March 26, 2007


What happened at the Boston Globe Travel Show this weekend?

Richard and a group of others stood firm in Boston this past weekend while protesting Aruba during the Boston Globel Travel Show. Here is a report by Richard detailing what happened:

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 lamposts, 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.


Deb357 said...

Kudos goes out to Richard et al who were at the Boston protest.

Awsome job keeping Natalee's story alive and letting Aruban ATA know we aren't letting up on the Boycott until Natalee gets justice.

Thank you!

jen3560 said...

Great job, guys!!!!!

Sounds like it was done in a respectful and peaceful manner.

What a step above the Aruban agenda folks!

Good for you!!!!!


Anonymous said...

You may not have been many. But you guys seemed to have made an impact. Great Job!!!!

Anonymous said...

Great job keep up the good work.

Tiffini said...

Awesome job guys!!

Thank you for all your hard work!!