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Court Dismisses Charges Following Video Evidence Contradicting Officer’s Assault and Racial Abuse Allegations Amid Covid-19 Inspection

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The case concerning an alleged assault and racial abuse of a peace officer during a Covid-19 regulation enforcement at Cane Bay’s local bar has come to a close, exonerating the accused individuals.

In June 2020, Nathalie Hollins and James Bildahl were taken into custody post a standard check at the Spratnet Beach Bar and Restaurant. The V.I. Department of Health enforcement officer, Wanson Harris, reported that during his patrol at the venue, the duo directed racial slurs at him, assaulted him physically, splashed beer, and spat on him. According to the report, Harris was derogatorily referred to as a “black monkey” and was instructed to remove his “black ass from here.”

As the legal proceedings progressed, the defense counsel began probing the legitimacy of the evidence against Hollins and Bildahl. In December 2020, a motion was filed by Bildahl’s attorney, urging the court to mandate the prosecution to release evidence that purportedly challenged the officer’s narrative.

The defense highlighted the presence of another Department of Health employee who was capturing the events on her mobile phone, a fact omitted during the discovery phase. According to Bildahl’s legal team, the recordings validated that their client wasn’t the assaulter. The defense counsel emphasized the violation of Bildahl’s civil rights due to the withholding of the said evidence, attaching two photographs seemingly illustrating a different patron engaging physically with the officer.

Initially resisting, the prosecution later acknowledged their duty to share the video with the defense as part of the discovery procedure, also admitting to the footage’s “exculpatory” nature, vindicating Bildahl from the accusations.

The videos displayed Hollins confronting Harris during the arrest endeavor, yet failed to showcase Bildahl either assaulting the officer or hurling racial insults.

Despite this revelation in 2021, the case dragged on until October 25, 2023, when the prosecution requested the court to drop the charges with prejudice, ensuring no re-filing of the charges. Citing the cumulative evidence and circumstances, state attorneys advocated for the case’s dismissal. Following 40 hours of community service, charges against Hollins were earlier dismissed—with prejudice—in October.

Kye Walker, Bildahl’s attorney, underscores the videos as testimonies to the falsehoods of the Department of Health officials’ statements. While refuting the racial abuse allegations, the footage highlighted what Walker termed as the “mishandling” of Ms. Hollins, who was handcuffed and left on the ground, visibly inebriated.

Walker conveyed Bildahl’s aspiration for a thorough investigation into the Department of Health officers’ conduct that night. Additionally, Bildahl advocates for adequate training concerning public interaction, particularly with individuals potentially under substance influence, alongside addressing use of force, false accusations, and evidence withholding matters.

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USVI Community Pulse

BLACKFULLNESS: Emancipation 2024 Art Exhibition Opens at Fort Frederik Museum

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The highly anticipated third annual Emancipation Art Exhibition is scheduled to open this Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Fort Frederik Museum. This year’s theme, BLACKFULLNESS, was announced by Commissioner Jean-Pierre L. Oriol of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

Curated by Monica Marin, Chief Curator of the Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums, the exhibition invites artists from the Virgin Islands, the African-Caribbean Diaspora, and those connected to the region to showcase their work.

Featured artists include Waldermar Brodhurst, Jeffrey Rezende, Victoria Rivera, Elisa Mackay, Danica Davis, Niarus Walker, Adrian Edwards, Ray Llanos, La Vaughn Belle, Quiana Adams, Elwin Joseph, Stuart Rames, Mike Walsh, Danielle Kearns, Rob Gigsun, Therese Trudeau, Eric Paxton, A’we Study Group featuring Sayeeda Carter, Kemit Amon-Lewis, Oceana James, and Nina Mercer, among others.

The term BLACKFULLNESS, coined by the late Black feminist Audre Lorde, describes the profound sense of belonging and purpose she felt within the majority Black community of St. Croix. In her interview titled Above the Wind, Lorde reflected on how St. Croix helped her heal and become more active as an artist and human-rights activist. Similarly, many creatives from the United States have been inspired by the vibrant energy of the Virgin Islands community, which has served as a beacon of light and inspiration.

“This year’s exhibition spotlights the spirit of resistance that is at the core of Virgin Islanders’ identity and that is etched into everything that makes Virgin Islands’ cultural production so powerful,” stated Marin. “It calls attention to how Black protest, art, and activism in our region have influenced international Black brilliance and liberation.”

Admission to the exhibition is $10 per person, with free entry for students aged 17 and under. Additionally, there will be a free viewing on Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The exhibition will run through October, and visitors can view it during the Fort Frederik Museum’s regular hours: Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information, please contact Monica Marin at [email protected] or call 340-772-2021.

