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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, May 16, 2022
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Protestors Want Answers During State of the Territory

While Gov. John deJongh Jr. was inside the Capitol Building on St. Thomas Monday delivering the State of the Territory Address, about 100 residents were outside protesting his, and the Senate’s, every move over the past year.

Assembling outside from about 6 p.m., the crowd spoke out against everything from the 8 percent pay cut to the Senate’s recent run of closed door meetings called to discuss the current economic crisis.

Protestors said the governor had ignored the various unions’ collective bargaining agreements by laying off workers, and that the senators were more interested in representing themselves instead of the people of the territory.

“Whatever happens in the Legislative Hall tonight is supposed to be about the will of the people and the only way for us to show our will is if we stand up and fight back,” said Clarence Payne, who was representing the United Steel Workers’ Supervisors Union Local 9488.

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“The anxiety is too high here in the Virgin Islands, people are going home, and we don’t even know who is going to get fired next.” Payne said. “Nothing is systematic, but there are contracts in place that spell out what should be done.”

Payne said his union members were hoping to hear the governor speak about re-hiring “those that were illegally dismissed,” and to announce that he would be scaling back the salaries, along with the perks, given to some of the higher paid government officials.

“We don’t have the tax base to absorb those salaries,” he said. “It’s time that we demonstrate that we’re in a financial crisis.”

Vernelle DeLagarde, president of the St. Thomas-St. John American Federation of Teachers, said her members also came out to show their “dissatisfaction” for those employees that had been dismissed.

“Not necessarily from the Department of Education at this time, but we are here in support of our brothers and sisters that have been terminated already throughout government,” DeLagarde said.

She said, “Our message is to all of the leaders here in the Virgin Islands, a combination of the governor and the Senate, and we are anxious to hear what is going to be said.”

DeLagarde said that the union was hoping to hear that those still employed by the government were going to keep their jobs, and that the governor and Senate were going to find the resources to keep them there.

“With Hovensa closing, we know it’s going to be tight and affect the whole community, but it would be great to hear that we will have a funding source to keep everyone employed,” she said.

Dale Blyden, vice president of the Independent Citizens Movement, carried a sign Monday that called for the dismissal of not only the governor and Senate, but also for the lieutenant governor and delegate to Congress.

“We had expected to get better representation from them and we didn’t get it, so we’re quite unhappy,” he said. “We trusted them and the territory is hurting.”

“How are they going to take care of all those people that have been laid off?” Blyden asked.

“And how is our economy, with the way it is now, going to hold up now that all of these people are going home? We want to know what they are going to do.”

Blyden, like many protestors out Monday, said he was concerned about the large number of police officers that were providing security during the speech, and how the officers would be paid.

“Our next step will be during election time,” Blyden said. “That’s when the voters have the power. For some reason, we have created a democratic dynasty here, and our leaders have realized that they have a massive amount of votes so they keep doing what they want. They have separated themselves from the people, where they are no longer representing us or our businesses, but representing themselves.”

Only Senator Terrence “Positive” Nelson came outside Monday to talk with the protestors, many of whom were carrying large signs or wearing customized t-shirts saying they had been “8 percent raped” by the government.

“I think the number of people out here tonight should triple,” Nelson said. “And I think we should make a big sound byte for a recall.”

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While Gov. John deJongh Jr. was inside the Capitol Building on St. Thomas Monday delivering the State of the Territory Address, about 100 residents were outside protesting his, and the Senate’s, every move over the past year.

Assembling outside from about 6 p.m., the crowd spoke out against everything from the 8 percent pay cut to the Senate’s recent run of closed door meetings called to discuss the current economic crisis.

Protestors said the governor had ignored the various unions’ collective bargaining agreements by laying off workers, and that the senators were more interested in representing themselves instead of the people of the territory.

“Whatever happens in the Legislative Hall tonight is supposed to be about the will of the people and the only way for us to show our will is if we stand up and fight back,” said Clarence Payne, who was representing the United Steel Workers’ Supervisors Union Local 9488.

“The anxiety is too high here in the Virgin Islands, people are going home, and we don’t even know who is going to get fired next.” Payne said. “Nothing is systematic, but there are contracts in place that spell out what should be done.”

Payne said his union members were hoping to hear the governor speak about re-hiring “those that were illegally dismissed,” and to announce that he would be scaling back the salaries, along with the perks, given to some of the higher paid government officials.

“We don’t have the tax base to absorb those salaries,” he said. “It’s time that we demonstrate that we’re in a financial crisis.”

Vernelle DeLagarde, president of the St. Thomas-St. John American Federation of Teachers, said her members also came out to show their “dissatisfaction” for those employees that had been dismissed.

“Not necessarily from the Department of Education at this time, but we are here in support of our brothers and sisters that have been terminated already throughout government,” DeLagarde said.

She said, “Our message is to all of the leaders here in the Virgin Islands, a combination of the governor and the Senate, and we are anxious to hear what is going to be said.”

DeLagarde said that the union was hoping to hear that those still employed by the government were going to keep their jobs, and that the governor and Senate were going to find the resources to keep them there.

“With Hovensa closing, we know it’s going to be tight and affect the whole community, but it would be great to hear that we will have a funding source to keep everyone employed,” she said.

Dale Blyden, vice president of the Independent Citizens Movement, carried a sign Monday that called for the dismissal of not only the governor and Senate, but also for the lieutenant governor and delegate to Congress.

“We had expected to get better representation from them and we didn’t get it, so we’re quite unhappy,” he said. “We trusted them and the territory is hurting.”

“How are they going to take care of all those people that have been laid off?” Blyden asked.

“And how is our economy, with the way it is now, going to hold up now that all of these people are going home? We want to know what they are going to do.”

Blyden, like many protestors out Monday, said he was concerned about the large number of police officers that were providing security during the speech, and how the officers would be paid.

“Our next step will be during election time,” Blyden said. “That’s when the voters have the power. For some reason, we have created a democratic dynasty here, and our leaders have realized that they have a massive amount of votes so they keep doing what they want. They have separated themselves from the people, where they are no longer representing us or our businesses, but representing themselves.”

Only Senator Terrence “Positive” Nelson came outside Monday to talk with the protestors, many of whom were carrying large signs or wearing customized t-shirts saying they had been “8 percent raped” by the government.

“I think the number of people out here tonight should triple,” Nelson said. “And I think we should make a big sound byte for a recall.”