Haitian Artists Demand President’s Resignation in Mass Protest

Thousands of Haitians took to the streets of Port-au-Prince as part of the continued protests demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse.

The demonstrations, organized by about a dozen artists on October 13, were peaceful, with Catholic and Protestant churches, civil society groups, and others calling for Moïse to step down as president. Protestors have demanded that Moïse step down since February when it was revealed his administration did not investigate the allegations against various political officials who embezzled from the Venezuelan energy program PetroCaribe, the Associated Press (AP) previously reported.

One demonstration started at the Champs de Mars near the presidential palace, while another waited along Airport Road, according to the Miami Herald. The two groups eventually merged, chanting things like “Down with Jovenel.” Some of the country’s most popular musicians led the crowd in chants calling for Moïse to “get out.” The demonstrations lasted over seven hours, and although it was peaceful, one person was reportedly injured when protestors threw rocks at the police station in Petionville, the publication reported.

Since the protests began, the impact of the civil unrest has spread throughout the nation. Earlier this month, United Nations (UN) spokesperson Stephanie Dujarric told the AP there have been “fuel shortages, lack of safe water, and other essentials” in the country.

She also noted that an estimated two million students do not have access to education because of school closures. Earlier demonstrations included burning tires and barricades, which kept schools and businesses in the country from opening their doors, according to the Miami Herald. This is the country’s fifth week of being in a state of lockdown, and more demonstrations are expected in the coming days.

The political crisis has cost the lives of 20 people. On October 11, protestors clashed with police in Port-au-Prince after journalist Néhémie Joseph, a reporter with Radio Méga, was found shot dead in his car. Joseph had previously covered the anti-government protests in the country, The Guardian reported.

The journalist had reportedly received death threats on social media, according to a statement by the Association of Haitian Journalists. In a Facebook post last month, Joseph, who had been covering the protests, wrote that two politicians had accused him of starting protests and then threatened to kill him over his reporting, according to The Guardian. It remains unclear whether this was a factor in the killing.

"Officials should be taking swift action to ensure journalists' safety and to investigate threats like those against Néhémie Joseph. What should have been an investigation into threats is now an investigation into murder," said Natalie Southwick, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) South and Central America Program Coordinator in New York, in a statement.

"How many more Haitian journalists must be shot before authorities recognize the grave threat to press freedom?"

There have been no arrests in the death of the reporter, The Guardian reported. He is the third Haitian journalist killed in less than two years, according to the publication.

Another journalist was injured last month when he was shot and injured by a Haitian senator who opened fire outside of Haiti’s parliament as he tried to get through a crowd of protestors. Chery Dieu-Nalio, an Associated Press photojournalist, was shot in the face by senator Jean Marie Ralph Féthière, who drew his handgun on the crowd. Patrice Dumont, another senator, told the publication that Féthière warned the crowd he would fire his gun if they did not allow him to leave.

Féthière had said he did not know he shot a reporter, even though Dieu-Nalio was wearing a helmet and a flak vest with the word “Press” on it.

Moïse has limited his addresses to the nation since protests began eight months ago for him to step down from his presidency. In February, the president said he would not resign.

“I will not leave the country in the hands of armed gangs and drug traffickers,” he said in a speech in February. “I will never betray you.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.