Nov. 23, 2005 Truck driver Shaka Anthony was at Starfish Market Wednesday to join the checkout lane slowdown spearheaded by St. Croix activist Mario Moorhead and his followers.
"It's just the right thing to do," he said.
About a dozen protestors paid for bottled water with pennies at the slowdown, but Anthony did not give a concrete answer when the Source asked him what the issues were surrounding the event.
"I don't know. I'm just here," he said.
He said he lost a day's pay – usually around $450 per day – to attend the protest.
Moorhead was not one of the people who tied up the store's checkout lanes. Instead, he remained outside. He refused to comment on the issues, but St. John Administrator Julian Harley said later that the protest leaders met with the FBI via video conferencing. He said they wanted to know why the police had named suspects in the David Geiger murder case, but not in Esther Frett's alleged rape.
This is the second protest against Starfish Market, St. John's largest supermarket and by many accounts, a store that's extremely generous when it comes to donating food for community events.
Many shoppers interviewed Wednesday at the market said they just didn't understand what the protest was about.
At a similar event that followed an Oct. 1 rally, Moorhead said he and his followers were seeking answers from federal and local officials regarding St. John resident Esther Frett's alleged rape.
Jennifer Dale, who manages the Marketplace, the shopping center where Starfish Market serves as the anchor, said the event had her confused since she didn't know its purpose.
Echoing the remarks of others, St. John resident Dave Carlson said if the Frett case was the issue, the protestors should be at Government House and the police station.
Several shoppers said they would have to come back later because they didn't have time to stand in line.
"I'm late for work," shopper Ed Gibney said.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley, who was at Starfish Market, blamed all the people of St. John for not speaking out against Moorhead and his group's actions.
Moorhead said at an organizational meeting Tuesday that the group wanted to negotiate with Starfish Market owner David Mugar, but wouldn't say why.
Starfish Market manager Lenyse Shomo said Wednesday that Mugar is in Boston, where he is based. She said his team is looking into what it will do about the protest. She said because the store accepts Food Stamps and Women's, Infants and Children program vouchers, the store had certain constraints on its actions.
"But we don't want the disruption in business," she said, and she did not want the customers' experience hurt either.
She said later Wednesday that the protestors had talked to Mugar but she did not know what was said.
Shomo said Starfish Market employs 74 people, making it one of the island's larger employers.
Several people, including Shomo, spoke about their concerns for the island's economy if situations like this one continue.
"This economy works for everybody black and white," Shomo said.
Moorhead said at the Tuesday meeting that the protest was timed to coincide with one of Starfish Market's busiest days, the day before Thanksgiving.
Taxi driver Garnett Alexander, who had dropped off some Caneel Bay Resort guests so they could shop, said if visitors don't come to St. John because word of supermarket protest and other earlier events gets out, he won't have work.
Alexander said St. John could handle its own problems and didn't need people to come from St. Croix thinking they could assist.
"The people following Moorhead are a bunch of lunatics," he said.
Police officers, including Deputy Police Chief Angelo Hill, were on the scene. Hill said he wouldn't be there the entire day, but would be back and forth.
Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Andrew Rutnik, a St. John resident, told one of the protestors that it wasn't enough they had destroyed St. Croix's economy, they were now trying to do the same to St. John's. A verbal confrontation ensued, and Rutnik and the protestor both left the supermarket followed by the police.
As news of this latest disruption in the island's life circulated around St. John, several people weighed in.
The Rev. Charles Crespo of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church said that several members of the clergy were active in many of the summer and fall's activities surrounding the Frett case. He said he and others helped organize a rally in support of Frett and her husband, Jerry, after someone allegedly wrote racial epithets on their car.
Protestors on Wednesday put plastic bags, newspapers and bottles of water in front of their faces as they were being photographed.
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