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The Senator Stands by His Proposals

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Dear Source:
Verdel Peterson, instead of being "astonished" by my proposal to reduce gun violence, murders, and lawlessness in our community, I wish you had paid attention to my plan and its explanation on my radio talk show. Most of all, I really hoped that you could show more sensitivity, caring and concern for the families. Our community is plagued with senseless killings and lawlessness. I wonder if you would tell the families of the victims of these senseless killings "Don't Mess With My Civil Rights" as a solution, after the loss they have suffered? The fact that you called my radio talk show and was offended when I identified you by name, speaks volumes. In addition, your letter demonstrates insensitivity for these islands, our people, and community which makes me wonder whether you wrote the letter. Nevertheless, I will respond.
In 1972 Governor Evans declared a state of emergency to get federal officials to come in and assist in the apprehension of the perpetrators of the Fountain Valley murders. Yet, to you lawlessness, crimes and murders, in the Virgin Islands seem to be fine, as long as your "civil rights" remain protected. However, when you wrote your letter you could not have known the current state of your civil rights in the United States and how they have been systematically eroded.
The United States Supreme Court has practically obliterated the Fourth Amendment. Most legal scholars recognize that the Fourth Amendment is practically dead. In addition, Congress buried the Fourth Amendment by creating the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security. These clever creations, based on fears, bad foreign policy and a disregard for basic human rights, actually leave you, I, and most Americans without the civil rights and civil liberties you think you have. Visit federal buildings and find out color codes for security that have nullified the constitutional protections you believe you have. When you enter an airport, do you think the Fourth Amendment and your civil rights have any bearing on the searches, seizures or how the TSA employees deal with you? Police searches are practically always upheld in our Courts. Few Judges suppress evidence based on illegal searches. Clearly you do not understand how President Bush, a Republican Congress and a Republican appointed majority in the United States Supreme Court have changed the interpretation of the United States Constitution and what it means to American citizens.
Furthermore, the Patriot Act provides: (5) the term "domestic terrorism" means activities that-
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended-
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
You state that in your letter, the murders are not acts of terrorism. Use of a machine gun, killing two and wounding four in a residential housing community, on Christmas Day, is in my view domestic terrorism. Drive by shootings, the continued unsolved heinous murders of 2006 and 2007 in our territory, and the numerous unsolved crimes, taken together are all acts that terrorize our Virgin Islands Community. The crime data, taken together with our tourist based economy, constitute acts of "domestic terrorism" against the people of our territory. This is not a media generated phobia, or lies used to start a war. These are facts, documented and real. The fact that you have already lost many civil rights and liberties, and you have not realized that the Fourth Amendment has been rendered ineffective, is really not your fault. What I find troubling though, is that you don't mind young black men getting gunned down as long as no one searches your car without a warrant? While this community faces serious unsolved murders, robberies, and an assault on our laws, you are concerned about the right to criticize a senator, not having your car searched on your way to church or ridiculous comparisons to Cuba, Haiti and other completely irrelevant matters. You seem to condone and justify the possession of illegal weapons. When I read this portion of your letter, I could not believe what I was reading. Illegal weapons include all types of guns and weapons of mass destruction. What led you to attempt to justify citizens breaking our laws, especially when illegal weapons are our biggest problem? In your attempt to object and assault me you have exposed your belief that since the police are ineffective citizens can break the law and possess illegal weapons. This type of thinking is wrong and leads to lawlessness. You even seem to know that citizens possess "illegal weapons" but "they are not terrorists since they are not a threat to the civilian population".
Your letter was very bad for this community, and it is simply wrong and inconsistent. There is a segment of our population targeted for criminal activity; they are our young black men. The criminal activities, those who are doing it and condoning it, have intimidated our government, the people of the Virgin Islands. Intimidation defined by Webster's Dictionary is defined as "to make afraid or to make timid." You are unaware that the majority of our residents fear reporting illegal activity, they fear driving alone late at night, they fear going to certain parts of the island, they fear attending certain public activities, and even fear attending certain schools. Yes, our government exists in fear, and you and others who think like you, refuse to acknowledge our problems or offer any real solutions. You surely have not been seeing, hearing or feeling what has been happening regarding crime in our community. You write like an ostrich with your head in the sand.
Reckless protests, not following laws, not acknowledging procedures, or not respecting others, all lead to division and lawlessness. Some "protesters" have called senators monkeys, bastards, thieves, assholes and other very demeaning, derogatory and racially charged terms. If you attended the Calypso Monarch Competition you would have heard the backlash to the division caused by those you seem to call "protesters". I was not surprised, but I am concerned by the insensitivity of persons like you and how such callous insensitivity has caused many problems in the Virgin Islands over the last 40 years.
History is replete with "denials" that have led to disastrous results. The western world was in denial of Hitler's atrocities until he moved against certain countries. The south denied that slavery was a problem. Despite your denials, and your attempt to protect your so called civil rights, while many young men die, you cite examples that utterly contradict your assertions. Timothy McVeigh killed hundreds of people using a bomb; the accused in the JFK shooting used several weapons including a machine gun to kill 2 and wound 4 people. How would you feel if you lived in JFK community? The citing of Vieques is even more ridiculous since the protesters simply wanted to stop the use of Vieques, the island where people live, commute, work and grow food, from being used as a test site for deadly bombs.
Contrary to your assertion, no one is panicking except you with your assertion that any attempt to take on criminals may mess with your civil rights. In addition your callousness is even more egregious when you mention the Klu Klux Clan. How does the Klu Klux Klan even enter into a discussion about violence, murder or crimes in the Virgin Islands? This is not the Deep South or the times when blacks were called monkeys, bastards, thieves, assholes and other demeaning derogatory terms. Forty-seven families are grieving beca
use of the atrocities committed against our community in 2007 and you mention the Klu Klx Klan in your letter.
Last, I'm not creating hysteria, but I'm offering proposals and/or solutions to a problem that you seem to ignore. Other jurisdictions have used car searches very effectively to reduce violence. Your letter fails to recognize and accept that, in 2007, the Virgin Islands experienced its highest homicide rate ever. Local Newspapers provide a summary of all of the homicides for you to review and digest. Whether a temporary State of Emergency is declared for about three months and we mobilize our National Guard, or bring in the U.S. Marshalls to search cars to extract illegal guns from our community; whether random car searches are conducted by the police without a declaration of a State of Emergency to collect illegal guns, something must be done NOW to stop gun violence and catch the persons who are terrorizing our community. I was elected to lead, offer proposals, and offer possible solutions to the territories problems. I have placed my proposals to the community for review and I stand by them.
Sen. Ronald E. Russell
27th Legislature of the Virgin Islands

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to [email protected].

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