Last year, Virgin Islands residents walked the same path as about 1,500 protesters did in the famous 1949 march. (File photo: DANA KAMPA)

Though last year’s commemoration of the 1949 march that led to the restoration of the Virgin Islands Legislative Council inspired a spirited re-enactment, the second celebration of the 1949 Great March and Restoration Day this year was much more subdued.

No in-person celebration was held during the Monday public holiday, but the government did release a 40-minute documentary about the historic event titled “March On, Virgin Islanders, March On.”

Virgin Islands Communal Association President Melissa Potter said the film was a collaboration between the government and the Virgin Islands Studies Institute at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College.

The documentary showcases a history of resistance, focusing on the Josiahs Bay riots of 1789 and 1823, the testimony of Pareen Georges in 1811, the riots of 1831, the 1853 capital tax riot against heavy-handed taxation, and the 1890 uprising led by Christopher Fleming.

The film describes the 1949 march as the “straw that broke the camel’s back” in Virgin Islanders’ fight against oppression.

It is available for free viewing on the government’s Facebook page.

The premier

In a statement issued on Monday, Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley commended the original marchers for their courage.

“This march was incredibly significant to us as a Virgin Islands people because it was an overwhelming pronouncement of the people’s desire for democracy, for the right to have a voice in their society, to play a leading role in their governance, to become a more autonomous and self-determined people,” he said.

He also used the holiday as an opportunity to urge against direct United Kingdom rule in the VI.

“We must respect the intelligence, the morality, and the good intentions of the Virgin Islands people, and we must trust them to make choices in their own best interest,” he said.

The 1949 Great March and Restoration Day was established as part of a series of public holiday reforms Cabinet agreed in 2020, and it was first celebrated last year.