Protests again greet President Martelly on visit to New York

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Haitian demonstrators in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza outside the UN on Sep. 26

By Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, October 1, 2014

September 26 was a full day of protest for hundreds of Haitians living in the New York metropolitan area and beyond. Some traveled from as far away as Florida, Boston, and Canada to take part in two actions. Many had spent the entire night talking on Haitian community radio shows.

On the afternoon of Sep. 26, as President Michel Martelly addressed the UN General Assembly,  over 150 Haitians in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza protested against his government's corruption and repression. That demonstration lasted from about noon until 4 p.m.

Some of the demonstrators were also there to protest the UN's refusal to compensate Haitians after troops of the 6,600-soldier UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH) introduced cholera into Haiti, unleashing an epidemic which has killed 8,500.

While at the UN, Martelly and his Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told reporters they would likely rule by decree after Jan. 12, 2015, the date on which the terms of most parliamentarians expire.

"I came all the way from Florida to join the protests and to ask Martelly why he is persecuting former President Aristide," said Alina Sixto, a long-time activist in Aristide's party the Lavalas Family. Aristide is currently under a form of house arrest under what most Haitians view as a political witch-hunt. "He hasn't spoken out, yet they're persecuting him. If President Aristide were preaching violence, President Martelly wouldn't still be there. Under the Lavalas government, Martelly, General Raoul Cédras, Colonel Michel François, they did a lot of damage. Today, Martelly with the Americans is trying to roll everybody up to swallow them. If Martelly thinks he can run the country by decree, he is making a huge mistake."

"Today, Martelly has crossed a red line," said former Lavalas deputy Walter Norzéus. "Martelly and his government have to resign so that the people can get a little break. Martelly, MINUSTAH, cholera, Ban Ki-moon, Clinton, we put them all in the same basket."

From about 5 p.m. until 10:30 p.m., several hundred Haitian demonstrators gathered at the corner of Farragut Road and East 31st Street in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn. There, the Haitian consulate had organized a "Haitian community meeting" for President Martelly  at the church of evangelical Pastor Philius Nicolas. Free tickets were distributed in the community for the event, which was to take place from 5:30 p.m. until 9 p.m.

However, President Martelly, along with a large delegation including his wife Sofia and Lamothe, did not arrive at the church until about 8 p.m.

With anti-Martelly demonstrators jeering them, about 400 well-dressed Haitians stood on line to enter the church to listen to the Haitian government officials. About 30 were pastors, whom were asked to present themselves to the audience during the event inside. Most of the audience were Christian church-goers or members of Pastor Nicolas' congregation.

The demonstrators outside raised signs with slogans like: "Martelly & Lamothe, U.S. Gangsters," "UN = U.S. Political Instruments," "Pasteur Nicolas Mafia," and "Martelly/Lamothe Must Go! MINUSTAH Must Go!"

One man carried a cardboard coffin with a sign, among others, that read: "Down with UN/U.S. Occupation of Haiti." MINUSTAH has militarily occupied Haiti since 2004 and is due to be renewed by the Security Council for another year in mid-October.

The scene was quite similar to that exactly two years earlier, in 2012, when protestors demonstrated against Martelly outside a consulate-sponsored rally at nearby Brooklyn College. "It is you, Lord, who brought President Martelly to power and dignity because all power comes from you," said the Rev. Samuel Nicolas, Philius' son, in the prayer given to start the ceremony welcoming Martelly and Lamothe.

Lamothe then introduced Martelly, who gave a rambling, joke-filled performance in which he lashed out at his critics and extolled his supposed accomplishments for an hour and 12 minutes. As he walked back and forth across the stage, he took aim at his predecessors, former presidents Aristide and Préval ("Since we are here to curse the guys who came before me who didn't do anything, we are looking forward... It's because they didn't do anything that we have things to do"), the press ("The press should take a resolution that it is going to give a little bit of truth, even though most of the time it is only lying"), and his political opposition ("When I look, they are lying, they are bluffing.")

Martelly's supporters thronged him as he left the church and loaded with his delegation and security into six black SUVs. But tipped off that Martelly was driving around the block in the wrong direction down one-way streets to exit out of East 32nd Street, the dozens of demonstrators still chanting behind police barricades on Farragut Road rushed at the last minute down to the intersection to meet him, shaking their signs, hurling curses, and running after his motorcade as it sped away.