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24435: Haiti Progress (news) This Week in Haiti 22:51 2/3/2005 (fwd)
From: Haïti Progrès <email@example.com>
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
March 2 - 8, 2005
Vol. 22, No. 51
FEBRUARY 28, 2005:
HAITIAN POLICE OPEN FIRE ON NONVIOLENT MARCH FOR DEMOCRACY
by Bill Quigley
One year ago, the elected government of Haiti, led by President Jean
Betrand Aristide, was forced out of office and replaced by unelected
people more satisfactory to business interests and the U.S., France and
On Monday, February 28th, there was a large nonviolent march for
democracy called for the neighborhood of Bel-Air (Beautiful Air). I
attended with Father Gérard Jean-Juste and others from St. Clare's
Parish. We started with prayers in the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual
Help in the center of Bel-Air. After prayers we joined the larger crowd
outside marching and singing through the streets of the old and quite
poor neighborhood. Thousands of people were walking and dancing to the
beat of drums, loudly chanting "Bring Back Titid (Aristide)" in Creole,
French and English.
Fr. Jean-Juste has become one of the main voices for democracy in Haiti
since his release from prison several weeks ago after 48 days in jail
with no charges. He was interviewed two dozen times by local and
international media during the walk with the crowd. It all seemed like a
peaceful unorganized mardi gras parade until I noticed the Reuters
correspondent was wearing a bullet proof vest. MINUSTAH, [the U.N.
Mission to Stabilize Haiti], was all around. The giant moving party
continued down Des Cesar Street. The street was packed from side to side
with people carrying signs, umbrellas, and handmade cardboard posters,
all calling for the return of democracy and Aristide. Neighborhood
people joined in or clapped and danced from their front steps.
Suddenly, at the corner of Rue Monseigneur Guilloux and Rue des Césars,
there was a loud boom from very close by. People started screaming and
running. Another boom, then another. As people fled, I slipped on a pile
of fruit and tried desperately to hide behind a very small tree. As
people rushed past and dove into an opening in a concrete wall, the
booms continued. I then dove though the wall and hid behind a one foot
wide concrete pillar. The booms continued. People were down in the
street. I saw a big white official-looking truck hurtling down the
street as the booms continued. Others saw police in black uniforms,
helmets, ski masks, and large guns shooting into the crowd. People
around me were huddled under stairs and crying. The group from St.
Clare's pulled me into a corner and we rolled into a ball until the
Out on the street, a man was down and unconscious. Fr. Jean-Juste knelt
over him and prayed. Down the street, others were carrying injured
people on their backs. The crowd screamed that the police were coming
back, and we ran down an alley into a small home. Children were
screaming, adults were crying, everyone was in fear. We waited, dirty
and drenched in sweat, until the growing UN presence made it safe to
Early reports document several people shot, at least one killed. Others
were beaten. Two men showed me where the police wounded them.
As we drove slowly out of the now deserted neighborhood, the faces of
the people on the porches who were so happy minutes before, were now
somber, many crying.
As we rode back to his parish, Fr. Jean-Juste said: "The Aristide
supporters were such a big number, it was very difficult to have a
proper estimation of the crowd. The message is clear. Our vote has been
counted. It still must be counted. There is no other way for Haiti to go
forward but with the return of constitutional order, the release of all
political prisoners, and the physical return of President Aristide."
Though the march for democracy in Haiti was halted by police shooting
into the unarmed crowd, the people I talked to said their march for the
return of democracy in Haiti will continue.
The author teaches at the Loyola University New Orleans School of Law.
He is visiting Haiti as a volunteer attorney with the Institute for
Justice and Democracy in Haiti.
A TRIBUTE TO OSSIE DAVIS
by Milton Leblanc
Ossie was a friend of mine.
Ossie was a friend of all of us who fight for justice and dignity for
every human being.
This kind a gentle man was able with his soft demeanor to affect
monumental changes in the world.
He eulogized the great Malcolm X, after his brutal assassination on
February 21, 1965. He then eulogized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, after
his assassination on April 4, 1968. There are no eulogies left for
He gave us the best that can be found in any man. He lived a life of
struggle, with his lovely queen, Ruby Dee, he walked the walk and talked
For those of us who had the pleasure of meeting him, he left an
unforgettable mark. For those that experienced his presence through
films and other public appearances, he always portrayed the honest and
the good in all us. He left us an incredible legacy... that of a
sensitized man who championed the cause of the less fortunate.
The quintessential "artiste engagé," he participated in the major
struggles of the 20th century. He ranks among those who attain a
privileged and popular place in society but never forget their roots:
the roots of poverty, discrimination, apathy and abuse performed by
those who have material means at their disposal against those who do not
have those means.
Ossie will be missed. It is so hard to fill the shoes of one who
accomplished so much and meant so much too so many. He was a tireless
worker. He engaged all his faculties and all his artistic talents to
bring change where change was needed. He opposed despots and despotic
measures that impede human progress.
It was in that capacity that he graced the Haitian people and the
Haitian struggle when he hosted for the Haiti Support Network (HSN) the
New York premiere of Raoul Peck's film "Man by the Shore" on January 25,
1996. Along with his lifelong companion Ruby Dee, he joined other hosts
of the evening including Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general,
Michael Moore, the noted documentary filmmaker, David Dinkins, former
mayor of New York City, and other freedom loving people in support of
the Haitian cause.
Our paths crossed again when Ossie spoke at an April 7, 2004 rally at
Brooklyn College organized by the HSN and the International Action
Center to protest the February 29, 2004 coup. There, Ossie spoke about
his childhood interest in Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques
Dessalines and about the Haitian revolution as an inspiration for his
own life and of the pride that he felt speaking about the first
successful slave rebellion in the world.
Ossie identified with Haiti and Haitians because he knew that injustice
against and indifference to Haitians and Haiti meant the same injustice
against and indifference to all people who fight for justice everywhere.
Ossie knew that the same oppressors responsible for the Haitian debacle
were the same oppressors that are responsible for abusing the materially
poor peoples of the world. From Ossie, we learn that Haiti's current
struggle reflect the struggles against slavery and against world
domination by the remaining "superpower."
The people of Haiti have lost a great friend, someone who understood our
struggle,who lived our struggle, and who walked comfortably in our shoes
as if they were his own. We lost one of us.
Ossie was one of our most prominent soldiers. We have lost a true
warrior, and we are poorer because of it. But we march on because this
great man, this great advocate of freedom, always marched with us and
Thank you Ruby. Thanks Ossie. Brother, you will be missed.
All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED.
Please credit Haiti Progres.