Residents are unimpressed by constitutional rights talk
Published: September 13, 2013
Font size: [A] [A] [A]
ST. THOMAS - Community members did not respond warmly to discussions Thursday night about constitutional rights for territorial natives. Neil Weare, president and founder of the We the People Project, visited St. Thomas on Thursday to talk to the community about how they might better advocate for constitutional rights that they are entitled to as Americans.
The We the People Project is an effort to advocate for the constitutional rights of the more than 5 million people living in the nation's territories and Washington, D.C.
"Where you live shouldn't affect your rights as a citizen," Weare said.
Weare argued to a few more than a dozen community members that the territories are part of the United States, thereby granting natives of the Virgin Islands the same constitutional rights as all other U.S. citizens.
Natives to the territory, he argued, should have a congressional vote and should be able to vote for the president of the United States. However, several people argued that the territory was not a part of the country, and therefore natives of the territory did not have the same constitutional rights as citizens.
"We are a colony, and we should not trade in our birthright," said Rudy Krigger Jr., a legislative researcher, noting that his views were independent of his employment for Senator Clarence Payne III.
Others took issue moreso with Weare's idea that the denial of constitutional rights to natives of territories was comparable to the denial of civil rights.
Judith Bourne, a local attorney, said she felt like the territory had an advantage in some respects, such as the ability to have an Olympic committee.
"We have a history in this territory," Bourne said.
Weare countered that he entirely believes in the rights of the territory's citizens to decide what direction they feel the territory should take in pursuing constitutional rights that they do not currently have.
Weare, who is based in Washington, D.C., but originally is from Guam, also visited Puerto Rico this week sharing similar insights.
He feels that each territory should have the discussion of what constitutional rights they want because, in his opinion, each of the territories are entitled to them.
"It's fundamentally contrary to everything we stand for," Weare said, opposing the limited rights of those born in the territories.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email email@example.com.