2,000 strike backers march on Government House
By Jean P. Greaux Jr., St. Thomas Source, 24 October 2000
Nearly 2,000 people turned out on St. Thomas to rally, march and protest Friday in support of American Federation of Teachers members whose eight-day strike has crippled the territory's public education system.
Resembling at times a scene from the J'ouvert carnival tramp, demonstrators sang songs, waved placards and chanted as the sea of bodies flowed from Emancipation Garden to Government House and then on to the Legislature Building.
At Emancipation Garden, teachers, parents and students sang of their displeasure to the tune of popular songs such as "His Eye Is on the Sparrow:"
With three cruise ships in port, striking teachers and supporters mingled with hundreds of tourists in Post Office Square as they moved on toward Government House. There, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull came out to meet the crowd.
Even with a bullhorn, Turnbull could hardly get a sentence out above the shouting and jeering. "I sympathize with you because I am a teacher myself. I know that you teachers have not received an increase for seven years," he said, as the crowd piled onto the steps at Government House and lined the narrow Government Hill roadway.
Turnbull attempted to placate the noisy crowd by explaining that the administration did the best it could by identifying $11 million which the Senate approved in special session and the governor signed Thursday.
Demonstrators marched on to the Legislature Building, where Sens. Judy M. Gomez and Donald "Ducks" Cole addressed the teachers. Cole said he understood the plight of the teachers, having been in a 1976 strike himself, but he was also drowned out by the shouting.
The Senate Finance Committee did not miss a beat inside, as it continued hearings on Fiscal Year 2001 budget-related measures