Sept. 27, 2005 While St. John's top leaders stress that the "Stopping Hate Crimes in the VI: Solidarity with the Frett Family and Others" march and rally planned Saturday will be a peaceful event, some people aren't so sure.
"The Crucians especially should stay home," one white St. John resident said.
She did not want to be identified.
One black St. John resident, who also did not want to be identified, said he fears that the march and rally will flame tensions already burning.
"They'll use it as an excuse. Some people are going to look at it as a chance to get even," he said.
A contingent of St. Croix residents led by Mario Moorehead and Chenzira Kherishetapheru have organized a group called We the People for Justice on Contract Day. They have said they were contacted by St. John residents for help in light of recent alleged racial incidents.
St. John's struggle with racial tensions spilled into the news when someone wrote racial epithets on Esther and Jerry Frett's car, parked at their East End home. This incident happened June 20. The Fretts are black.
Then, on Aug. 29, Frett reported she was raped near her home.
Tension 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.
The St. Croix group met with more than 100 residents Friday at St. John School on Gifft Hill to outline their plans.
Alvis Christian, a member of the St. John-based Virgin Islanders Unity Group, which is coordinating efforts with the St. Croix organization, stressed that Saturday's event will be peaceful.
"I say to white people, come out and unite with us in this march," Christian said.
He and St. John Administrator Julien Harley, who are both black, said that the police will be out in force to make sure no incidents occur.
Christian said that if "bad boys" cause problems at the march and rally, they'll be escorted off the field by the police.
The black resident who did not want to be identified said that St. John has many, many nice white people who call St. John home.
"And there's going to be a lot of people on this island who will look out for them," he said.
However, he said that the community needs to get its problem under control.
Christian said that various community groups will have tables set up at the Winston Wells Ballfield to inform people about their activities.
"We want to sign up new members," Coral Bay Community Council president Sharon Coldren said.
Coldren is white.
While she declined to comment on the recent alleged crimes, she said that some of St. John's problems come from rapid growth, the fact that infrastructure hasn't kept pace with development and frustration with government.
Other white residents agreed, with several saying that the problems are economic rather than racial.
"The Crucians are misdirected in what they are doing," a white resident said.
The island's land prices are sky high, which has squeezed out many middle class people, both black and white, from home ownership. In recent years, numerous parcels of land were sold to people who visit only sporadically. Most of the homes are in the vacation villa market the rest of the year.
St. John businessman Albert Willis, who is white, pointed out that across the country, land prices are high in places where people want to live.
St. John resident Sandy West, who is white, said that the police have not been properly trained.
She said that the lack of information from the police about the alleged crimes has helped fuel the tensions.
St. John resident Henry Boyd, who is black, said that people coming to St. John from St. Croix may not be such a good idea, but he said he did see that some white people were causing the racial problems.
"We have a handful of people here trying to stop St. John from being Love City," Boyd said.
The black resident who did not want to be identified agreed with Boyd, saying that he didn't like what was going on.
In response to worries that St. John's tourism market will dry up when word gets out about the racial tensions, Christian said that if the residents come together positively on this issue, tourism will be strengthened.
The situation has already made Internet chat rooms.
Christian said the Saturday march will begin at 10 a.m. at the Winston Wells Ballfield. It will run through Cruz Bay streets, ending up at the ballfield. He said several people will speak. And the organization will serve lunch.
He said he had no information on a motorcade from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay organizers of the St. Croix group said they planned, but said any Fireburn in Coral Bay, if it happened, would involve only a small symbolic fire, not a big bonfire.
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