\Successful Raid Against Deadly Forces in Leone\

I would like to highly commend and laud the Deputy Commissioner and the entire Police Force for the daring and hazardous raid that was well executed and conducted in the village of Leone, December 3, 2011.

Round or about 0730 in front of the old Doc's Gym (a favorite and popular fund raising location) a few members of the Mafutaga Tina and their supportive children from the "Siona le Mauga Paia" church were setting up for their fund raising drive. This group is led by Aunty Fa'agase and Aunty Vea.

Forty five minutes later 5 high powered black DPS trucks and vans, with reinforcements in each vehicle surrounded the group. The old ladies were shocked and dismayed as several policemen and police women dismounted from their black vehicles waving a typewritten piece of paper. It indicated in English the rules against fund raising activities along the roadway. There was the immediate threat of confiscating all their equipment, furniture, funds and incarceration if they did not immediately disband. This entire police force was there to enforce this rule.

Aunty Faagase had to pass the paper to a younger member to read it. As this small group of terrorized old ladies slowly started to disband, it was evident on their faces how shocked, confused and embarrassed they were. This police show of force was holding up the east and west traffic. Bus loads of passengers were sure this was a major drug bust. The ‘Mafutaga Tina' was made to feel and look as if they were criminals selling contraband. When they were just trying to raise funds, to build their Siona church hall.

As I drove the silent ‘mafutaga tina' heading back to central Leone there was an even worse sight to be seen. In front of Faivae's guest house the ‘Siona Le Mauga Paia's autalavou' were holding their fund raising activities to raise funds for a sound system in preparation for their Christmas pageant.

They were totally surrounded and boxed in by the mighty Dept. Public Safety vehicles and reinforcements. The traffic was blocked from the west side as policemen and police women spewed from their vehicles to surround the youth group. Confused at this aggressive show of force, the youth advisors and older members of the youth protectively surrounded their faletua (spiritual mother).

Meanwhile the younger frightened children ran across the street and into the Siona church building.

As I watched this repeat fiasco conducted in a larger scale, I was amazed at the authority and the decision that warranted such a public display of abuse upon a group of non-violent civilians .

To have the confused and frightened ‘Siona  autalavou' corralled and humiliated in the center of their village surrounded by the powerful silent sentinels was surreal. These sentinels were the Siona le Mauga Paia Church, Paramount High Chief Tuitele's guest house, HTC Fiu's guest house, and High Chief Galeai's guest house. Just down the roads are HTC Tuiteleleapaga's and HTC Salave'a's  guest houses. These are powerful names that would not tolerate such an invasion into their districts without probable cause.

This show of aggressive force lacked only the ‘lock and load position'. A force warranted for drug busts, shoot outs, contraband, weapons running, convict search and seizures to include violent demonstrations... Instead this force and authority was used to crush the Siona Mafutaga Tina and the ‘Autalavou'. Instead of drugs, dealers and murderers, they found only children barbequing to offer anyone that would donate to their project and a small group of elderly women in the church society.

If the intent by the Deputy Commissioner and the Dept. of Public Safety was to terrorize, humiliate and shame the church members of the ‘Siona Le Mauga Paia' to cease their fund raising, congratulations, your tactic was brilliantly executed with the finesse of a fine combat leader.

I write this after speaking to many members who were witnesses and involved to include the mafutaga tina. Many gave up their anger and humiliation, while trying to process what happened.  But they could not release their pain and hurt in being treated like this by the police who are supposed to protect them. Instead they endangered their mothers, their spiritual mother/faletua and themselves the youth of Leone.

It was reported by members of the choir and confirmed by the DPS dispatcher the order to disperse the Leone fund raising activities was given by the Deputy Commissioner.

What's my point? Your thoughts are as good as mine, as well as making sure the silent angry cries from victimized civilians by the American Samoa Department of Public Safety are being heard.

Ipu Avegalio Lefiti

Advocate for victims and against family violence.

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