Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Street Resistance to Occupation Regime Surges

Street Resistance to Occupation Regime Surges

Haiti Progress October 6-12

* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

October 6 – 12, 2004
Vol. 22, No. 30

STREET RESISTANCE TO OCCUPATION REGIME SURGES

Haitian police, backed by U.N. occupation forces, have gunned
down dozens of pro-democracy demonstrators and shanty town
residents in the Haitian capital over the past six days and
arrested many people without warrants, including former
parliamentarians.

Skirmishes, barricades and spontaneous demonstrations have sprung
up daily in poor neighborhoods around the capital since the
police and paramilitary gunmen tried to stop a massive
demonstration on September 30.

As we go to press on Oct. 5, there is street fighting in downtown
Port-au-Prince, as well as the popular neighborhoods of
Martissant and Bel Air. The latter slum is surrounded by heavily-
armed contingents of the Haitian National Police (PNH). A former
Haitian soldier was captured and decapitated in the neighborhood
on Oct. 5, Port-au-Prince radios reported. On Oct. 2 and Oct. 3,
police units entered Bel Air but were twice forced to flee, the
first time abandoning their vehicle and weapons.

The popular uprising began on September 30th during a march to
commemorate the 13th anniversary of the 1991 coup d’état against
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It is the largest and most
sustained resistance to the latest coup against Aristide on Feb.
29, when U.S. Marines kidnapped and flew him into exile.

On the morning of Sep. 30, men in trucks, stripped of their
license plates, drove around the capital setting up burning tire
barricades. The National Cell for Reflection of Popular
Organizations of the Lavalas Family Base, which called the
demonstration that day, charged that the barricades were the work
of pro-coup forces   either official or paramilitary   intent on
thwarting the Sep. 30 march.

But the barricades didn’t work. Stepping off from Bel Air at 10
a.m., thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of
neighborhoods like Sans Fils, Tiremasse, Caravelle, Saint Martin,
Delmas 4, Delmas 2, Monseigneur Guilloux, Front-Fort, Montalais,
Geffrard, and Oswald Durand, demanding an end to foreign military
occupation, the departure of the de facto government, the release
of all political prisoners, and the return of the constitutional
government, including President Aristide.

Near the Interior Ministry, not far from the National Palace,
shooting started. “On September 30, the police opened fire on
unarmed demonstrators provoking an attack against a unit of the
Unité de Securité Présidentielle (U.S.P), a special security
detail assigned to [de facto] Interim President Boniface
Alexandre,” the Haitian Information Project (HIP) reported in an
Oct. 4 dispatch. “Members of the special police unit were seen
firing on demonstrators and collecting bodies before masked
gunmen returned fire, killing three and wounding a fourth who
later died in the hospital.”

The U.S. mainstream press, echoing the de facto government and
Haitian bourgeoisie’s radio stations, has alleged that the
policemen killed were decapitated by Lavalas “armed gangs.”
However, Lavalas leaders deny the charge. Last Friday, a day
after the supposed decapitations, there were no headless bodies
at the capital’s morgue.

De facto Prime Minister admitted that the police fired on the
demonstrators. “We fired on them, some of them went down, others
were wounded, and others fled,” he announced with no words of
regret on Friday. He claimed to have the situation under control
and said that he would prohibit further Lavalas demonstrations.

Meanwhile, de facto Justice Minister Bernard Gousse went even
further, calling the demonstrators “terrorists” and outlaws. “In
consultation with the Prime Minister, we ordered the
demonstration to be forbidden,” Gousse declared unabashed. “This
is not a violation of human rights, this is not a violation of
anything, because the population knows that when it comes to
expressing its opinions, we have no problem.” (Under the 1987
Constitution, the Haitian government cannot outlaw a
demonstration.)

But two leaders of the National Cell of Reflection, Jean Marie
Samedi and Lesley Farreau, charged that the police had engineered
the confrontation. “It was a well orchestrated plan to disperse
the demonstrators and prevent the international community from
seeing the dimensions of the Lavalas,” Farreau declared.

Gilvert Angervil, a Lavalas Family spokesman, made a similar
charge. “The government in place recruited armed bandits to fire
on the police and attack stores downtown to try to lay the blame
on Lavalas partisans,” he said.

On Oct. 2, Haitian police, backed by occupation troops from the
United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), arrested
former Senators Yvon Feuillé and Gérald Gilles and former Deputy
Rudy Hériveaux, all of Aristide’s Lavalas Family party.

“Feuillé, Gilles and Hériveaux had gone to Radio Caraïbes to
participate on the station’s 11AM ‘Ranmase’ program, along with
Evans Paul and Himmler Rébu, both prominent critics of the
Lavalas party,” the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
(IJDH) reported in an Oct. 2 press alert. “The program’s subject
was violence accompanying recent anti-government demonstrations.
Feuillé, Gilles and Hériveaux denounced the violence, and
condemned the police for firing on unarmed demonstrators.  Before
the program ended, heavily armed police officers from the
Port-au-Prince police headquarters and specialized units
surrounded the station and announced their intention to arrest
the three parliamentarians.”

“A stand-off ensued,” the IJDH report continues, “until just
before 6 PM (the Constitution prohibits arrests, even with a
warrant, after 6 PM). At that point Judge Gabriel Ambroise, a
Justice of the Peace, instructed the police to cut the locks and
make the arrests. The three Parliamentarians did not resist
arrest, and were taken by the police from the Station Manager’s
office to the Port-au-Prince police holding cells. Lawyer Axène
Joseph, also a former Deputy, was arrested earlier in the day
when he arrived to protest the other arrests.”

But authorities had trouble concocting a charge against the
former parliamentarians. During the stand-off, “government and
police sources made announcements purporting to link Feuillé,
Gilles and Hériveaux to recent violence,” the IJDH said. “The
police also claimed that a car belonging to one of the three
contained automatic weapons, but dropped this claim when
journalists and human rights observers on the scene insisted that
the police, not the parliamentarians, had brought that car.”

Finally the government charged Hériveaux and Feuillé as the
“intellectual authors” of the Sep. 30 march. They said they would
release Gilles for lack of evidence, but at press time, he
remains jailed.

The official death toll since Sep. 30 is now about 20, but
residents of popular neighborhoods say that there have been many
more killings. They claim that the police often snatch and dump
the bodies of their victims.

On Oct. 5, gunfire and street confrontations rocked the capital’s
Martissant neighborhood. “According to witnesses, heavily armed
units of the PNH cordoned off the community at about 10:00 a.m.
and began a sweep through the area,” the HIP reported. “Gunfire
could be heard as they entered with force and residents reported
at least two people were killed and several more wounded.
At least fifteen young men were reportedly seen being handcuffed
and placed in the back of a large covered truck. Family members
on the scene stated police would not respond when questioned
about where they were being taken and are worried for their
safety.”

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