Oct. 19, 2005 St. John resident Esther Frett told the Police Department at 11 a.m. Saturday that she was injured when the owner at JJ's Texas Coast Café closed the metal gate to her Cruz Bay restaurant during a Friday sit-in.
According to Police Sgt. Thomas Hannah, the injury is considered accidental.
"It doesn't appear to be anything deliberate," Hannah said Wednesday.
He said it happened at 8:15 p.m. Friday.
He said Frett, 37, reported that the owner started to close the business without notifying the customers.
"When she began to close the rolling gate, a steel rod flew across and struck her [Frett] on the foot," Hannah said.
He said Frett was treated at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center for a swollen left foot and possible torn tendon.
Hannah said Frett told officers she was at the restaurant drinking water when the incident happened.
Frett, reached at her East End home Wednesday, said she would not comment and hung up the phone.
JJ's owner Jean Jewel could not be reached for comment.
For three weekends, protesters have staged sit-ins at Cruz Bay restaurants, buying only bottled water and paying in coins. Since they occupy the majority of seats, customers who planned to purchase dinner cannot be served.
While the sit-ins were initially organized by a St. Croix group called We the People for Justice, it appears that the protestors are now mainly St. Thomas and St. John residents.
St. John resident Ronnie Jones, who is emerging as black community leader, said that while the sit-ins held on the weekend of an Oct. 1 march and rally got the point across that people wanted answers in the Esther Frett alleged rape case, they've gone on too long.
"The sit-ins only seek to divide the island," he said.
He, like others, said he feared that visitors turned away from restaurants because there were no seats available would tell their friends when they returned home. He said this will impact tourism.
Jones, who works as an accountant at Caneel Bay Resort, said he fears that if the sit-ins continue, confrontations will occur because restaurant owners cannot stand by much longer doing nothing while they lose money.
"There's going to be a point when people are going to be physical," he said.
One restaurant owner told the Source that an Oct. 8 sit-in cost the restaurant $2,000 in business.
Those holding the sit-ins have claimed they want white business owners to pressure the Federal Bureau of Investigation into releasing information about an August incident in which Frett reported she was raped.
The FBI never releases information in an ongoing investigation. One knowledgeable source said this week that federal agencies usually don't even say if there is an investigation going on.
Lorelei Monsanto, who helped organized the St. John end of an Oct. 1 rally and march on St. John, said she doesn't know what those holding the sit-ins now hope to accomplish.
"At this juncture, it is not clarified to me who what the goal is," she said.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley said he is also puzzled about to goals.
"If they wanted answers from the FBI, they should protest at the federal building on St. Thomas or the FBI office," he said.
He wondered why the protesters are sitting in only at white owned businesses.
"Why not Fred's, Sogo's," he said, referring to the handful of black-owned restaurants in Cruz Bay.
Sogo's owner Alfred Augustine said that whenever something is good, it's good for all of St. John and when it's bad, all of St. John suffers.
"St. John is a small community," he said.
St. John resident Pam Gaffin, who helped organize a campaign to call and fax the FBI requesting information, said if St. John residents who do not support the sit-ins don't come forward to stay stop, the island faces economic ruin.
"You are making a decision by doing nothing," she said.
Monsanto, who owns Chateau Bordeaux gift shop, said she has not participated in any of the sit-ins.
Gaffin said that after news of the Friday sit-in circulated among many people who know Jewel, another group that totaled about 100 people sat in Sunday to keep out those who only wanted to buy bottled water. She said all 100 bought meals.
"It was the we love you JJ group. We gave her loads of business," she said.
U.S. Attorney Anthony Jenkins sent out a press release Monday that indicated the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department are investigating the series of incidents.
He said the results will be forwarded to the department's Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C. where federal prosecutors will evaluate the findings to determine whether further action is appropriate.
Jenkins said the review will be thorough and impartial.
Harley spoke about how money circulates. He said that when people eat at a restaurant, the owner and employees have money to spend at other businesses, including those owned by black St. John residents.
The story began to unfold on June 20 when someone wrote racial epithets on Esther and Jerry Frett's car, parked at their East End home. The Fretts are black.
Then, on Aug. 30, 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, but last week in Superior Court Judge Rhys Hodge dismissed the misdemeanor charges and re-filed felony charges at the request of the prosecutor. They include two counts of intimidation as well as charges of aggravated assault and battery and disturbing the peace.
Sells is being arraigned in Superior Court Thursday.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.