If one ever thinks they can’t make a difference against the establishment, think again. The United States of America is founded on the right of “Freedom of Speech.” This is a concept that Aruba, its officials and the tourism authority learned over this past weekend. Even as our people protested to given Natalee a voice, people with this show tried to take away their right to protest. However, this is America, not Aruba.
Arubans seem unwilling to stand up to their government who know deep down in their hearts that their government tourism officials messed up the Natalee Holloway investigation. A police investigation that can best be described as a joke. Here is a word of wisdom to the many hard working, honorable Aruban’s that have been affected by what their officials have inflicted upon them; people all over the world have stood up to their governments to do the right thing. In the US and abroad expressing one’s freedom of speech and rights is a noble endeavor. You to can speak out about your declining economy and why. If a individual can stand up to a tank and win, imagine what many could do?
Tiananmen Square protests in 1989
Armed only with the desire to do what was right, inform people of Aruba, its dangers and Natalee Holloway five people set out to take on what is the million dollar tourism industry at the Boston Globe Travel Show. Richard, Hotshot, Observer, J4N and her husband should all be commended for their efforts.
(Special sign made especially for Beth Twitty & Natalee)
Information is a tremendous weapon against those that who would hope to squelch it and keep people uninformed as to the truth. Imagine the money that Aruba spent in marketing for this travel show. Now imagine the publicity that the five Monkeys received by being on local Boston TV getting their word out and informing people as they entered the convention center. Think that did not leave a mark and infuriate many at the ATA? We had asked Richard to write some of his thoughts and experiences in Boston. The following is from Richard, in his own words:
Some blogs are interested in hearing about the vigil at the Boston Globe Travel Show of March 23-25, so here’s my report. None of us knew what to expect (I had never organized a protest like this before), but we all agree that it was a positive event in pressuring Aruba Tourism Authority and in keeping Natalee’s case in the public eye. Apparently some of the TV coverage was played (I was told that my “exclusive” interview with the local Fox News, exclusive only because the other four people weren’t around at the time, did get aired.)
I got there Friday morning, armed with handouts I’d written and had printed. Friday was was for setting up exhibits, and was not open to the public. But we thought it best to have a presence there for all three days.
I got there around 11 a.m. At the entrance to the convention center was a rather unpleasant-looking man who seemed to be Aruban. I told a policeman there who I was, and got a ”dirty look” from the Aruban, who went back inside. Five minutes later, someone from the Boston Globe came out and asked to see my permit to protest. I showed it to him, whereupon he shook his head and went back inside.
So it seems likely that the ATA knew we would be there and was on the alert.
The police guy in charge of the event told me the rules … which mainly were, don’t block people going into the event and don’t block the sidewalk. No affixing signs to anything; we could hold them, but not paste them on buildings or lam posts, etc. Fair enough.
One major disappointment was that we could NOT display our “Natalee T-shirts” inside the convention center. We’d planned to do this as a silent way of making our point. They all had Natalee’s picture on them; some had ‘Boycott Aruba’ slogans also, some didn’t.
I couldn’t see how this could be prohibited, and still don’t, but was told that it would be regarded as a demonstration inside the convention center, which was against the rules (the permit applied only to the outside), and that anyone who tried it would be in trouble. (Since I was the coordinator, the police said, I’d be held responsible for keeping everyone in line.)
So we didn’t do it, disappointed though we were. Our strategy then had to concentrate on the outside. I held out handouts and just stood outside. That afternoon, Kathy showed up with a big sign she’d had made saying “Justice for Natalee.” That helped give some focus.
Also Friday, one Aruban hotel owner (from the U.S.) came over and was very supportive. I won’t say much about her, because I promised her confidentiality and got the impression the ATA might come down on her. But she gave me her card, and said she would be glad to give us any help or any info that she could, and that she basically strongly supported our doing what we were doing (although she said she didn’t think there was a cover-up).
She also said something interesting: according to her, the van der Sloots are practically ostracized on the island now. I don’t know if what she says is true, of course. I think she might be a useful contact for the family. She also told me that Aruban tourism has definitely taken a big hit.
Kathy left the sign, so for the rest of the day I held that up and gave out handouts.
On Saturday, there were five of us. Ironically, our inability to do anything inside the building made us more effective on the outside. There was only one entrance to the center, at least for public use, and Aruba’s big booth was very near the entrance. So with our sign, people going in couldn’t miss us. From time to time, the ATA people would come out and take a cigarette break. They mostly tried to ignore us, but not offensively so. The most obnoxious was a blond white lady (Dutch?) who seemed to imply that there was no difference between Aruba and what the U.S. does, etc. Apparently she was very rude to some of the people who dropped by Aruba’s booth too. But I think that once I saw the guy who had been out on the sidewalk when I arrived. He refused to look at us in any way.
We had a few hundred handouts, and almost all of them were given out. Many people who took them had at least a residual knowledge of the case (e.g., “Who was Natalee? Oh, right, I remember now … they still haven’t found her?”), and a lot of people remembered it clearly. And most of the comments we got were supportive and agreeing.
Saturday afternoon, I had the good idea of asking people who took the handouts, “If you agree with us, please go tell the people at the Aruban booth.” And evidently a fair number did. One guy told me he talked to four people there, saying why he would never go to Aruba. (Interestingly, some of us went in and tried to talk with the Aruban delegation. At first, some of them evidently replied that their government was lousy. I think later on they just told people that they weren’t supposed to comment on the case.) One couple were driving by the convention center, saw our sign, pulled over and waved for a handout. Even some of the staff working inside came over and asked for the handouts. And on one occasion, a guy working for a catering service began talking to passers-by too.
All in all, it was a productive thing to do. I certainly think that the Aruban people at the event will be reporting back about the hostile comments they got. The TV coverage can’t have hurt. And since Boston is a big center for Aruban tourism, it was a good place to appear.
Let’s hope we can get this going nationwide, so that anywhere ATA appears it will be confronted. I picked up some pointers on doing this, and think results were good. We were all enthusiastic and dedicated.