Saturday, October 03, 2009

The True Story of six americans arrested in Antigua

Since this story broke there has been a non stop flow of bad publicity towards Antigua which I suppose is expected if the facts are not brought to light. Why the facts are not being put into the public and more important the internet's watchful eye is simply because Antigua is not very good at PR. The Ministry of Tourism and the Tourism Department should have a proper PR department which is set up to out little fires before they get out of control. IT seems as though we here in Antigua always have some smoke on the ground!
The facts I will write here have been gathered from and The Antigua Sun newspaper, The Daily Observer newspaper and several people who were saw what went down. Most of the stuff that is written in the International press is coming from the people who have been charged.

The guys seen in the above photo which was featured today in the New York Daily News got on the Carnival Victory for a seven day cruise which stopped in Antigua back in early September. When they got off the ship here in St. Johns they were approached by a taxi driver on the boardwalk next to the ship. He asked them if they wanted to go to the beach and told them the rate was US $6 per person to go to Jolly Harbour's Castaway Beach. A few of them told him that he was ripping them off and that there was no way they'd pay that. The cab driver walked away as did the group of eleven young men and women from New York. Three of the eleven stopped and asked another cab driver what the price was to take the group of eleven to Castaways. He also told them that it was US $6 per person each way or $132 round trip in total. The tourists complained and said the same thing as told the last cab driver using words like "ripping us off".
The driver seen here in a photo taken from The Antigua Sun
Said that things were slow and he'd do it for US $5 instead of the US $6. One of the group said they wouldn't pay more than US $50 each way. The driver told them that the rate sheet says US $6 per person and even at $5 per person it was more than they were paying. Finally he gave in and said he'd take them.
According to court reports he took the eleven of them and even made a stop to a local shop for one of the girls to buy a phone card. She came back to the cab complaining how the card was a rip off.
He said he arrived at Castaways and wasn't paid anything. He had to wait there for them so that he could get paid. The stayed at Castaways. For the record Castaways is a beach bar and rest. which was closed at the time. One of the Taxi Association people was organizing a beach party for cruise passengers each week there where people could drink and relax on the beach. After spending time there the eleven tourists came back to the same cab driver and asked to be taken back to town. He says that when they got outside Big Banana Pizzas on Redcliffe Street just a few minutes walk from the ship which was in plain view as in this photo from the same spot, one of the eleven asked how much they had to pay. The cab driver told them it was US $100. Remember three of the eleven had negotiated with the driver. It was another of the eleven who asked how much they owed. Immedeately there was noise and cussing. Some yelled that there was no way they were paying more than US $50 and that they were being robbed. The taxi driver told them that he had already given them a $32 discount on the stated rate sheet charge and that he'd take them to the police if they didn't pay. One of the tourists yelled out "take us to the police". They slowly drove about a US "block" to the police station as there was plenty of traffic and people walking on the streets. When they arrived at the St. Johns Police Station a uniformed police officer was just walking in and asked the cab driver what was going on. He said he could clearly see that there was a problem and told the cab driver to drive into the station's yard. As the cab stopped one of the tourists jumped out and said something like "that fu$%ing nigger is trying to rip us off". With that the officer said he was placing him under arrest for the use of foul language in a police station. With that two others in the gang of eleven jumped between the officer and the guy he was arresting pushing and shoving. A female officer came in to help and was beaten to the ground by several of the eleven. From testimony in court a huge fight played out with five of the eleven INCLUDING THE ONES WHO FIRST MADE THE DEAL WITH THE TAXI DRIVER not getting involved. In fact, they paid their taxi bill and went back to the ship without getting into any trouble with the cops.
The other six have been accused of several charges including assault on a police officer.
They spent a night or two in jail before being bailed out facing their trial. Despite many reports the the contrary THEY HAVE NOT BEEN HELD SINCE THEIR ARREST! Their trial has been rushed through with them even operating on Saturdays. Many Jamaican and other non nationals have been saying that the tourists have been receiving special treatment with this speedy trial. I agree with them but that's just my opinion. I was attacked along with several other employees at the late night bar that i was working at by several thugs from London. These guys didn't want to pay a US $18 bar tab and became ultra aggressive when they were asked to pay up at the end of the night. They ended up throwing bar stools, beer bottles, glasses and glass ash trays at us. We couldn't believe that they could erupt into so much violence over less than US $20. Some people are saying that this isn't possible, but I have seen it first hand. Some are also saying that Antiguan taxi drivers are often trying to over charge people. In this case he undercharged them.
Carnival has pulled its ship out of Antigua leaving millions of dollars in revenue. Why have they done this? I think they have done this because most people on the net don't have the facts and are commenting negatively on the case. Bad reporting by the US media on this thing coupled with all the forum comments has fueled the negative vibe towards Antigua. Then you have the stupid Cruise Association and ALP here locally supporting the six tourists and the US representative too. There is no wonder Carnival pulled out. They were forced to by all the media hype against Antigua. In my opinion, this is one time (one of the few) when Antigua has gotten the bum rap. I keep thinking what would have happened had Antiguan's messed with American cops or if the 6 had beaten up some other cruise shippers here while on the island. If we had let them go without dealing with them imagine the bad press? The whole thing stinks IMHO.

5/10/09 Since i wrote this, 5 of the 6 changed their plea to guilty and saying that they were sorry asked for forgiveness. "The truth shall set you free"