Report by: Shannon Anderson and Molly Anderson
At approximately 4:30pm Antiguan time, we walked down to the beach next to the Cocobay Resort, accompanied by the photographer. She had been taking pictures of us at the resort. The dining pavilion was already set-up on the beach, as were the dining tables and flower arrangements. The barbeque was set up and the steel drum band had arrived. 13 of our friends and family were already waiting for us on the beach and greeted us on arrival with cheering and clapping. After a few more photographs, we started the readings we had written for our party. We had several readings which were started by a female family friend. Shannon noticed a man in a straw hat and t-shirt behind our group who was speaking loudly on a cell phone and also saw a police vehicle and policeman standing further back by the tree. Shannon mentioned the police presence, however did not think it was regarding the party. Kelly, Shannon’s sister started reading her poem and at this point the policeman started to walk through our group telling us to stop. The man in the straw hat was clearly directing the police at the scene. The policeman started to talk to Larry, one of Molly’s friends, and we watched as more police cars showed up. There appeared to be three police vehicles and 6 to 8 police officers on the beach.
We walked towards the tree to get out of the direct sun and one of the female officers started shouting at us to stop walking. We told her that we just wanted to get out of the sun and still she shouted at us to stop walking. We continued to the tree and three officers physically blocked our exit and prevented us from leaving the beach. The police officers would not talk to us. Shannon introduced herself twice and extended her hand asking for them to introduce themselves, which they initially refused, then one of the female officers muttered her name and refused to give it again. O’Neal Richards the manager of the resort, was talking to the policeman in charge Officer Crumb(?) and another police officer was telling our female friend that she had to go with them. She asked if she was under arrest. The police officer refused to answer and told her that it would be better for all of us if we went with them. O’Neal came over to us and explained that we would have to go to the police station for questioning. Officer Crumb(?) walked over with him and also refused to shake Shannon’s hand and only introduced himself after she asked his name.
During the ride, the police officers joked about their lives and that they were going to be working overtime tonight because of us. The male officer said that he was happy that President elect Obama was going to be President of the United States because he was black and that he was one of “them.” The police drove us through a large market in town and everyone jeered at us. Through town, the police officer drove no faster than 10 mph.
They drove the car to a side alleyway with no signs on the building to identify it as a police building. There were no police vehicles in this alley and all three of us became increasingly frightened. The police directed us towards a staircase that led to a second floor. A man in a dirty polo shirt and sweat pants met us and directed us towards a room at the back. We all sat down in the 3 chairs placed in front of a desk. Eventually the man in the polo-shirt came in. Shannon introduced herself and extended her hand.
The man initially refused to shake her hand, then did so reluctantly and introduced himself as Superintendent Henry Christian. Our friend asked him why we were here and he told us that he didn’t know all of the details and it was what they were finding out. He told us that laws had been broken and we were all in serious trouble. Our friend asked him what laws he was speaking of and he refused to answer. Our friend then asked him if we were under arrest and again he refused to answer. He took our names, nationality and place of residence. The officers who drove us to this jail also sat in the room with us. Henry asked us to start discussing what had happened and Molly started to explain. Henry interrupted her and told her that anything we said could be used against us. Our friend spoke up and asked if we all needed attorneys and he said that was what we needed to find out. He started to question her about her profession back in the United States and she refused to comment and at this time asked to speak to a lawyer and also asked to speak to the US Embassy. Henry called for Officer Crumb(?), and around this time several people walked in the room. It was difficult to tell who was in the office as many people were behind us, but the photographer from our party came in as did her boss (I believe the photographer was there because she had refused to give the police the photographs she had taken of us) and another man came in and sat behind us. As before, none of the new men in the small room introduced themselves or were in uniform. The man behind us was wearing baggy street clothes and had on a baseball cap that sat at an angle on his head like a teenager. Our friend asked his name and he said that it was Ryan and was the Station Officer. He had no badge and offered no credentials.
Molly’s father and friend Larry had come to the police station and had repeatedly asked to see us. They were shouted at by the police in the station and were told that it was not their country and to just sit down and be quiet. Larry had contacted the American Consulate and the man he spoke with was not very helpful and said that one of us was probably going to be held overnight and that there was nothing much he could do. After we were released Larry contacted him again and he was not aware that we had been released and seemed surprised to learn that there were no charges against any of us.
We returned to the resort and all felt very afraid. Our experience at the police station gave us the impression that we could have been hurt or sexually assaulted while at the station and could still that evening. Our hotel room was a private cottage on the beach and we were all scared that someone would break in during the night. We barricaded our doors with furniture. After speaking with the staff from the resort the next morning and discussing the recent shooting of a British couple on their honeymoon at the neighboring resort (they had been in a similar secluded cottage and had been attacked in the night as they slept), they advised us that locals could be roused up and we could be at great risk. Fearing for our lives, we left the country on the next plane.
We asked the resort about the man on the beach in the straw hat. He had been yelling into his phone demanding to speak with the Antiguan Ministry of Justice and seemed to be directing the police. No-one seems to know who this man was.
On Monday morning the following story appeared on the front page of the local newspaper:
Police prevent same-sex marriage
Monday November 10 2008
By; Aarati Jagdeo
A same-sex marriage ceremony was prevented by police last Saturday afternoon, after they received a call that such a union was set to take place at Cocos Hotel and Restaurant.
According to Inspector Cornelius Charles, the female couple is from California and had invited friends and family down to take part in the ceremony.
When police arrived at Cocos, they met everything set up and in place for a wedding ceremony, which had not yet begun.
The police then rounded up all the individuals involved, including the couple and the conductors of the ceremony.
After some consultation with the heads of the police force and collaboration with the director of public prosecutions (DPP), it was decided that the couple would not be charged because the actual act of marriage did not occur.
According to Charles, had the marriage occurred, only then would there have been an offence whereby the couple could have been charged.
The couple was instead warned and released.
We feel that this would have further endangered us if we had not left when we did. We were very frightened. Some of these events may be a little out of sequence, but this was as we remember them to be.