Despite an attempt by a St. Croix-based group to disrupt business at St. Johns largest grocery store, Starfish Market, on one of its busiest days of the year, the day before Thanksgiving, island residents kept to their routines Wednesday, November 23.
Members of We the People for Justice, the St. Croix-based group led by radio personality Mario Moorehead, supported members of the recentlyformed St. John-based Association for Equal Rights and Justice as they bought groceries at Starfish, and paid for their purchases with pennies.
Group members then immediately returned the items, causing long lines in the check-out aisles.
Starfish officials attempted to limit the impact of the organized action by posting signs at the entrance to the store advising customers coins had to be rolled when used in purchases.
Intent of Demonstration Unclear
The intent of the demonstration at Starfish was unclear on Wednesday morning when Moorhead and his group assembled at The Marketplace, but Love City took it in stride.
Volunteers from the St. John Animal Care Center (ACC) set up their weekly pet adoption display of cats and dogs near Moorehead outside of Starfish Market on the first floor of The Marketplace just as they do every Wednesday.
We the People for Justices Moorehead was even offered the opportunity to help the ACC cause when he informed an ACC volunteer he would remain at The Marketplace all day.
Youll be here all day, the ACC volunteer said to Moorehead. Great, then maybe you can help us out.
Moorehead and other members of the St. Croix and St. John groups were at the shopping center until mid-afternoon when two representatives of the groups returned from a teleconferencewith law enforcement and other government officials in the early afternoon at the V.I. Police Department Leander Jurgen Command in Cruz Bay.
Business as Usual
For other shops and services at The Marketplace, it was business as usual during the protest action. The Book and Bean did a normal bustling morning coffee business.
Inside Starfish residents and tourists alike patiently waited in the long lines that snaked through the grocery store.
Moorehead originally formed We the People for Justice on St. Croix in the wake of a reported rape on the East End of St. John on August 30.
Rumors quickly spread throughout the V.I. that the crime was racially motivated and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents were brought in to lead the investigation.
Lack of Information Complained
Local and federal law enforcement officials have not released any information about the reported rape which has fueled the frustration of residents across the territory.
We the People for Justice members traveled to St. John on October 1 for a peace march and unity rally in Cruz Bay to pressure officials to release information about the reported rape case.
A ceremonial fire burn, which marks the date in when contract laborers in St. Croix staged an uprising in Frederickstead to protest low wages and poor working conditions, was conducted the evening of October 1 in Coral Bay.
In the weeks following the rally, members of We the People for Justice staged sit-ins at numerous Cruz Bay restaurants hoping to pressure federal agencies to release information. Despite the sit-ins, no information has been released about the reported rape by any federal or local law enforcement agency.
Crucian group members eventually returned to St. Croix and St. John members formed the Association for Equal Rights and Justice.
The original core group of the St. John Association for Equal Rights and Justice identified themselves as Delroy Anthony, LeeAnn Oquendo, Laurel Sewer, Chezni Charles, Veronica Jackson, Ivy Moses, Monique Mathias, Magabe Calixte, Abigail Hendricks, Roy Reid and Pierrette Clendenin.
Moorhead and other We the People for Justice members returned to St. John in late November in anticipation of a VIPD press conference scheduled at the Leander Jurgen Command on November 21.
Mooreheads group protested outside of the police command during the closed press conference along with members of the Association for Equal Rights and Justice.
At the press conference, VIPD officials announced arrest warrants had been issued for two men in connection with the murder of David Geiger and the attempted murder of his son Nathan.
Geiger was bludgeoned to death and set on fire on October 29 at his Grunwald home. His 14-year-old son Nathan was severely beaten in the attack.
Renell Lettsome, 21, is wanted for murder, attempted murder, assault, arson and use of a dangerous weapon during the act of a crime of violence. Lettsome may be on Tortola, according to VIPD Commissioner Elton Lewis.
Tullius C. Stewart, 29, wanted for grand larceny and possession of stolen property, returned to the Territory from California and turned himself in to VIPD offiicials on Thursday, November 24.
Stewart was released without bail on Friday, November 25, by Territorial Court Judge Kendall. Stewart was ordered to maintain his employment in California.
Commissioner Lewis did not offer any information on the August rape report. The FBI has total control of that case, said Lewis when asked about the reported rape on the isolated East End of the island.
FBI officials also refused comment. We are making no comment in regard to the St. John matter, said FBI spokesperson Omayra Melendez.