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 Caraďbes 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 Axčne 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.”

[Source: Haiti Progres, Vol. 22 No. 30, 06Oct04]

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