Haiti
Stories

Mobilization Test Succeeds Not, However, Without Damage


Posted on Saturday 15 November 2003

By Ronald Colbert

Translated from French by Max Blanchet

P-au-P., 14 Nov 2003 [AlterPresse] --- The Group of 184 succeeded, not without damage, in mobilizing large segments of the capital’s population in the morning of Friday,
November 14, 2003, in a challenge to the governance model being implemented by the Lavalas Government in Haiti.

In spite of their apprehension and the government’s orchestrated
attempts to stop and/or intimidate the movement during the preceding
week, thousands dared challenge the threats of regime’s partisans
by going to the Champ de Mars, Port-au-Prince’s main square,
located near the Presidential Palace, according to AlterPresse’s
reporters.

By early afternoon, however, confronted with the turn of events,
the Group of 184 Civil Society’s organizations and associations
decided to bring to an end the demonstration they had planned at
the main political center of the capital where the offices of the
presidency, most ministries, and state-owned organisations of
Haiti’s public administration are located.

In reality, given the atmosphere that prevailed on the main roads,
the police, which had promised to maintain law and order during
the day of the demonstration, appeared not to want to honor
completely the guarantees given to the demonstration’s organizers
during joint meetings held the day before. Confronting the police,
a growing crowd was clearly determined to express their feelings
about a regime they characterized as "barbarous, bloodthirsty and
promoting corruption and impunity."

In a statement to the press at 1:00 pm local time, André Apaid and
Jude Charles Faustin, two leaders of the Group of 184, called upon
their militants to go home in order to avoid a potential showdown
with the Lavalas partisans who had started to stone them.

As the time planned for the meeting at the Champ de Mars
approached, the anti-government crowd had grown to more
than 15,000 persons according to estimates of the
demonstration’s organizers.

"We think it was an obvious success in terms of the response of the
citizens of both genders who went in large numbers to the Champ
de Mars. Unfortunately, the police fired in the air fired tear-gas at
those participating in the demonstration," deplored André Apaid.

The leaders of the Group of 184 could shortly give a more detailed
press conference as to what happened in the morning of Friday,
November 14, in Port-au-Prince.

According to various press reports that reached AlterPresse, a
number of wounded individuals were registered among
anti-government demonstrators.

About thirty members of the Group of 184, including the leaders
Charles Baker and André Apaid, who belonged to the contingent
in charge of security for the demonstration, were arrested in the
Champ de Mars under the accusation of being in possession of
materials deemed "irregular." They were taken to police
headquarters in Port-au-Prince and could not consult their lawyer,
Maître Gervais Charles.

According to journalists, police officers laying on the ground were
seen shooting although it was not possible to determine in which
direction they were shooting.

In addition, journalists reported that the windshields of many vehicles
were smashed by thrown stones.

A certain number of demonstrators trying to go home were caught in
a kind of "vise" put in place by Lavalas partisans who were throwing
stones and brazenly attacking the militants of various associations and
the leaders and members of the opposition’s various sectors.

Following the decision of the leaders of the demonstration to bring it to
an end, the police had started to order the demonstrators to clear the
Champ de Mars. This was met by the refusal by some to heed the order
as they felt that the goal of the meeting had not been met.

It is important to note that the meeting proper planned by the Group of
184 could not take place because of the following difficulties:

— An attempt by the police to prevent a Group of 184 cortege to reach
the Champ de Mars.

— Police roadblocks on all roads leading to the square for the purpose
of searching all vehicles, especially private ones.

Early in the morning, police officers systematically stopped and verified
the registration papers of all vehicles, especially private vehicles, on the
main roads of the capital. Many of the officers carrying out this program
were very tense and some had their finger on the trigger of the weapons
they were carrying.

Towards the end of the morning, many stores had started to close down
and allow their employees to participate in the demonstration if they so
desired.

Many citizens of both genders had stated their determination —
according to statements made to AlterPresse reporters — to express their
disgust with the current management of the republic in the context of
the demonstration planned for this Friday, November 14, 2003 by the
Group of 184.

Additionally, a new demonstration against the government took place
in the morning of November 14 in Gonaïves — the city where Haiti’s
Independence was proclaimed in 1804 — located 106 miles north of
Port-au-Prince and where the previous day there was trouble in which
a school girl was shot dead by the police according to witnesses
participating in another demonstration against the government.