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Emancipation in the USVI: Celebrating Freedom and Resilience

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Today, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) commemorate Emancipation Day, a significant public holiday marking the abolition of slavery in the Danish West Indies on July 3, 1848. This day stands as a testament to the strength and determination of the enslaved Africans who fought for and won their freedom 176 years ago.

Historical Background

The journey to emancipation in the USVI began under Danish rule in the 17th century, with the trans-Atlantic slave trade starting around 1673. Enslaved Africans were primarily forced to labor on sugarcane plantations under harsh and inhumane conditions. This oppressive environment led to several revolts, including a notable six-month rebellion on Saint John in 1733.

The pivotal moment came on July 3, 1848, when over 8,000 enslaved people, led by Moses Gottlieb (also known as General Buddhoe), initiated a non-violent uprising on Saint Croix. Overwhelmed by the scale of the revolt, Danish Governor Peter von Scholten declared the immediate emancipation of all slaves in the Danish West Indies, preempting an earlier plan to gradually abolish slavery by 1859​.

Celebrations and Events

Emancipation Day is celebrated with a variety of events that reflect the rich cultural heritage and enduring spirit of the Virgin Islanders. This year’s festivities include:

  • Freedom Walk: A symbolic journey from Fort Christian to Fort Frederik, held at dawn, honors the path to freedom taken by the ancestors.
  • Emancipation Day Parade: Starting at the Frederiksted Post Office, the parade showcases vibrant cultural displays and community participation.
  • Official Ceremony: Held at Buddhoe Park, this ceremony includes speeches, performances, and a reflection on the historical significance of the day.
  • Luncheon and Festivals: “Freedom, Feast & Folklore” luncheon on the Frederiksted Pier, followed by an evening of music and fireworks at the “Unshackled Music Festival” in Freedom City​.

Reflecting on the Past, Embracing the Future

Emancipation Day is not just a day of celebration but also a time for reflection on the struggles and sacrifices made by those who fought for freedom. The commemoration underscores the importance of remembering history and continuing the journey towards equality and justice. As Carol Burke, chair of the Emancipation Committee, emphasized, this day serves as a “springboard to a brighter, better-defined future” for all Virgin Islanders​​.

By honoring this day, the USVI acknowledges the resilience and bravery of its ancestors while inspiring current and future generations to uphold the values of freedom and equality. Emancipation Day in the USVI is a powerful reminder of the triumph of the human spirit against oppression and the ongoing pursuit of justice and dignity for all.

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USVI Community Pulse

Kayaking Through Salt River Kicks Off Coral Reef Week Festivities

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The East End Marine Park is launching a series of events in celebration of “Coral Reef Week,” beginning with an engaging kayak tour by BushTribe Eco Adventures on Sunday morning.

The aim of “Coral Reef Week” is to foster a connection between Virgin Islanders and marine ecosystems through a variety of enjoyable and free public activities.

Guides Travis McRae and Ty McRae from BushTribe Eco Adventures led participants on a two-hour educational tour through Salt River National Park. The event began with a safety briefing and an introductory lesson on kayaking.

Before embarking on their adventure, attendees received essential safety instructions and kayaking tips from the experienced guides.

While paddling through the serene waters of Salt River National Park on St. Croix’s north side, participants learned about local ecosystems, the park’s history, and intriguing facts about St. Croix.

Ty McRae shared that BushTribe Eco Adventures was founded 12 years ago with a mission to offer personalized, educational experiences in small group settings. In addition to kayak tours, BushTribe provides hikes to tide pools, bioluminescent kayak trips, and moonlight night kayaking.

For the remainder of Coral Reef Week, BushTribe Eco Adventures is offering free tours. To join the waitlist, text 340-277-2503. For bookings and more information, visit BushTribe’s website.

Other events scheduled for Coral Reef Week include:

  • Ocean-Inspired Art Exhibit: From July 2 to July 6 at the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts, showcasing community-created art inspired by the ocean.
  • Coral Nursery Tour: On July 2 at the Nature Conservancy in Little Princess Coral Hub, featuring a guided tour of the coral nursery.
  • Youth Dive Day and Snorkel Clinic: On July 3, with a kids’ activity corner at Frederiksted Beach Pavilion from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. For more details, contact Alex at [email protected].
  • Beach Clean-Up: At Cottages by the Sea on July 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Ecovan Pop-Up: At the market in Christiansted on July 5 from 9 a.m. to noon, offering fun activities, prizes, and coral reef information.
  • Movie Night: At Leatherback Brewery starting at 7 p.m.

For additional information on these events, contact Alex at 340-718-3367 or [email protected].

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