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17558: (Hermantin)Sun-Sentinel-300 Haitians rally against Aristide in Miami (fwd)



From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

300 Haitians rally against Aristide in Miami



By Madeline Barů Diaz and Alva James-Johnson
Miami Bureau

December 18, 2003

MIAMI -- Haitian-Americans fed up with Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government
in Haiti demonstrated Wednesday in support of protesters in Haiti.

Many said the conflict in their home country has soured plans to celebrate
Haiti's bicentennial next month.

"This devil has to go. We can't take it any longer," said Carmel Moise Bley,
a Miami-Dade County woman who has filed a petition with the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights accusing Haitian police of torturing her. "We
cannot celebrate with Aristide."

Wednesday's protest at the Torch of Friendship, outside Bayside Marketplace,
was meant to show solidarity with students in Haiti who have protested in an
attempt to get Aristide out of office by Jan. 1, the 200th anniversary of
Haiti's independence from France.

By 5:30 p.m., the crowd had grown to about 300 people who were waving
Haitian and American flags and anti-Aristide signs, some comparing him to
former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"Aristide must go! No more terrorists!" demonstrators shouted.

The demonstration was organized by a group called Patriots United for
Democracy in Haiti, although many of those attending said it was an informal
group.

Jean-Robert LaFortune, of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, said
many Haitians in South Florida helped restore Aristide to power in 1994 and
are now disappointed.

"A lot of people from the Haitian Diaspora took to the streets in 1991 to
bring him back to power," he said. "I think they feel it's their
responsibility to take a stand in terms of the chaos going on now in the
country."

Shortly after the protest began, there was a small confrontation when a few
Aristide supporters exchanged words with the anti-Aristide demonstrators.
Police made the supporters leave the area, but did not arrest anyone.

Lucien Rozier, who was involved in the incident, said he left Haiti in 1992
because he was persecuted for supporting Aristide and he continues to
support him to this day.

"He's part of democracy," he said.

Rix Jean-Noel said with Haiti on the verge of celebrating its bicentennial,
the protest was inappropriate.

"We're all Haitian," he said. "I don't think it's cool to be protesting
right now."

But many who oppose Aristide's government said they won't be celebrating the
milestone on Jan. 1.

Claude Rousseau, of Pembroke Pines, said the lack of progress and widespread
poverty in Haiti made it difficult for him to get excited about the
country's independence.

"I don't have anything to be proud of right now," Rousseau said.

Organizers of bicentennial events across South Florida say the mood will be
dour.

"It will definitely dampen the plans," said Lafortune, who is also
co-chairman of a Miami and South Florida bicentennial coordinating committee
that is planning a Mass and cultural events. "Instead of a celebration, we
now see these activities mainly as a commemoration of the ancestors who
sacrificed to have a free nation. It will be a time for Haitians to renew
their commitment to democracy and freedom."

Members of a new coalition of Haitian organizations in Palm Beach County
said their plans are also changing focus.

"With the killings in Haiti, I can't see how we're going to celebrate," said
Rev. Roland Desormeaux, of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. "We are thinking
about having a day of reflection to look at where we are coming from and
where we are going."

Madeline Barů Diaz can be reached at mbaro@sun-sentinel.com or 305-810-5007.
Copyright © 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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