Reports from Valley Forge Convention Center Demonstration/Protest against Aruba Tourism Authority … Justice For Natalee
JUSTICE FOR NATALEE CONTINUES … KUDOS to those that went to Pennsylvania to provide a voice for Natalee Holloway. Here are some accounts from Richard, one of the individuals who participated in the campaign for “Justice for Natalee”. This is a brief report on today’s demonstration/protest against Aruba Tourism Authority. It was held at the Valley Forge Convention Center, or a name very similar to that, although it was billed as happening in a town called King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Somehow there is something appealing in the idea of demonstrating at Valley Forge. It wasn’t QUITE as cold as it probably was in George Washington’s day, but none of us mutinied.
Anyway, here’s a basic overview of what happened, at least as I saw it. Anyone is free to post this on a blog. Those participants who took photos will be asked to send them to the key blogs. We had six participants at the maximum. Four of us post on Scared Monkeys as follows: 10061906, NM, Elaine, and Richard. JusticeforNatalee and her husband dropped in; she had taken part in the “original” Boston protest, and we were all pleased that she joined us. None of the rest of us had ever met, but we all worked together effectively.
Arrangements had been made with security, who gave us a place to stand near a main entrance to the convention center. This place had a huge parking lot, so it wasn’t like the Boston event, where everyone had to pass by us. As there was at least one other main entrance, a number of people might have not seen us. Also, the traffic pattern in the huge parking lot was chaotic at the best. Anyone who pulled over to take our pamphlets, read our signs, or to just take a look risked incurring an accident. I think that a post in front of an entrance would have been safer for everyone.
Still and all, these were the arrangements that security at the event gave us. As in Boston, we were not allowed to hand out literature within the convention center, or to wear “protest clothing” inside. Thanks to Jamie of Alabama, we had received a number of her beautiful signs and sweatshirts. Vicki in Florida deserves lots of credit for supervising all of these things with her usual efficiency and spreading the word to everyone. The main point that’s worth making is that (as far as I know) we heard NOT ONE PRO-ARUBA COMMENT. Not everyone who came to talk with us criticized Aruba, but many did. A number of people signaled their support of us, and (I think) more people here, than in Boston, took some trouble to tell us that they agreed with us in wanting to boycott Aruba. We also heard some interesting remarks. One woman said that she goes to this same travel show every year to tell Aruba that she had no plans to return. She said that he had to cancel one planned trip, and had to forfeit a deposit of $150. When she called to ask if she could get it back, she said, Aruba began a pattern of what she called harassment … making nuisance calls to her from Aruba, threatening, and being generally offensive. She said that she had complained to the FBI about it. Five or six travel agents took our literature and expressed sympathy. Two of them told us that the Aruban ‘delegation’ was annoying all of the other participants; they were loud, noisy, and generally were unpopular and clashed with the others there. Some of us went into the travel show arena (in ‘civilian’ clothes, of course), and their reports confirmed what we were told by some other people: Aruba had more floor space than any other delegation at the event, and yet its booths were getting very little interest. This is a subjective opinion, of course, but the consensus was that almost nobody seemed interested in finding out information on Aruba. One woman who had taken our literature earlier in the day told us that the Aruban booths were nearly deserted, and that she was there when one couple wandered over. One of the workers there began giving them ‘sales talk,’ and she intervened, telling the couple “Don’t go to Aruba, it isn’t even safe. Go ask those people outside (meaning us), and they’ll tell you all about it.” She said that the worker for Aruba just gaped at her. Later on, she said, the couple went over to her privately and said they had decided not to go to Aruba. (Incidentally, except for two or three ‘exotic dancers,’ the staff at the Aruban booths were not Aruban. They appeared to be from a U.S. travel agency. One of us, 10061096, said he thought that even the dancers seemed to be depressed by the lack of activity at the Aruban exhibit.) Yet another person said she had a timeshare in Aruba but would never use it again. One woman and her daughter strolled over to us, said that they had heard about Natalee, and on the basis of what they heard would never go to Aruba. As in Boston, some people asked whether Natalee had been found yet. But I think that most people who reacted to our signs and literature remembered the case, and many said they thought there had been some sort of cover-up. Certainly the broad details were remembered, and many recognized Natalee’s picture. We got quite a number of gestures of support for our cause, and most people who responded seemed to agree that a boycott was a good idea. Some of them mentioned that they had read the book by Beth, Dave, or both. We will be trying to send photos later on. On Sunday (tomorrow), only NM and Richard will be able to take part. (Richard)