Jan. 14, 2002 – About 20 demonstrators stood silently across the road from the Legislative Building on St. Thomas on Monday evening, dressed mainly in black, each holding a candle.
The group, members of Citizens for Fiscally Responsible Government, held signs protesting the manner in which the government spends the taxpayers' money.
Erva Denham held a placard stating simply "Services for taxes paid."
Carol Lotz-Felix, president of Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries, said that the government leadership "needs to be watched," a sentiment her colleagues seconded.
Aside from talking with reporters, the group members maintained silence, although they encouraged passing motorists to honk their horns, which almost all of those driving by around 6:45 p.m. — shortly before the scheduled start of the governor's State of the Territory address inside — were doing.
Jason Budsan, spokesman for the group, said: "We want those people across the street to hear us. Our group has said 'Enough is enough!'"
The gathering was to catch the attention of Gov. Charles W. Turnbull as he arrived at the building to deliver his fifth annual address. The governor did address the protesters — and others who had demonstrated at his inaugural festivities on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix — in his speech, declaring they were observing "the tradition of American democracy." He was critical, however, of what he described as the disruptive noise of some of the earlier protests.
After the governor's speech, Sens. Emmett Hansen II and Almando "Rocky" Liburd wondered aloud why protesters hadn't appeared when the public high schools lost accreditation or when killings rose to new highs last year. Hansen had sponsored legislation to impose stiff penalties for crimes involving handguns, only to see it initially vetoed by the governor then face Senate stonewalling when he reintroduced it. "Why weren't they out protesting then?" he asked.
Budsan said mobilizing over the raises was a "first step." The citizens group, joined by labor unions and other interested citizens, plans to bring public attention to other areas of concern including reaccreditation, crime and health issues, he said.
Plans by the coalition of groups had been under way for what would likely have been larger, noisier Monday evening demonstrations, until Turnbull vetoed the pay raises on Friday. Those at a Friday night planning meeting decided to stage a silent protest nonetheless, to express their wider fiscal concerns.
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