is suspected in both cases. Sells is white.
Frett, until June, rented the store upstairs from Close Reach Imports for her House of Dolls. Following numerous confrontations between the two, Sells was arrested June 3 for allegedly assaulting Frett. That case is still pending.
While Sells assault case is a local judicial matter, the racial epithets, the rape case and the arson incidents are being investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The FBI has refused to comment until its investigation is complete.

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